December 22, 2011

Burton picks Rebels over Gators

Pierce Burton came very close to becoming a Florida Gator Wednesday morning.

Something, however, nagged at the City College of San Francisco offensive tackle, so he reconsidered a bit.

Hours later, Burton had undergone a complete change of heart.

"Once I decided I wanted to commit to Ole Miss, I felt real excited," Burton said Wednesday night, hours after faxing in his national letter-of-intent to Ole Miss, ending a successful day for new coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels. "I just saw things I could do, the team could do so I went with it. It was pretty difficult but I was real happy with my decision."

The 6-foot-7, 290-pounder, who began his college career at San Jose State before transferring to the junior college level, chose Ole Miss over Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas Tech, West Virginia and others. He will report to Oxford early next month as the leading candidate to replace graduating left tackle Bradley Sowell on the Rebels' offensive line.

"They said it's my job to lose at left tackle," Burton said. "I think that's the most I can ask for, but I can't get complacent. I'm going to work just as hard to get better. Nothing's guaranteed. Nothing's set in stone at all."

Burton spent last Friday and part of Saturday on an official visit to Ole Miss before traveling to Gainesville, Fla., for a quick official visit with Will Muschamp's Gators. The ultimate difference, he said, was the specificity of Freeze's plan for him.

"I really felt the things he was going to focus on with me are the things I need to work on," Burton said. "The campus surprised me. I heard how lively it was when everyone was there. It looked like a place where people would want to go to school."

Burton said the Rebels' recent struggles in Southeastern Conference play _ Ole Miss was 0-8 in league play in 2011 and is 1-16 in its last 17 conference games _ wasn't a factor in his decision.

"(Freeze) has a track record," Burton said. "He turned things around quickly for Arkansas State in the Sun Belt. The SEC is a much harder conference. It might take a little longer, but I'd love to be a part of bringing Ole Miss back to what it once was."

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