Tuesdays in Vanier | Burns Embraces Bigger Role

K-State fans witnessed his speed last Saturday when, in the Wildcats' 48-14 win over Oklahoma State, Burns returned a Cowboy first-quarter kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown. 
"It kind of took me back to high school," laughed Burns when asked what was going through his mind during the kickoff return touchdown - the first of his career. "I was a running back in high school, so I haven't really felt that since then. The play just happened so fast, I just remember seeing green and thinking, 'Is this really happening?' I was just trying not to get caught, but it felt good."
Despite bobbling the kickoff initially, Burns gained control of the ball and ran. 
He ran, and ran, and ran.
"When that play was happening, it was kind of windy so I was just worried about catching the ball, and I failed to do that. I dropped it then it kind of fell back in my hands," he explained. "Then I found a hole; that all goes back to our blockers. The kickoff return unit as a whole, they did a great job on that play and really created that hole for me."
At yesterday's K-State press conference, Burns was a hit. Media in attendance surrounded him instantly when he walked in the Vanier Football Complex's Big 8 Room. Cameras with bright lights shined on his face while reporters held microphones close to him, hoping not to miss a single word.
The well-spoken junior from Wichita is not only turning heads with the Wildcats' special teams unit, but he is also making a key impact this season as one of the team's starting cornerbacks.
Though he played in all 12 games during both his freshman (2012) and sophomore (2013) seasons, this year, his first time in the starting position, his role has grown immensely. 
"Just having a few games under my belt and even having a few mistakes happen to me - against Oklahoma and Iowa State I had a few big plays where the quarterback threw the ball over my head," he said. "I think that's important that that happened to me early on in the season to learn from and understand that I need to be really disciplined. I think I've progressed in just being disciplined, keeping my eyes in the right place and just staying over top of receivers, playing smart and not getting caught up in the play action."
So far this season, Burns has recorded 30 tackles and leads the Wildcats in interceptions. His three picks this season rank fourth in the Big 12 and 24th in the NCAA, while his career-high two interceptions in the Wildcats' win over Texas Tech tied for sixth in school history in single game.
"He has just made improvement day in and day out," said head coach Bill Snyder on Burns. "He works at it. He's a bright young fellow who picks things up well. He understands where his deficiencies are and works towards overcoming what those might be." 
A hard worker, Burns is the type of guy who has gained the confidence of his teammates by proving himself each and every time he steps on the field.
"I've seen Morgan grow, not just from game one but from the time I got here," said sophomore linebacker Will Davis. "I've seen him grow so much. He's improved as a player, especially this season. He's more confident in his abilities, and he's not afraid to cover anyone in the Big 12. I think that's his biggest asset: his confidence and his mindset going into preparation each week."
Perhaps the biggest help in growing his confidence, Burns has already gone up against a few of the league's best receivers, such as Oklahoma's Sterling Shepherd and Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant. Though tough matchups await, including this Saturday's primetime contest against No. 6 TCU, Burns knows he is capable of competing with anyone. 
"That game was huge for me; I had my hands full," said Burns about competing against Shepherd - the Big 12's leading receiver - in the Wildcats' 31-30 win over Oklahoma. "He's one of the best I'll see all year. I've seen the best in the Big 12 and I go up against Tyler Lockett on a regular basis, so that gives me a sense of comfort. Since I've gone against fast guys before, I feel more prepared to go against these guys I'll go against in this stretch."
And K-State's upcoming stretch of games won't be a walk in the park. The Wildcats' upcoming schedule is one even Snyder agreed was among the toughest closing schedules he's ever been a part of.
After this weekend's matchup at TCU, Kansas State travels to No. 23 West Virginia for a Thursday evening matchup on Nov. 20. Although K-State will play its final home game of 2014 on Thanksgiving weekend as it takes on Kansas on Nov. 29, the following weekend, the Wildcats will be back on the road with a Dec. 6, matchup against No. 12 Baylor in Waco, Texas.
The Wildcats are the only team in the nation whose remaining schedule features competition against three top 25 teams on the road.
"I think these last couple of games will really show what kind of defense we are," said Burns. "I think this can really make or break our season as a defense. It's going to be a great game this weekend since we're playing a highly explosive offense. Obviously, since we've been successful on defense, it's going to be a battle between both sides to see who is the tougher, more disciplined side, so I'm ready and I'm excited about it."
 
For everything you need to know about this weekend's game between the No. 7 K-State Wildcats (7-1, 5-0 Big 12) and the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs (7-1, 4-1 Big 12), please visit the Wildcat Gameday website by clicking here.  
 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.