Before Jager Burton was a four-star prospect with a treasure trove of scholarship offers, the Lexington lineman was a Kentucky football camper.
In the summer of 2018, Jager (pronounced Jagger, as in Mick) had just finished his freshman year of high school football. He spent his day working out in front of UK coaches as a defensive lineman. It would be his last day on that side of the line of scrimmage.
Burton quickly caught UK offensive line coach John Schlarman’s eye. Once drills wound down, the former UK offensive guard pulled Burton aside and suggested a switch. Five months later, Kentucky became the first school to offer the talented hometown kid a scholarship.
Burton’s sensational sophomore season at offensive guard for Frederick Douglass High School did not go unnoticed. Now a four-star prospect by Rivals and the No. 6 offensive guard in the 2021 class, he has more than a dozen offers from the likes of Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State and Oregon. He’s acquired plenty of attention, but the rising junior has no plans to pick a school anytime soon.
“I honestly think about it, but I wouldn’t do it until before senior year at the earliest,” Burton told Larry Vaught during an appearance on the Leach Report. “I definitely don’t want to decommit. I don’t like how that looks I guess. Whenever I make a decision I want to be 100% sure that’s where I want to go and start getting other guys to go there.”
Things will begin to clear up this fall. As of now, players can only reach out to coaches, who cannot reciprocate until September 1. Once that stage of the recruitment begins, Burton will have a better idea of who is making him a priority.
Up until this point, UK’s campus is the only place Burton has visited more than once. Proximity certainly plays a factor. It also doesn’t hurt that he grew up cheering for the Cats, and surprisingly, Oregon. The extravagant uniforms caught Burton’s eye at an early age. They’ve also provided a cautionary tale on the recruiting trail. Luckily, one of his closest friends has already been through the recruiting process, future Clemson offensive tackle Walker Parks.
“I’ve heard people who committed to Oregon will commit there just for the uniforms,” Burton said. “He’s (Parks) helped me stay away from the hype stuff which is something me and him don’t really like. I mean, I really like it, but people get so absorbed taking pictures of the uniforms and posting them on Twitter and getting likes. He’s helped me stay away from that and keep doing the same stuff we were doing before it all happened.”
Burton attended a Clemson camp this summer with Parks and another one of their talented Douglass teammates, Dekel Crowdus. The incredibly fast 2021 wide receiver (4.34 40-yard dash, no big deal) has received just as much attention on the recruiting trail and the two have talked at length about playing together at the next level.
Much will happen between now and Burton’s decision day. As he sorts through all of the madness, only one thing is certain — he does not want to play for a loser. Luckily for Kentucky, things have changed quite a bit over the last seven years.
“Really what they’ve done, I think Kentucky will be able to change up their recruiting pitch a lot throughout the next three years as they keep improving and winning more games, it’s a lot easier to get players. I think that helped a lot with John Young, Andru Phillips, Jordan Watkins, Izayah, all those guys, Beau. I talk to those guys a lot.
“Being able to stay home and win games is really important. I don’t know about a lot of other people, but I hate losing, whatever it is. I don’t think I’d want to go somewhere and lose. Kentucky is not like that at all anymore. You have the opportunity to compete for pretty much everything you would to compete for in college football now, especially as the years progress. I think that’s really important and I think that is a big reason why they’ve gotten a ton more high-level recruits, four and five-stars, even Justin Rogers. I think that’s really cool to see being from here, still being a Kentucky fan. It’s cool to see the progression of the program from Joker to Stoops.”
Hear more from Burton’s discussion on the Leach Report below.