MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s one player who fits the term “ball hawk” better than any other defensive back in the WVU program, according to players and coaches.

“Aubrey Burks,” linebacker Jared Bartlett said. “By far Aubrey Burks. That’s our guy.”

In 2022, the Oakridge, Fla., native’s performance was a bright spot among a struggling unit in the secondary that allowed the second most passing yards per game in the Big 12. As a result, the defense leaned on Burks more than he may have planned.

“A lot was put on his plate early in his career,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “[He] did the best he could [and] was better as the season went on. And he’s obviously been, through spring and summer, a bright spot.”

Burks is listed as the No. 1 free safety on the preseason depth chart, but coaches have also praised Georgia Southern transfer Anthony Wilson (who is listed as a cat safety on the same depth chart) for his performance at free safety during fall camp. Kentucky transfer Keyshawn Cobb will also battle for rotational snaps at safety, and there are position battles at both outside cornerback positions.

For perhaps the first time in Burks’ WVU tenure, there is upward pressure on all five starting defensive back positions.

Still, as long as he stays healthy, Burks will be roaming the defensive backfield for WVU in some sort of starting role once again this season. In 2022, he started 11 games at safety as a sophomore in which he became the team’s second leading tackler while recording one interception and one forced fumble.

And his performance is carrying over into training camp.

“Aubrey made a couple wow plays on Monday and Tuesday,” head coach Neal Brown said.

So when players and coaches envision a game-changing interception in their heads, it’s likely that they are thinking of Burks.