Throughout this season, there has been plenty of curiosity about Luther Burden III. There have been questions around whether Missouri and their offensive staff could properly utilize Burden amid the high expectations for him. There have been games this season where he has gone absent on the field with there being no real attempt to involve him in the offense, and there have also been games this season where Burden finds himself being the focal point of the offense. As a whole, it’s been pretty uneven.
Still, even with the up and down usage, it’s hard not to feel like this freshman season has been an objective success for him.
As a true freshman, Burden is going to finish somewhere in the top five on Missouri’s roster for touches. He currently has 53, which would probably be classified as a “good, not great” amount for him. Everyone obviously likes to see him with the ball in his hands more, but when you take into context the amount of touches that young receivers typically get, it’s hard to be upset with the total amount.
He has shown that he has the explosiveness to make defenses look silly too. Burden has scored in all ways. He has a punt return for a touchdown, has four receiving touchdowns as well as two rushing touchdowns to bring his total to eight, which leads the team. That’s something you just don’t see everyday.
Since 2020, there have been nine five star receivers, including Luther Burden. When you look at Burden within the context of what five star receivers have done as true freshman, you see he’s performing better than the standard. Of the other eight players, he has more scrimmage yards and touchdowns than the following:
- Julian Fleming, Ohio State (2019)
- Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (2019)
- Demond Demas, Texas A&M (2019)
- JaCorey Brooks, Alabama (2021)
- Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State (2021)
- Chris Marshall, Texas A&M (2022)
There are a few names on that list who have turned into awesome players, but couldn’t beat Burden’s marks this year. The only two players since 2020 to have more scrimmage yards and touchdowns are Kayshon Boutte at LSU (2020) and Evan Stewart at Texas A&M (2022). I think what’s encouraging is several of these five star players ended up having break out seasons in their sophomore years after gaining a bit of experience in year one, which is exactly the model that our own Dominic Lovett has followed.
Despite the fact that Luther’s stats aren’t overly efficient and not very gaudy, he has checked all of the boxes that one could reasonably expect. In fact, here’s what I wrote about my expectations for Luther before the season:
Luther Burden is going to do some great things this year. That said, I am starting to worry that the hype is beginning to exceed what the product will ultimately be. Not that he doesn’t deserve the hype. He really is that caliber of player, but at the end of the day, he’s still a freshman. There will still probably be growing pains that come with adjusting to college football. That’s okay. He can still have a large impact on this offense, I just think we need to tamper expectations as a whole.... From a statistical perspective, say... 40-50 receptions, 400-450 yards and 5-7 touchdowns. Somewhere in that general area. That is a successful freshman season in my eyes.
Despite the expectations, which were probably a bit too high to begin, Burden has been as advertised. He has been a spark for the offense and going forward, is one of a few building blocks that Missouri has to continue to develop and build around for how ever long he decides to be here.