Rodjay Burns is primed for a productive senior year.
The senior for Louisville football has grown as a leader while transitioning from cornerback to outside linebacker. Burns finished second on the team with 83 tackles and a team-high 11 tackles for a loss last fall in his first year at the “Card” position.
Co-Defensive Coordinator and Outside Linebackers coach Cort Dennison says Burns is respected in the locker room and has influence as a leader.
“I have really challenged Rodjay to continue to grow as a leader, not only with the outside linebackers but on defense,” Dennison said. “Rodjay is the kind of guy that everybody looks at, he has been a playmaker for multiple years.”
Burns has established himself as a leader for linebackers.
“Last year I really looked up to Rodjay, I still look up to Rodjay,” linebacker Yasir Abdullah said. “He is like a brother, when I need help on a play he will tell me.”
With position flexibility because of his athleticism, Burns moved from cornerback to outside linebacker when Scott Satterfield and his coaching staff arrived at Louisville.
The Trinity (Louisville) High School graduate is asked to do a multitude of things for the Cardinals’ defense. Dennison said the “Card” position needed a well-rounded athlete, which Burns fit perfectly into at 6-foot, 215 pounds.
“He is going to be covering a wide receiver, a slot guy or a tight end that is flexed out,” Burns said. “You’re going to be able to have to come off the edge and come after the quarterback. You’re going to have to be able to make plays in open space.”
After Burns transitioned from cornerback to linebacker, Dennis knew there would be a learning process for Burns last season. As a “high IQ” player, Burns will benefit with a year under his belt at the position.
“We knew he would pick it up last year, but it’s a way different feel,” Dennison said. “Playing corner against Jerry Jeudy is way different than setting an edge against some of the offensive tackles and playing in open space.”
It doesn’t take long to notice Burns’ athleticism.
Along with being a playmaking linebacker, he is Louisville’s best punt returner. In 2018, he returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown. He had a 34-yard return and averaged 8.6 yards per return last season.
At the professional level, Burns has value because of his versatility according to Dennison. The outside linebackers coach says Burns can work on all aspects of his game to prepare for professional football.
“Whether it is adding weight to his frame, playing linebacker at the next level or maybe dropping pounds and playing defensive back,” Dennison said. “It creates value for him because it shows he can do multiple things.”