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Monday, May 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Adrian Burks hopes to play a convincing starter

Before Adrian Burks could put on the pads as a starting cornerback, he had to put on a dress.

In “An American Ma(u)l,” an IU theater and drama play last March, the junior played the part of a drag queen named “Ruth.” It’s something his teammates won’t let him get away with.

“You have to (make fun of him),” senior safety and Burks’ good friend Collin Talyor said. “It’s funny enough that you actually know the person who was the crossdresser, and for him to be a football player, he might be the last person you would imagine being out there. 

“I thought it was hilarious.”

But in his first career start in Iowa City, Iowa, last week, a 42-24 loss at the hands of Iowa, there wasn’t much to merit laughter. At least, that is, not until later.

The victim of a phantom pass interference penalty in the early stages of last Saturday’s game, Burks had every reason to be frustrated with the controversial officiating.

Now, it’s time to move on.

“I saw it a couple times, and I was kind of upset because I thought it was great coverage,” Burks said, laughing. “I didn’t think I touched him, but the ref said I did. ... What can I do?”

The best thing Burks can do now is hit the film – hard. With senior cornerback Ray Fisher having surgery to repair an injured knee and sophomore Donnell Jones banged up, there is more pressure on Burks than he has had in his previous years in Bloomington.

For co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic, Burks’ improvement from the hostile field in Iowa to the friendly confines at home comes down to his mindset.

“Confidence is a big thing with corners, because you’re left alone so much out there,” Palcic said. “When you make a mistake, the whole stadium sees it.”

Palcic wants his new starting cornerback to step up the mental side of the game by playing his coverages better, and Burks doesn’t disagree that smart football is how he must progress going into Saturday.

“At Iowa, we had some miscommunication a couple times,” Burks said. “I just have to be coming up, making more hits, just doing my job so everyone else follows.”

Taylor, who saw his first significant playing time in a victory against Illinois three weeks ago, said simply being named a starter makes the whole week different than it would be as a backup.

“We practiced every day like we’re going to play on Saturday,” Taylor said. “The only problem is, we haven’t played on Saturday. When you know you’re going to be out there, you can kind of step it up another notch. You watch more film, you go harder in the weight room and pay full attention in practice.”

As Burks prepares for his second start against Wisconsin, concentration will be just as – if not more – important, as miscues in coverage will be amplified. 

In their run-first scheme, the Badgers seldom ask quarterback Scott Tolzien to win the game. He has yet to have a 300-yard passing game this season, and in last week’s 37-0 victory against Purdue, he was only asked to throw the ball 13 times. 

With the team focused on stopping the running game that dominated for 441 yards in last season’s meeting, Burks should expect to be left out on an island, one-on-one with a wide receiver.

The threat of giving up a big play doesn’t faze Burks, who is just excited to be on the field as a starter.

“Wherever they need me to go, I want to be,” Burks said. “I just want to make some plays and beat Wisconsin.”

For a guy who dressed as a woman in public, his compliance should come as no surprise.  

Prediction:
More than 400 yards rushing is unthinkable in most offensive coordinators’ dreams, but after a 55-20 drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin in 2008, it’s still in IU coach Bill Lynch’s nightmares. 

The Badgers, dominating IU last season with their patented power sweep, still live and die by the running game, so stopping that is the No. 1 priority. Offensively, the Hoosiers simply need to find a way to score points in the second half. 

If IU could keep it close with Iowa, the team should be in a spot to win in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin. But after being outscored 38-0 in the final quarter in their last two contests, the question is, will the Hoosiers finish?

IU 23 – Wisconsin 31

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