“We hated to see Mike go,” Shorter head coach Phil Jones said about the transition, one that developed after Bartik decided to step away from the game and a storied coaching career. “It’s hard to lose somebody like that, and Mike and I have worked together for a long time so I consider him my good friend.”
“But at the same time,” Jones added, “the good Lord has blessed us with Nathan.”
Burton joins the Hawks after emerging as one of the brightest stars in the new generation of defensive coaches. A native of Lilburn who prepped at Greater Atlanta Christian, Burton proved early that he was bound and determined to be successful on the college football level when he earned a spot on Georgia Tech’s roster as a walk-on freshman, earned a scholarship and became a four-year letterman as the Yellow Jackets’ safety.
After obtaining his degree in 2005, Burton served as a graduate assistant coach for Tech and then joined the coaching staff at Oklahoma State – at the two schools worked under the tutelage of defensive coordinators Jon Tenuta (Georgia Tech) and Bill Young (Oklahoma State) – and for the past two years was a defensive assistant at Tennessee-Martin.
“I love it here,” Burton remarked about becoming a part of the Shorter program. “The players are coachable and the coaches are awesome.
“When I first met the players,” he said, “I told them that this season is all about them, it’s about what they want this year. (The coaches are) here to coach their effort and attitude.”
Burton already is aware that he is blessed by a group of defensive coaches who are familiar faces with the Hawks. Former Hawks, Zach Smith and Garrett Hochstetler, will serve as the respective line and inside linebacker coaches; Shawn Turner, who was Shorter’s receivers coach, moves over to the other side of the ball to coach cornerbacks; and recent SU grads Jamey Rice (linebackers), Nardis Walker (secondary) and Russell Norton (line) are in place to work as graduate assistants. Burton, who will also work with the Hawks’ outside linebackers and secondary, is well aware that in addition to having a dedicated staff, he will take over a defense that returns eight starters from last year, including senior All-American linebacker Demery Hawkins.
“We want to be versatile but look simple,” noting that the Shorter defense will use multiple schemes. “Defense basically comes down to having a guy in every gap and a guy in every zone, no matter what an offense looks like or does.”
“We’ve got some good players back and from top to bottom they work hard,” he said, “and when the younger guys see that they get hungry.”
“He’s been on the cutting edge of defense,” Jones commented of Burton, “especially pass defense since so many teams are going to spread offenses. He’s got a good grip on how to defense at a high level. I couldn’t be happier to have him.”
As the Hawks wrap up their first week of preseason drills to prepare for their season opener on Aug. 30 in Buies Creek, N.C., against Division I Football Championship Series member Campbell, Jones has seen the team start the new season with a positive mind-set.
“I’ve been very, very impressed with the effort,” the coach said. “That’s a great way to start. Now we have to add that technique that is needed.”