Texas football EDGE Ethan Burke ready to make a big splash this fall

Ethan Burke, Texas Football
Ethan Burke, Texas Football /

Among the newest emergences for the Texas football program throughout fall camp is the former Michigan Wolverines commit and true freshman edge rusher Ethan Burke. This former underrated three-star recruit and towering 6-foot-7 and 240-pound edge rusher is making an impression on the coaching staff of late.

The first thing that the Longhorns faithful tend to notice about Burke is his natural size at the edge rusher position. That long wingspan and 6-foot-7 frame give Burke some pretty insane NFL-caliber measurables.

A limiting factor for Burke, though, as a true freshman is the fact that he still sits shy of 250 pounds. For Burke to really maximize his length and efficiency moving in tight spaces, it feels like he needs to add more muscle mass to his frame.

But Burke is apparently proving us wrong of late in fall camp, as he’s still effectively getting after the quarterback in pass-rushing drills and the fall scrimmages in the last two weekends. In fact, he’s moved all the way up to getting second-team reps as of the latest scrimmage. That’s a pretty solid climb up the depth chart for Burke in fall camp.

So what led to this ascension for Burke throughout fall camp to potentially earning a key spot on the two-deep depth chart at a position of need for the Longhorns?

First and foremost, edge rusher is one of the biggest positions of need for the Longhorns on either side of the ball. Texas needs to find players that can effectively get after opposing quarterbacks anywhere they can find them.

EDGE Ethan Burke bound to make an immediate impact for Texas football this fall

Thus, if there’s a true freshman such as Burke that is looking ready to step up and make some early contributions this season, Pete Kwiatkowski and the Longhorns should be ready to get him some live-game reps right away.

The most proven edge rusher that Texas has in the fold this fall is the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish transfer and senior Ovie Oghoufo. But after posting an inconsistent 2021 campaign where Oghoufo struggled with missed tackles and inconsistencies with his impact on run defense, the door has opened for other younger edge players to get additional reps in fall camp this year.

That’s where the likes of Burke and fellow true freshman edge rusher Justice Finkley come into play.

But what separates Burke from both Oghoufo and Finkley is his ability to efficiently move through tight spaces at the point of attack if he’s rushing the passer. Burke obviously has long strides, but what makes his physical tools special in this regard is how agile he is off the edge.

Burke is surprisingly quick for someone of his size and stature along the defensive front.

It’s also worth mentioning that Burke effectively uses his smaller weight to his advantage at times as he’s able to quickly maneuver around some of the slower blockers he’s matched up with when rushing the passer. Burke’s quick feet become a big-time advantage when he’s facing some of the less agile blocking tight ends or slower offensive tackles in pass rush situations.

And where Burke lacks for weight setting the edge when defending the run, he’s able to use his length and underrated lateral agility to still find the ball carrier and initiate contact.

What isn’t mentioned enough about Burke’s game is how disruptive he can be in other ways using his length. It’s evident in his high school film that Burke effectively uses his big hands and long wingspan to wreak havoc in the backfield by creating strip sacks and often getting his hands on the ball once it’s released from the quarterback’s hand.

Burke’s length and lateral agility along the defensive front should make him a force to be reckoned with around the line of scrimmage in pass rush situations when he’s able to get those big mitts up in the passing lanes.

You can see the lateral agility and natural footwork that Burke possesses that he developed as a high school lacrosse star at Westlake in the backyard of the University of Texas. The quick feet and dodging skills that Burke developed as a lacrosse star at Westlake should translate well for him off the edge with the Longhorns football program.

To sum this all up, despite Burke’s lack of muscle mass in his first year with the Longhorns, he’s got more than enough physical tools to make a big impact on the pass rush this fall. Where Burke doesn’t have that muscle mass built up that would truly allow him to compete in the trenches against Power Five-caliber offensive tackles and set the edge defending the run, he makes up for it with his lateral agility, polished footwork, and insane length.

If Burke keeps making the type of impression on the defensive staff that he has in the last couple of weeks in fall camp, he’s going to keep earning more key live-game reps right away. This all looks to be building up to something that could see Burke make a big splash on this defensive front immediately, especially when he’s creating chaos getting after opposing quarterbacks.

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Texas finished up last season with a record of 5-7 (3-6 Big 12), missing out on bowl season for the first time since 2016. Burke and the Longhorns are set to open up the 2022 regular season at home on Sep. 3 against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.