Cardinal Sports Report had the pleasure of getting to know Stanford's 2013 quarterback commit Ryan Burns at last month's Cardinal quarterback academy and all-positions camp. Over the span of four days, we watched Burns throw hundreds of balls, interviewed the four-star recruit, and talked to several informed observers about his talents. We were impressed with what we saw and heard.
However, despite Burns' strong performance at camp and lofty rating on most major recruiting sites, the Rivals 100 prospect has been the subject of a fair deal of criticism. Much of the criticism of Burns stems from the quarterback's mediocre junior season statistics. Playing in an extremely quarterback-unfriendly single-wing offense, Burns threw 13 touchdowns again 14 interceptions with a sub-50 percent completion percentage.
There's no guarantee that Burns will flourish at the collegiate level, but dismissing his chances for success because of mediocre stats is just as foolish as guaranteeing a player will be successful in college because he puts up gaudy numbers in high school.
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When assessing Burns, it's important to consider some of the other factors that went into both Stanford's decision to offer him a scholarship and are objective proof of his merit as an elite high school recruit.
Here are some of the facts in support of Burns' designation as one of the nation's premier signal callers in the 2013 class.
Besting the competition
-Two quarterbacks universally regarded among the best in the nation - USC commit Max Browne and Alabama commit Cooper Bateman - were high on Stanford, and might currently be Cardinal commits had they received offers. Bateman even camped with Stanford in summer of 2011 at the same camp Burns attended. Yet after careful evaluation, Stanford felt Burns was the best fit for its program. He was the only one of the three to receive a Cardinal scholarship.
-After earning a scholarship with a strong performance at Stanford's camp in 2011, Burns again impressed in 2012. Although he was the only quarterback to throw for four straight days at camp (the rest stayed only for the two-day quarterback academy), Burns was the best signal caller in a loaded field, displaying the best combination of consistency, arm strength, and accuracy. As an added bonus, his release was easily the quickest of any of the half-dozen or so BCS quarterbacks, including Keller Chryst, Kyle Allen, A.J. Carta-Samuels, Jordan Severt, among others, in attendance.
-Burns had offers from essentially every major in the Northeast region. Of particular interest to Burns - and most likely his second place school - was Penn State. The Nittany Lions offered Burns, and made him a priority recruit. Penn State head coach Bill O' Brien met with Burns during an unofficial visit to Happy Valley and rolled out the red carpet. O' Brien played video clips of his former star quarterback with the Patriots, Tom Brady, side-by-side with Burns, and discussed the comparisons between the two athletes. Programs don't tend to employ such persuasive recruiting techniques for average players.
Dilfer's seal of approval
-After watching Burns throw for the first time at Stanford's camp, Dilfer offered Burns a spot in his Elite 11 camp. Although Burns turned down the invitation in favor of participating in a team camp, Dilfer was effusive in his praise of Burns, particularly the quarterback's quick release.
"Oh, the kid is so talented," Dilfer told Cardinal Sports Report last month.
"I always look for a unique trait. A unique trait could be foot energy, could be ball speed, could be stature, could be whatever. To me with Ryan right now it's probably the compactness of his stroke. He doesn't have any wasted movements so he'll be able to play in tighter spaces. So if the right guard gets beat on a rush some quarterbacks needs that room to get rid of the ball, Ryan will be able to stand there with the guy close to him and still deliver accurate balls down the field."
To take advantage of Burns' talents, Stone Bridge High School, which went 10-2 last year, will shift its offensive scheme to more a conventional attack. Dilfer thinks a more advanced offensive philosophy will aid Burns' development.
"He's only been exposed to a very remedial level football at his high school," Dilfer said. "And that's not his fault, and that's not his coach's fault. High school coaches' jobs are to win games, not have your quarterbacks throw for 4,000 yards. He just needs to be exposed to more football."
It's been four years since Stanford has had a quarterback participate in either the Under Armour or the Army All-American game. (Josh Nunes was an Under Armour All American in 2008). Burns was invited to both. Despite the best efforts of ESPN, which tried mightily to convince him to play in the Under Armour game, Burns chose the Army game, where he'll compete with Browne, Texas quarterback commit Tyrone Swoopes, and LSU commit Hayden Rettig, among others. Stanford linebacker commit Peter Kalambayi will also play in the game.
As is the case with all prospects, no one will know if Burns will be the next superstar Cardinal quarterback or an overhyped disappointment until he actually steps foot on a college field. However, after spending the better part of a week observing Ryan, it's easy to envision a successful career for the future Stanford signal caller.