BOISE, Idaho (AP) Boise State has its burner back.
After missing most of last season for disciplinary reasons, Titus Young is once again giving tacklers fits and the Broncos offense and special teams that burst of speed and elusiveness that so often turns a simple play into a game changer.
And his ability to stretch a screen pass, end run or kick return into a huge gain or touchdown is one of the reasons the Broncos (4-0) have climbed to No. 5 in the country and into the national title conversation.
"He's an extremely explosive player. It's always nice to see him with a little bit of space and the ball in his hands," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "If you miss a tackle or take a bad angle, he's going to outrun it and make you pay."
Just ask the defenders Young has left in his wake.
Young, a receiver and special teams ace, has six touchdowns this season. He leads the team with 20 catches for 247 yards, averages nearly 30 yards a crack on kick returns and has 607 all-purpose yards over the first four games. Three of his scores have come through the air, two more on the ground, and another on what so far is one of the biggest plays of the season.
Two weeks ago at Fresno State, Young trailed on a 74-yard dash by running back Jeremy Avery, looking for opportunities to block oncoming tacklers. But the ball was batted out of Avery's grasp just before the goal line, only to be saved when Young dove on it before it headed out the back of the end zone for a touchback.
The score helped the Broncos regain momentum and a 10-point lead late in the game en route to a 51-34 victory.
That kind of hustle has earned Young praise from coaches, but even more, left the impression he's playing with a greater sense of urgency and purpose.
Young was suspended by Petersen for 10 games last year, including the last nine. The junior from Los Angeles was cleared to rejoin the team this spring but so far has been barred from talking to the media.
Petersen has refused to delve into the reasons for the suspension, but maintains it was the right thing for Young and the team.
"It was hard. I think we're all better for it," Petersen said. "I think he's better for it."
In what ways? Petersen says Young is more disciplined and mature, growth that shows in his detailed route running and care in handling the ball after the catch.
Young still has a knack for getting in the coach's dog house, but the reasons are less significant. This week, Petersen said Young would be doing extra sets of calisthenics for showboating after a touchdown in last week's 49-14 victory at Bowling Green.
Asked if Young a year ago would have hustled and stayed with a play like he did in recovering the loose ball at Fresno State, Petersen paused for a few moments before answering.
"I think so. It's hard to get that ingrained, to play hard all the time," Petersen said.
Young's speed has given Boise State's offense and return game the kind of sizzle it lacked a year ago.
Heading into Saturday's matchup against UC Davis, the Broncos boast the nation's seventh best kick return game, with Young and Doug Martin pairing for an average of 32.7 yards per return, a major improvement from last year when the team finished 47th in the nation.
Young's longest kick return went for 77 yards and set up a score against Fresno State.