Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Thursday, August 22, 2013

By Sammy Batten


Help on the way for receiving corps

Pirates' top target, Curtis Burston, answers the call

By Sammy Batten
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Curtis Burston came South with his family from Brooklyn, NY, eight years ago having never played a down of organized football.

"I've always enjoyed football, but I didn't really start playing until about the seventh grade,'' Burston said. "I started when we came down this way, first to Virginia and then to North Carolina. When I got down here (South), people told me how fast I was and that I had natural talent. I just grew to have a passion for it (football) from there.''

Burston's passion and talent for football have helped him develop into one of the top college prospects in the state of North Carolina entering the 2013 season at Middle Creek High School in Apex. The 247Sports.com network rates the 6-foot-2, 210-pound wide receiver as the state's 31st-best prospect, while ESPN.com has him at No. 46 on its list.

Although pursued by Atlantic Coast Conference member Boston College and a trio of smaller programs, Burston decided to make his pledge on August 17 to play for East Carolina. The decision, which Burston relayed via telephone first to his main recruiter, ECU outside receivers coach Dave Nichol, was the first commitment to the Pirates recruiting Class of 2014 by a wide receiver.

"I had just had a real connection with their coaches,'' Burston said. "I really didn't know much about East Carolina football, except I knew about (former quarterback) Dominique Davis and I heard they ran an offense similar to what we do at Middle Creek.

"But in the spring they (ECU coaches) came up to my school and watched me work out. I guess they had questions about me before offering (a scholarship). So they wanted to watch me work out. I did that for them and that got me the offer. From there, I just formed a bond with the coaches, and that's why I made the decision.''

The receiver positions have been a focus of just about every ECU recruiting class since head coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley arrived from Texas Tech in 2010. The Class of 2014 was going to be no exception with the dismissal of Dayon Arrington from the program last September, and the pending departures of Justin Jones and Lance Ray after the 2013 season via graduation.

Of course, Jones has not practiced a single minute with the Pirates this preseason as he deals with eligibility issues. Promising sophomore receiver Jabril Solomon is in the same boat and hasn't practiced to date. Due to all those personnel issues, recruiting receivers has become even more of a priority for the Pirates.

Landing Burston gives the Pirates a strong start to filling any voids resulting from those situations.

ECU received the commitment from Burston over other scholarship offers from Boston College, Charlotte, Furman and Old Dominion. The ECU coaches told Burston he is the top receiver they are recruiting.

"They always told me every time I spoke to them I was the top guy on their (receivers) board,'' Burston said. "They really wanted me. I started to understand that from the interest they showed in me compared to other colleges. The other schools wanted me, but not like East Carolina.''

Burston's natural talents led to two years playing quarterback in the seventh and eighth grades. But when he reached Middle Creek High as a ninth grader, the coaching staff moved him first to running back and then to receiver. He showed such promise at receiver that Burston earned a spot on the varsity roster as a freshman.

After playing sparingly as a freshman, Burston moved into a starting role during his sophomore season. But it was during the 2012 season as Middle Creek was rolling to an 11-2 overall record and perfect 8-0 mark in the Tri-Nine 4-A Conference that Burston began to catch the eye of college recruiters.

Burston hauled in 54 receptions for 850 yards and scored eight touchdowns last season to garner All-Tri-Nine 4-A Conference honors. His year was punctuated by a 208-yard receiving performance in Middle Creek's 30-7 victory against Green Hope.

Although speedy he's been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash Burston is best known for his physical style as a receiver. In fact, his play has led some to compare him to former North Carolina and current Cleveland Browns receiver Greg Little.

"I've heard that comparison to Greg Little a couple of times,'' Burston said. "I think it's because we're both bigger receivers.

"But I'm more than just a physical receiver. I have big hands. I have good speed. I enjoy catching screen passes and making moves. I also love catching the ball deep. I can do all of that.''

Burston believes his skills fit perfectly with ECU's up-tempo, spread offense.

"We run almost the same offense here at Middle Creek, so I think I'll adjust easily,'' Burston said. "I know they have quite a few really good receivers there, but the coaches told me if I did what I was supposed to do there would be opportunities for me to get on the field. They're going to give me a chance to prove myself.''

East Carolina is expected to sign as many as three and possibly more wideouts in the Class of 2014.

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08/21/2013 12:57 PM