GAINESVILLE — Trey Burton's official title with the Florida Gators is backup quarterback. Supposedly, if anything were to happen to John Brantley, Burton would step into the starting role.
But for now, Burton's title is more akin to "whatever you need."
The freshman from Venice has turned into Florida's most versatile player this season. In three games, Burton has seen time at fullback, tight end, wide receiver, tailback and special teams (kickoff team).
He has honed his still evolving skills in those other positions simply by studying during preseason drills.
"I learned it all during the quarterback meetings," Burton said. "Playing quarterback, you have to know every position or else you can't play quarterback. All I really needed to know was the technique or how to block somebody, or what foot to step with. So (quarterbacks) Coach (Scot) Loeffler got me right and pretty much taught me everybody's position so far."
Burton started at receiver last week at Tennessee, and he scored a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. On Sept. 11, he gained 12 yards on two carries against USF, and in the opener he had a 2-yard carry against Miami (Ohio) to become the first true freshman quarterback to score on opening day since 2007 — scoring on his first snap at quarterback.
And while his versatility is an asset now, the challenge for coaches is twofold: keep him healthy, and don't throw so much at him that he's mastering nothing.
"He's a great example of a young guy that you're trying to say, 'Okay, exactly what (do you do with him)?' " offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. "You don't want to do too many (positions) then you're a jack of all and you don't master anything.
"You love him because he's just so coachable. But in the same breath you've got to make sure, he wants to be at a high, high level for exactly what he's going to do.
"The guy's a heck of an option quarterback. We're just thrilled to death with him, okay? But having said that, we've got to do a great job of making sure that he doesn't have too many job descriptions. And right now, he probably has a lot."
Burton's willingness to do any and all things for the Gators shouldn't come as a surprise.
He is credited with helping keep the 2010 class intact after Meyer briefly resigned in December. Burton began the phone chain to the orally committed recruits, then kept in touch with Meyer and the coaching staff, relaying messages to future teammates and offering assurance that if they all hung tough, everything would be fine.
That brief, difficult period has made it an extremely close unit of friends.
"We're real close, really, really close," said Burton, 6 feet 2 and 222 pounds. "We're there for each other. If we need anything, we're there, a phone call away. I think that's a huge part of our freshman class we're really, really close."
While he's most comfortable running the wildcat at quarterback, Burton said the coaches and players at other positions are doing everything possible to help him become more comfortable in his new roles.
And yes, he's still working at backup quarterback.
"I'm really focusing on the tight end, wide receiver, fullback part right now," he said. "But every practice, I throw a good amount every practice to stay with it (passing)."
His ability to adapt has earned the respect of his teammates.
"I've never seen anything like that," senior offensive lineman Carl Johnson said. "The guy can play quarterback, running back, fullback, tight end. Didn't he do kickoff, too? The boy is all-purpose, ain't he?"
Ultimately Burton expects to be the team's starting quarterback one day (he sees himself as a running quarterback). For now, he has become the ultimate team player.
"I'm blessed," he said. "The Lord's blessed me with athletic ability to play football and I'm real thankful for that. And I'm glad I came in (under the radar), nobody really knew too much about me, I didn't go to too many camps in high school. I just do what they tell me to do, and I try to go as hard as I can. I'll do whatever the coaches ask me to do."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her blog at tampabay.com/blogs/gators.