Greg Burns, a 17-year veteran coach who has been a member of 10 bowl game staffs, is in his first season as the defensive backs coach at Cal in 2014. Burns has spent eight of the last 12 seasons working in the Pac-12 with four campaigns each at USC and Arizona State. Among Burns' 10 bowl games are four BCS bowls all during his time at USC when he was part of a Trojans’ coaching staff that won back-to-back AP national championships in 2003 and 2004.
“The coaching experience Greg has at the highest levels of college football and his familiarity with the Pac-12 and the type of players the league attracts has already begun to pay dividends,” head coach Sonny Dykes said. “Our defensive backs really improved this spring under his tutelage. He’s a good communicator and teacher who has a lot of credibility having coached and played in this league. He is a fair and demanding coach who does an excellent job communicating with his student-athletes.”
“I’m excited to be a member of the coaching staff at Cal and back in the Pac-12,” Burns said. “I have always admired the tradition and excellence of Cal football, and I feel that my experience and skill sets in coaching, teaching and recruiting fit well at Cal and in this conference. I am looking forward to being part of a staff that has us headed in the right direction and add to the program’s storied tradition.”
In addition to his Pac-12 experience, Burns has other collegiate coaching stops at Idaho, Louisville, Kansas State, Purdue and Massachusetts, where he most recently spent the 2013 season as the defensive backs coach for a unit that ranked No. 42 nationally in passing yards allowed (217.8 ypg).
Burns was at Purdue in 2012 when three of the Boilermakers’ five players on All-Big Ten teams came from his secondary in cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson, and safety Landon Feichter. Purdue ranked No. 43 nationally in pass efficiency defense (124.59).
Burns joined the Purdue staff after spending the previous four seasons (2008-11) as the cornerbacks coach at Arizona State. The Sun Devils led the Pac-10 and finished among the nation’s top units in 2009 in total defense (No. 13 NCAA, 297.58 ypg), rushing defense (No. 19 NCAA, 108.58 ypg) and passing defense (No. 26 NCAA, 189.00 ypg). Arizona State also led the conference in rushing defense and was No. 16 nationally (119.67 ypg) the following season in 2010, while also ranking second in the league and among the nation’s top units in tackles for loss (No. 8 NCAA, 7.42 tflpg), pass efficiency defense (No. 20 NCAA, 108.58) and scoring defense (No. 26 NCAA, 21.08 ppg). Defensive back Omar Bolden was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection in 2010 and selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, where he has played in all 32 regular-season games over the past two seasons.
Prior to his four campaigns at ASU, Burns spent the 2007 season as defensive backs coach at Kansas State.
Burns’ lone season in the NFL came with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the team’s defensive backs coach in 2006, where he coached cornerback Ronde Barber in his second and final All-Pro season.
His two national championships in 2003 and 2004 came during a tremendously successful run as the defensive backs coach at USC under Pete Carroll for four seasons from 2002-05, with the Trojans also winners of the BCS National Championship Game in January of 2005 following the 2004 season.
During his time at USC, Burns developed a reputation as one of the brightest young secondary coaches in the country and mentored a number of standout performers, including All-American safeties Troy Polamalu (2002) and Darnell Bing (2005). He also coached first-team All-Pac-10 cornerback Will Poole in 2003. Polamalu was a first-round selection (16th overall) of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2003 NFL Draft, while Poole and Bing were fourth-round picks of the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions in 2004 and 2006. Terrell Thomas, who played one season for Burns in 2005, ended up a second-round selection of the New York Giants in the 2008 NFL Draft. In 2004, the Trojans were ninth nationally in pass defense.
Burns previously coached the cornerbacks for four seasons at Louisville from 1998-2001 and produced six All-Conference USA selections during his tenure, including first-teamers Anthony Floyd (2000, 2001) and Antonio Roundtree (1998) while Rashad Holman was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL Draft. The Cardinals ranked 18th nationally in pass efficiency defense and had 20 interceptions in his final season in 2001. In 2000, Louisville led the nation in interceptions (27) and was 20th in the country in pass efficiency defense. Louisville played in four bowls – 1998 Motor City Bowl, 1999 Humanitarian Bowl, 2000 and 2001 Liberty Bowl – during his tenure.
He started his career with one campaign as the cornerbacks coach at Idaho (1997) with the Vandals intercepting 13 passes.
Burns was a four-year letterwinner (1991-93, 1995) and three-year starter at Washington State, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors in 1992 when the Cougars won the Copper Bowl. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Washington State in 1995 and his master’s in counseling psychology from the same school in 1997.
Burns participated on the football and track and field teams at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, where he graduated from in 1991.
He and his wife Crystal have three sons: Cristopher, Carter and Cooper.
The Kaufman File
Bowl History (10 Games)
*Season in which bowl game was played