Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Jermaine Burton and his quest to be a leader

CW/ Riley Thompson
Alabama wide receiver Jermaine Burton (#3) makes a touchdown against Texas A&M on Oct. 7 in College Station, Texas.

Coming out of high school, wide receiver Jermaine Burton was a hot commodity.  

A four-star and top 10 recruit at his position, he appeared to be on a direct path to stardom. Two years at Georgia marked by solid statistical output, including a campaign as the second-leading receiver on a national championship team, brought nothing but optimism. 

When he transferred to Alabama in search of a larger role as Georgia’s personnel grew crowded, it seemed like the Crimson Tide had landed a surefire gem. 

At the beginning of the 2022 college football season, Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network released an NFL draft scouting report on Burton, who at the time was a newly minted transfer and had played only a single game with his new squad. 

Cummings’ report was for the most part glowing. Burton was tagged as “an explosive athlete” with “blistering acceleration capacity” and “high-end agility.” He was praised for his skill in separation and lauded for his ability to both take passes in stride and high point them out of the air.  

His deficiencies weren’t “pressing concerns but rather elements he lacks,” most of which were related to his want of dominant frame and slight shortage of athletic creativity. 

He was seen as the kind of receiver for whom most, if not all, offensive coordinators would give an arm and a leg.  

“Either late in Round 1 or early-to-mid Day 2,” Cummings wrote, “Burton should garner looks as an eventual productive starting WR.” 

After nearly equaling his 2021 touchdown total in week one of 2022, a significant step forward seemed imminent, if not inevitable. In that same scouting report, Cummings presciently stated that Burton seemed “primed to finally achieve a long-awaited breakout.” 

By season’s end, such a breakout had not occurred. 

Burton totaled 677 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. These numbers were improvements over his 500-yard, two-touchdown season the year prior, but they were unsatisfactory compared to the heightened role he had sought to take on.  

Not to mention the fact that it was the lowest yard total of a leading receiver at Alabama in over a decade. 

After entering the season with the legitimate possibility of declaring for the 2023 draft as one of the top receivers on the board, he was forced to reconsider his path forward. For Burton, it wasn’t only a matter of statistical disappointment.  

“I just really wanted to mature;” Burton said in an article published by The Athletic discussing how he weighed his options. “I really wanted to mature into a leader.” It seemed that perhaps what lay between him and his most NFL-ready self was not just numbers, but personal growth. 

His final decision, as fans and the Texas A&M secondary well know, was to stay. 

In the visit to College Station, he reeled in nine passes for 197 yards and twice reached paydirt. It was a breakout that seemed long overdue. 2023 started slow — the prospective leader had eight catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns entering Saturday — but if all goes right, the explosion at Texas A&M was the first of many. 

Between numbers and maturation, it seems the former is on an uptick; it’s the latter that has yet to reach an optimal lead-receiver level. For all Saturday’s play-by-play success and the prolificity it portends, alongside it came an early false start penalty, an unsportsmanlike conduct and a fumble that if not for a blocked field goal might have turned the tide of the game. 

These mental and emotional errors are what head coach Nick Saban, when asked postgame about Burton’s performance, identified as the receiver’s biggest areas for improvement. 

“Jermaine has got great ability,” Saban replied. “We want to sort of keep him focused on doing the things he needs to do to be consistent … not getting too emotional in the game where you make bad choices and decisions.”  

It isn’t as if there hasn’t been growth. For starters, Burton recognizes his errors, saying, “That’s not me as a player. … I have to do a better job of controlling myself.” 

Moreover, he displays leadership tendencies. Going into Kyle Field and knowing that one of the rowdiest and most passionate crowds in the country was lying in wait, Burton was undaunted. He did his best to make sure his teammates were, too. 

“I felt it. … I was telling [teammates] that we need to come out and attack,” Burton said. Noting the attendance — 108,101, the third highest in Kyle Field history — he simply remarked, “A lot of people wanted to see us lose, and I didn’t want that to happen.” 

The outlook for Burton after Alabama’s critical victory over Texas A&M is far from perfect. For the hopeful star, however, perfection is not the next step. What he needs to do, and what fans, teammates and coaches are relying on him to do, is reach a sustained level of success. 

It more than likely won’t always be a 200-yard magnum opus, but even half or two-thirds of that on a weekly basis would have an indescribable effect on the Crimson Tide offense. It would also thrust Burton into the star receiver role and all the mental development it requires and, most gratifyingly, put him on the fast track toward that coveted NFL draft selection. 

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