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Arizona Wildcats football add DB coach Greg Burns to coaching staff

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 19: Amon-Ra St. Brown #8 of the USC Trojans misses a catch as he is hit by Tristan Cooper #31 and Jace Whittaker #17 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Arizona Wildcats have added defensive backs coach Greg Burns to Kevin Sumlin’s staff, the school announced in a press release on Monday.

Burns has already begun acting out his duties, as the coach officially joined the football program on March 9.

“We are obviously in a very unique time and the importance of surrounding ourselves with men such as Greg is crucial in the development of our student-athletes on and off the field,” Sumlin said in the release. “We are fortunate to have Greg with our secondary during this time.

“He brings more than 20 years of experience coaching in the secondary with a successful track record in recruiting and development. His Pac-12 experience, professionalism and passion for the game will be a great addition to our staff. He is more than qualified to help lead our student-athletes during this unique time.”

Burns spent the 2019 season with Pac-12 rival USC — the second stint of his coaching career as the defensive backs coach for the Trojans (2002-05) — where he coached 10 future NFL players, including the likes of Troy Polamalu, en route to back-to-back national championships and three consecutive national championship game appearances from 2003-05, respectively.

Arizona’s newest coaching addition will be going into his 23rd year, all of which have been at the college level except for one season in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006 that resulted in a Ronde Barber’s final All-Pro selection of his career.

Prior to calling Tucson home, Burns made 11 stops along the way. Five of those coaching jobs were in the Pac-12, including Arizona State from 2008-11, where the Sun Devils led the then-Pac-10 in total defense and passing defense in 2009. Burns’ former Pac-12 employers also feature Cal (2014-16) and Oregon State (2018).

Last season, the Wildcats allowed 23.5 completions per game (tied for fourth-most in the country) on 35.8 pass attempts per contest (tied for eighth-most in the nation). Those metrics resulted in a 65.6% completion percentage for opposing quarterbacks, the 11th-highest in the country.

The 2019 campaign also saw Arizona give up the nation’s fifth-most passing yards per game (289.8) and tied for the 14th-most touchdown passes allowed per contest at 2.2.

And although USC’s secondary may not have turned heads at the national level last year, the Trojans did post one of the Pac-12’s better passing defenses.

Burns’ squad finished as the conference’s fourth-best and the Pac-12 South’s second-best secondary in completions (21.6) and yards (246.2) allowed per game.

USC also posted the league’s third-lowest completion percentage (61.1), which only trailed Utah, who deployed the Pac-12’s best passing and rushing defense in 2019.