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August 19, 2014

30 in 30: Burns breaks into the lineup

AggieYell.com begins its countdown to the start of the 2014 season with its 30 players in 30 days feature on the most important players to Texas A&M's success for the upcoming campaign. The list continues with number 25, nickelback/safety Devonta Burns.

Classification: Redshirt junior
Height/weight: 6', 214 lbs.
2013 stats: Played in nine games, almost exclusively on special teams; made two tackles.
Why he's on the list: A coaching change in the secondary. With Marcel Yates in charge, Burns was largely an afterthought at both safety positions. Undersized his first two years on campus, Burns redshirted in 2011 and saw now action at all in 2012 before finally getting on the field a little last year.

It looked like the future wasn't any brighter for Burns, until Yates left and new secondary coach Terry Joseph arrived. As spring practice went on, Burns started moving up from the third team to the backups, then started getting some first-team reps at safety.

"We're looking for consistency," Joseph said, "and he kept showing up on tape."

Late in the spring, Joseph and the defensive staff hit on an idea: while Burns may not be big for a safety, he is plenty big enough -- and fast enough -- to cover slot receivers as a nickle. So they moved him to compete with presumed starter Noel Ellis -- and took his job. He held onto it this summer, warding off Ellis, Sam Moeller and Nick Harvey (who was moved to corner and stayed there after Devante Harris' injury).

Joseph likes physical corners, and Burns provides that at the nickel position. He made a number of plays at or near the line of scrimmage against both the pass and the run in training camp as he showed the aggression the coaches were looking for. After three years of sitting on the bench, it looks like he's finally found a position and a coach that fits him.

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