Entering Saturday’s showdown with archrival Ohio State, sophomore linebacker Prescott Burgess has a very simple goal.
“Just beating them and just showing them the reason why I came to Michigan,” Burgess said.
Hailing from Warren, Ohio, Burgess attended Warren G. Harding High School — the alma mater of former Michigan linebacker Carl Diggs and former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett — but he left the state to don the Maize and Blue.
“(Michigan has) great tradition,” Burgess said. “I just felt comfortable coming to Michigan.
“Most (players) from Ohio went to Ohio State. But my year, me and Shawn Crable were the only ones that came to Michigan — two of the top players from Ohio. And I think we made a good decision.”
Burgess says that many Ohioans have a differing opinion on his choice to skirt the Buckeyes (along with Florida, Notre Dame and Tennessee) for the Wolverines. And these critics have never been shy to share their viewpoint.
“Always — they jabber and say what they want to say,” Burgess said. “But I learned how to bypass that and just continue on with my career at Michigan.”
Burgess came to Michigan as one of the most highly touted recruits in the nation. Coming out of Warren G. Harding, he was the No. 1 safety in America according to Rivals100.com and No. 2 according to recruiting guru Tom Lemming. While he practiced at safety for the first two weeks of the 2003 season, Burgess moved to inside linebacker before the Notre Dame game. The move was a joint decision by both Burgess and the coaching staff.
“It was a big transition,” Burgess said. “Moving to linebacker, I had to learn to take on more blocks, and just learn how to read the whole offensive line.”
Throughout last season and the first eight games of this season, Burgess wasn’t receiving much playing time.
“It’s (been) very difficult, coming in as a No. 1 prospect from Ohio and just playing special teams and a little linebacker,” Burgess said. “It’s very hard. But everybody’s got to wait for their time to shine.”
Burgess’s waiting period may be over, though, as he has earned increased playing time at linebacker in Michigan’s last two games.
“I feel great,” Burgess said. “I feel that I can help this team out with my ability. Although Burgess said his position switch was “a great move,” he also admitted that he’s considered a return to the secondary.
“I’ve been thinking that a lot,” Burgess said. “I look at (strong safety) Ernest (Shazor), and I’m like, man — if he can do it, then I can do it.”
Shazor is a junior this season, so he will be eligible to enter the 2005 NFL draft. Whenever Shazor leaves Ann Arbor, Burgess seems interested in filling his shoes.
“I’m used to (playing safety),” Burgess said. “I did that all through high school — coming down and being almost like a linebacker.”
But right now, the Ohio native is just looking forward to returning home.
“Going to Columbus to play Ohio State — It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college football, and I’m just hoping that we can come out with a victory,” Burgess said.