The blonde hair flowing out the back of Ben Burr-Kirven’s helmet isn’t the only thing different about the Washington Huskies linebacker this season.
Burr-Kirven, a sophomore from Menlo Park, California, says playing as a freshman last season -- he totaled 34 tackles in 12 games, and was named the team’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player -- means he knows better what to expect in 2016. And as a backup at both middle and weakside linebacker, he’s likely to see the field a lot more, too.
Here is some of what Burr-Kirven said after UW’s practice on Thursday morning.
(On being more comfortable this season) “Last year obviously playing as a true freshman is a lot to take in, the crowd, all that kind of stuff. But I think now going into Year 2, I can kind of sit back and be relaxed and play the game now without getting overwhelmed by the surroundings and what’s happening. So I think just having a year under my belt is such a big thing, especially going into week one. There’s no mystery about what’s going to happen. I know what’s going to happen, I know there’s going to be a big crowd, I know it’s going to be loud. Things will go bad, but you’ve just got to be able to respond. But I think just having that experience under your belt gives me such a chance to not only be ready to go out and play, but help the young guys, too.”
(Do you have a preference between MIK and WIL?) “I don’t really care either way. I like them both. I’ve been practicing at both. I know them both. That’s the kind of thing that (linebackers coach Bob) Gregory, for a lot of older guys, he’s like, ‘all right, you’ve had a year under your belt, now it’s time for you to learn the other one and kind of be able to swing both ways wherever we need you.’ I don’t care, MIK or WIL, either way, I know them both.”
(Did you focus on one position last season?) “Last year I focused on MIK about the first seven games, and then the last couple he moved me over to WIL just so I could kind of start learning that one going into this year. But I definitely focused more on MIK last year, and I’ve been working mostly WIL through spring and then this camp I’ve been doing both.”
(On young guys like Brandon Wellington and Camilo Eifler) “They’ve been great. They’re good in the room, they’re great in the meetings, they’re both learning a lot, I think. They pay a lot of attention. They’re not goofing around or anything like that. They’ve got the right mindset for it, and obviously they’re both producing out here on the field, so I think they’ve going to have really good careers here and it’s going to be good to see how they grow this year.”
(On Sean Constantine’s injury and what that means for the group) “It is tough. We all love Sean. He’s a great guy, he’s got an infectious attitude. He loves the game. But he’s upbeat about it. He’s not been moping. He’s back in the meetings, everything like that. So I think for us, the best thing we can do for Sean is pick up where he left off and keep it going and win some games for him, because that’s what he wants to see. So I think it’s definitely tough to lose a guy like that, but we’ve got good players who should be able to step up for him.”