It didn’t take new Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton long to figure out he might have something special in sophomore wide receiver Derwin Burgess, Jr.
So, when Burgess had a school record 12 catches for 119 yards in last Saturday’s thrilling 45-42 win over Nebraska no one on the Eagles sideline was surprised.
“We expected it from Derwin,” Helton said in his Monday press conference. “We’ve seen him in two training camps now and we expected him to be a big play receiver and he expects it of himself.”
Burgess, who was an early enrollee in January 2021 after having a standout career at Riverdale High School, showed flashes last year of what he had to offer a pass-oriented offense when he had seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown in a 38-30 win at Texas State. He also had a blocked punt that led to a touchdown.
In breaking the late Raja Andrews single game mark of 10 – he did it twice in 2008 against The Citadel and Samford – Burgess could have had an even bigger night.
Burgess was targeted by quarterback Kyle Vantrease on 10 other occasions. Twice he drew penalties when Huskers defenders were called for a pass interference and a hold. All of this produced nine first downs.
The biggest of Burgess’ catches, his 10th of the night, came following a Georgia Southern timeout with 2:20 to play. Trailing 42-38 the Eagles were facing a fourth-and-two at their own 33.
Coming out of the time out the call was for a run. That changed quickly.
“The call was for a running play,” Burgess said. “Kyle gave me a gesture for me to run the route. I ran it and I just made a play on the ball.”
The play went for six yards and nine plays later Vantrease ran 8 yards for the winning touchdown. On the play before Vantrease scored Nebraska was called for holding Burgess and that moved the ball from the 17 to the eight.
Burgess took to the new coaching staff from the outset and he’s excited about the Eagles’ prospects.
“They (offensive coaches) came in with the mindset of having an explosive offense and week in and week out we’ve got to win these games,” Burgess said. “We’ve got a good defense and I’m not taking anything from Coach (Will) Harris but they (coaches) put all the pressure on us (offense) to make sure we do what we do week in and week out.
“Offense is like a mind game, so we’ve got to out think our opponent,” Burgess said. “Defense is a more physical and react type.”
In today’s world of college football players don’t hesitate to enter the transfer portal whenever they feel slighted or when a coaching change is made. The portal was never part of Burgess’ thought process.“I like Georgia Southern so I knew I would be staying anyway,” Burgess said. “But with this offense it gave me a viewpoint that I have way more chances to have the type of games I had last year at Texas State (and at Nebraska).”