Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Notebook: Aubrey Burks entering ‘contract year’ with Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN — In the NFL, a contract year is make-or-break time for professional football players. How a player performs in the final year of their contract largely dictates the size of the next contract they sign, or if they get another contract at all.

WVU senior safety Aubrey Burks is viewing 2024 as his “contract year.”

“When I met with Coach (Neal) Brown at the end of the year, that’s what we both said,” Burks said after practice on Wednesday. “I graduate in December and football here for me is over.  From here until then, I just have all year to stay focused and do everything I’ve got to do in the classroom and on the field.”

Burks feels he’s in the same situation as a professional in the last year of their current deal — how he plays in 2024 will determine what kinds of NFL opportunities he gets and how much money he can potentially make.

“This is it, if you don’t handle your business (this season), then it’s all over,” Burks said. “(Brown) was mainly telling me that contract year means you graduate and then you’re off to chase your real dreams, the real money, not NIL money.”

Burks is entering his third season as a starter for the Mountaineers. He racked up 48 tackles with two interceptions and six pass deflections last year.

He has become the unquestioned leader in the Mountaineer secondary as the unit’s oldest-and-most-experienced player. There was speculation Burks could transfer away from WVU over the off-season with the departure of former safeties coach Dontae Wright, but Burks said he’s comfortable at WVU and wanted to play his final season in Morgantown.

“Instead of focusing on this little money you can get through NIL, how about you take that next step,” Burks said. “After December, go train and then when it’s time to go to the NFL, it’s time to get a real contract.”

Old man on offense

It wasn’t that long ago when quarterback Garrett Greene was considered a young guy. Fast-forward a couple of years and now Greene is all of a sudden already entering his senior season.

“It’s kind of weird being the old guy in the building. I’m probably one of the oldest ones,” Greene said. “It’s all about leadership. Just cause you’re the oldest guy, you still have to show up and be that same guy every day. Age doesn’t really factor into that.”

The longest-tenured players on WVU’s offense last season were center Zach Frazier and tackle Doug Nestor, both now graduated. That leaves Greene and left tackle Wyatt Milum as the elder statesmen among the group.

Greene, who learned behind former WVU quarterbacks JT Daniels and Jarrett Doege, said he’s becoming more of a mentor to underclassmen now.

“I think that’s a lot of the game,” Greene said. “I had guys like JT and Doege who really helped me out a ton with preparation and knowing football. … That’s really what I’ve been doing this off-season with (backup quarterbacks) Nicco (Marchiol) and Sean (Boyle), helping them out with anything I learned the hard way — trying to teach them the easy way.”

Early impressions

It’s hard to tell much through two spring practices without pads, but one thing that’s certain is transfer receiver Jaden Bray has been turning heads early this spring.

“He kind of pops off the charts to me,” Burks said. “These two days I’ve seen him at receiver I’m like ‘that can be a guy right there.’”

Bray, a redshirt junior, made 30 receptions for 382 yards and two touchdowns at Oklahoma State last season.

“He’s not really a loud guy, he’s kind of quiet and just kind of puts his head down and works,” Greene said. “I’ve been really impressed with him so far and I think he’s going to do a lot to help us this year.”

Bray transferred to WVU early in the cycle, entering the portal and making a decision in early December. 

“The first practice for all those transfers … they put pressure on themselves and everything’s new,” Brown explained. “So they’re all anxious and usually there’s a big jump between practice one and practice two and Jaden had that (Wednesday).”


  • Senior linebacker Tirek Austin-Cave has entered his name into the transfer portal. He had not been with the team since winter. Austin-Cave, who spent the first two years of his career at Miami, played in 12 games with WVU and made four tackles.
  • Defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton has medically retired. The in-state product from South Charleston transferred to WVU after one season at Cincinnati. “He had a deal where it was just a struggle,” Brown said. “He’s a great kid and we support him.” Lawton appeared in one game with the Mountaineers and had a half-sack.

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