New CB Burdette gets first start tonight for Ole Miss

Quintavius Burdette has moved from safety to cornerback. (Josh T. McCoy/Ole Miss)

Quintavius Burdette has moved from safety to cornerback. (Josh T. McCoy/Ole Miss)

By Parrish Alford
Daily Journal

NASHVILLE – When Quintavius Burdette moved from safety to cornerback it was for depth, so the plan said.

Then Nick Brassell failed to qualify academically, and a returning starter at field corner, Senquez Golson, spent August camp resting a hamstring.

Now Burdette, a lightly recruited defensive back from Senatobia whose second choice was Arkansas State, will start for Ole Miss in tonight’s season opener.

It’s an opener that takes on more meaning than most because it’s against an SEC foe, Vanderbilt, and is followed by a brutal stretch of road games. The Rebels won’t play an SEC team at home until the second week of October.

So Ole Miss fans, eager to see improvement from a surprising 7-6 finish in Hugh Freeze’s first year as coach, are about to pin at least some of their hopes on Burdette’s first start.

“He’s earned it,” Freeze said.

Burdette and Dehendret Collins, a senior who played a little cornerback last year, took the overwhelming majority of snaps at corner this month in practice.

Charles Sawyer, the returning starter at boundary corner, has been back at practice and could start ahead of Collins.

“In practice he’s been flying around, breaking up passes and laying out, things like that. That’s good to see,” cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said.

Still Collins is expected to play. On a hot summer night, conditioning could be a factor.

Burdette appeared in all 13 games last year, mostly on special teams.

In moving to cornerback, he had a lot to learn and was fortunate, he says, to have receiver Donte Moncrief as a teacher.

“I had to tell myself every day I know I’m facing probably the best receiver in college football,” said Burdette, who took some beatings in one-on-one coverage but came away better for it as Moncrief helped him break down what happened.

“If I didn’t do something right he would tell me like, ‘I was reading you this way, and you did this,’” Burdette said. “It taught me to be more patient as a DB, how to make plays on a receiver of that quality and that size.”

Burdette will face a top-flight SEC receiver tonight in Jordan Matthews.The Rebels have prepared as though Chris Boyd, the Commodores’ suspended No. 2 receiver, will also play.

Matthews had 94 catches last year, Boyd 50. Vanderbilt’s No. 3 receiver was running back Wesley Tate with 12.

Burdette says he feels more comfortable at cornerback than safety because he likes having a man to guard rather than playing in space.

“My confidence has always been high,” he says. “Some people say I’m a cocky guy, but I’m not, I’m just confident about certain things. I feel like I can guard anybody in the country.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com