The MAACO Bowl featured an entertaining matchup between Boise’s pair of talented senior wideouts and Utah’s Brandon Burton, a junior cornerback who looked like he could use another year of seasoning before going pro.
Boise’s Titus Young and Austin Pettis showcased the qualities that make them solid early to mid-round draft prospects. Unsurprisingly, the small but speedy Young showed off his jets. Though his six catch, 64 yard stat line isn’t overly impressive, he repeatedly displayed the ability to separate from Burton and Utah’s other defensive backs. He also hauled in what would have been a 12 yard touchdown reception, but the referees ruled that he didn’t get a foot inbounds. While scoring the TD would have been a nice final bullet on Young’s resume, the ten TDs and over 1200 total yards he amassed this season already established that Young can be a legit big play guy.
Young’s teammate Austin Pettis had a more impressive night. The 6’3”, 202-pound wideout brought in 12 grabs for 127 yards and a touchdown. He almost scored on another opportunity, but a Utah defender managed to pop the ball out before Pettis reached the end zone.
While not a burner, Pettis displayed the physicality necessary to beat the jam at the line, as well as strong hands that allow him to make catches in tight quarters. His most impressive grab came on a 4th and 3 play on which Kellen Moore threw the ball to the wrong shoulder but Pettis still outmuscled the corner for the ball. He can go up and highpoint the ball, dive turfward to grab the pigskin, and make all sorts of highlight reel catches. For that reason, Pettis’s lack of ideal speed won’t stop him from having strong supporters in NFL war rooms.
Burton, on the other hand, may have lost some supporters with his middling bowl game performance. The Utah corner was thrown at eight times, giving up six receptions for 54 yards and a TD. The two incompletions weren’t of Burton’s doing: on one play, the receiver didn’t turn around in time to make the catch; on the other one, Titus Young just barely missed out on a TD. And another play was called back because Burton grabbed onto Pettis.
Throughout the game, Burton exhibited a disappointing lack of physicality. Boise repeatedly managed to move the chains because of it: Burton didn’t show enough feistiness at the line on an important 3rd down completion, couldn’t bring down running back Doug Martin on another 3rd down, and let Pettis out-muscle him on that big 4th down play. When Pettis threw the ball on a trick play, Burton managed to tip the pass in the air, but he also let Pettis go up and bring in his own throw.
Burton certainly showed plenty of athleticism, but — at this point — he looks like a guy who’ll lose more battles for the ball than he’ll win. If he declares, his upside will ensure that he comes off the board very early, but he may be better off continuing to develop his skills at the college level.