Burton Burns is in his ninth season with the Alabama Crimson Tide football program in 2015 as associate head coach and running backs coach. The New Orleans native is regarded as one of the best assistant coaches in college football and was named the Football Scoop Running Backs Coach of the Year following the 2008 season. Burns was also named one of the nation’s top recruiters in all of college sports in 2011 by ESPN The Magazine.
Over 18 seasons as a college assistant coach, Burns has produced versatile running backs who have been effective in every phase of the game. His players have proven to be equally effective on the ground and in the passing game. Few in college football can say they have coached a Heisman Trophy finalist, but Burns can claim a pair dating back to the 2009 season, including the 2009 recipient Mark Ingram and 2011 finalist Trent Richardson.
Burns had a pair of running backs on the cusp of 1,000 rushing yards in 2014 with sophomore Derrick Henry leading the team with 990 yards while junior T.J. Yeldon finished with 979 yards on the ground. The pair both finished with 11 rushing touchdowns apiece while Jalston Fowler exceled in his role at fullback, becoming the top fullback prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Tide has averaged 206.6 rushing yards per game.
He turned in another masterful coaching job in 2013 with Yeldon cracking the 1,000-yard barrier with 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns while backup sophomore Kenyan Drake accounted for 694 yards and eight scores and true freshman Derrick Henry produced 382 yards on just 35 carries. Alabama ranked 25th nationally and fourth in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 205.6 yards per game. Eddie Lacy, a second-round draft pick by Green Bay in 2013, earned NFL Rookie of the Year honors, rushing for 1,178 yards and 11 scores.
As injuries hammered away at the Tide’s depth at running back in 2012, Lacy and Yeldon stepped to the forefront and combined to rush for 2,430 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns (32 total touchdowns). The pair became the first Alabama running backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the same season. UA ranked 16th nationally in rushing and second in the SEC with an average of 227.5 yards per game.
Under Burns, the 2011 Crimson Tide rushing offense ranked 16th in the nation and first in the Southeastern Conference, collecting 214.5 yards per game. In addition to being a Heisman Trophy finalist, Richardson became the first Alabama player to win the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. He was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, ranking fifth in the nation and first in the league with 129.2 yards on the ground per game. Richardson’s 21 rushing touchdowns, set the school record and tied for second in SEC history. He equaled the school and SEC record with 24 total touchdowns. Lacy finished the 2011 season ninth in the SEC with 56.2 rushing yards per game and seven TDs.
In 2010, Alabama’s ground game accumulated 2,378 yards to rank 29th in the country. Playing in only 11 games each, Ingram led the way with 875 yards and 13 scores followed by Richardson’s 700 yards with six touchdowns. With two scores against Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, Ingram set the Alabama career rushing touchdown record at 42. He finished his career fourth on the career rushing yardage list with 3,261 yards in three seasons. Both Ingram and Richardson were explosive in the passing game as well. Richardson was fourth on the 2011 team with 266 yards on 23 catches (4 TDs), while Ingram added 21 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown.
Under Burns’ guidance in 2009, Ingram was awarded Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy and earned unanimous All-America honors. Ingram set the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns while adding 32 receptions for 334 yards and three scores. Richardson, a true freshman, was the team’s second-leading rusher (642 yards, 6 TD) and was a Freshman All-SEC selection. In the BCS Championship Game against Texas, Ingram and Richardson both rushed for 100-plus yards to help lead Alabama to the school’s 13th title. Roy Upchurch added valuable production in 2009, and earned an invite to the Senior Bowl at the conclusion of the season.
Burns also developed one of the nation’s strongest running games in 2008, as Alabama finished third in the SEC and 30th nationally with an average of 184.6 rushing yards per game. Glen Coffee, a first team All-SEC selection and third-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, led the way with 1,383 yards on the ground. That single-season total tied for second in school history and was third in the conference. Ingram was eighth in the SEC in rushing (728 yards), captured Freshman All-SEC honors and set a Tide rookie record with 12 rushing scores.
In his first year at Alabama (2007), Burns helped first-year tailback Terry Grant set school records for rushing yards (891) and touchdowns (8) by a freshman. Grant was a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week honoree and was named to the Freshman All-SEC Team as well as Sporting News Freshman All-America team (honorable mention).
An assistant coach at Clemson for eight seasons before coming to Alabama, Burns was a major factor in producing six of the top 10 offenses in Clemson history. As running backs coach for the Tigers, Burns tutored star runners such as 2005 ACC Rookie of the Year James Davis, 2006 freshman record-setter C.J. Spiller, Reggie Merriweather, Travis Zachery and Duane Coleman at Clemson, plus former New York Jets back Jerald Sowell at Tulane. In 2006, Davis led the Tigers with 1,187 rushing yards on 203 carries and scored 17 touchdowns, while Spiller had 938 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. The Tigers averaged 5.7 yards per carry during the 2006 regular season.
Burns spent eight seasons with head coach Tommy Bowden at Clemson, after a four-year stint at Tulane that concluded with a 12-0 season in 1998. He logged nine seasons as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Saint Augustine High School in New Orleans before joining Bowden’s staff at Tulane. Burns helped lead Saint Augustine to district titles in 1987, 1992 and 1993, his second stint at the school. His first experience as a coach also was at Saint Augustine, where he served as an assistant from 1977-79 and helped the school win three other district championships on the way to consecutive state titles in 1978-79. Burns also coached at New Orleans’ Booker T. Washington High School in 1980 before a five-year stint as an assistant coach at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., from 1981-85.
As a player, Burns played fullback (1971-75) at Nebraska under head coach Tom Osborne. A member of three Cornhusker teams that won at least nine games, Burns participated in the Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Nebraska in 1976. Burns is married to the former Connie Winder. The couple has three daughters, Amber, Christy and Erin, and a son Damon. They have one granddaughter, Kendal Mackenzie, and a son-in-law Sylvester Anderson.