Bama's Jermaine Burton seeking second straight national title

Crimson Tide photos / Alabama junior receiver Jermaine Burton, who spent the past two seasons at Georgia, has been the most consistent at his position according to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

The College Football Playoff provides a championship trophy and a participation trophy for the vying teams each year.

While last season's championship trophy was hoisted in January during a parade and celebration at Georgia that marked the end of a 41-year title drought for the Bulldogs, the participation trophy recently has been sitting in Alabama's team cafeteria as a symbol of motivation.

Must be strange at meal time for Georgia-turned-Alabama receiver Jermaine Burton.

"What motivates me is the way guys treated me when I came into the program," Burton said Monday in his first news conference since transferring to Tuscaloosa. "I couldn't thank these guys enough. Regardless of the outcome of last year's game and me being on the other side, I'm here now, and I think that's what I really need to focus on.

"I'm focusing on this team and what we can do this year."

Twelve days after collecting two receptions for 28 yards to help the Bulldogs to a 33-18 triumph over Nick Saban's Crimson Tide at the CFP title contest in Indianapolis, the 6-foot, 200-pounder announced that he would be playing his junior season at Alabama. Burton was asked Monday why he made the move, and he replied with a succinct, "I'm just trying to make the best decision for me and my family."

Opportunity is certainly more wide open at Alabama, which returns Heisman Trophy quarterback Bryce Young and is having to replace Jameson Williams, John Metchie and Slade Bolden from last year's team that downed Georgia 41-24 in December's Southeastern Conference title game before the Bulldogs exacted revenge. Georgia, by comparison, not only has proven receivers such as Kearis Jackson, Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell returning with quarterback Stetson Bennett but also the best tight end contingent in the country, headed by Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington and Arik Gilbert.

"My entire mindset coming into this program was to work and to understand the offense and get it down with Bryce," Burton said. "My relationship with Bryce is great. He's a guy I've known since high school, having played my last two years out in California. Our relationship was pretty good there as well.

"When I came in here, we just clicked. We both wanted the best for each other, and he wanted me to learn the offense as quickly as possible."

Despite being a newcomer, Burton is already morphing into a leader in his position room. Saban has said since spring practice that the former four-star signee from Calabasas High School has been his team's most consistent receiver.

Alabama defenders have felt a difference he brings as well.

"Speed. Jermaine is fast and can get vertical fast," senior safety DeMarcco Hellams said Monday. "He's a good route-runner, so every day in practice in good-on-good periods, you're going to get the best matchup."

Burton amassed 53 catches for 901 yards and eight touchdowns during his two seasons in Athens. He had 26 receptions for 497 yards and five scores a year ago, with his catches ranking fifth on the team and his yards a distant second to Bowers.

There were no drops by Burton in Georgia's championship season, and apparently there has been no hostility at his new locale.

"It honestly went a way I didn't think it would go," Burton said. "I honestly felt there would be guys who still felt a way about the game and had envy or animosity, but this team brought me in with unbelievable arms and welcomed me. We didn't have any sort of issue about that.

"I got congratulated more than anything. The guys brought me in and wanted to work with me, so I honestly forgot about that. I want to win it with this team."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.