Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio had glowing reviews for Aaron Burbridge.
And it's for good reason. The San Francisco 49ers sixth-round pick was the Spartans team MVP in 2015 after setting a school record with 85 receptions. Burbridge added a conference-leading 1,258 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on his way to First-Team All-Big Ten honors.
Dantonio offered a tantalizing scouting report of the 49ers rookie.
"I've said it publicly, the guy can catch a BB in the dark," the coach said last week on a call with 49ers.com. "He's got great hand-eye coordination. He makes all the 50-50 catches. He's a very competitive person. He'll go over the middle, catch the ball and get north immediately.
"He's got good run-after-the-catch ability. He's just a really good receiver that makes these acrobatic catches."
Burbridge arrived in East Lansing in 2012 as Rivals' top-ranked player from the state of Michigan. An eight-catch, 134-yard performance against Indiana in just his second career game indicated that Dantonio had a special player.
"He sort of became the go-to guy as a true freshman," Dantonio said.
The wideout reasserted himself as a junior after being slowed by a hamstring injury during his sophomore season. The real show, however, didn't start until his senior campaign.
Burbridge recorded seven 100-yard games in 2015. Dantonio referenced wins against Air Force (156 yards and three touchdowns), Michigan (nine receptions for 132 yards) and Penn State (75 yards and a touchdown) as standout performances for the 6-1 playmaker.
"A large amount of our success is related to how he played," Dantonio said. "I think he should be a phenomenal player (in the NFL)."
So how were the 49ers able to grab such a decorated receiver in the sixth round?
"The NFL is a prototype league," Dantonio explained. "Everyone is looking for the 6-foot-2 guy who runs 4.3 or whatever and has the big vertical jump and long standing broad jump. AB's numbers were good, but they weren't off the charts. I think that's probably what knocked his level down."
Burbridge posted a 4.56-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, a 30.5-inch vertical and 115-inch broad jump. The receiver was also knocked for his 8 1/4-inch hands. Dantonio laughed at the thought that the wideout's hands were too small having witnessed all of his highlight-reel catches.
The coach added that what Burbridge may lack in size and athleticism, he more than makes up for with football IQ and position versatility. Burbridge lined up at all three positions at Michigan State: split wide on both sides as well as the slot. Dantonio also praised his former star receiver for being "fearless" while catching the ball over the middle.
Time will tell for exactly how the 49ers plan to deploy Burbridge, but Dantonio is confident that San Francisco will ultimately be pleased with its selection.
"I talked with AB after he was drafted by the 49ers, and he was extremely excited to be going there," Dantonio said. "He's looking forward to the challenge. He will not flinch, I can tell you that. He will not flinch.
"It will be great to watch him grow there. … We'll miss him."