There's not a whole lot left to say about Tavon Austin that hasn't been said already (but if you're interested, we said a lot of them here). He's one of the top 5 greatest wide receivers in WVU history....AND he holds the team single game rushing record.....AND he's tied for the career kick return TD record.
Jack of all trades, master of
none all, WVU's career all-purpose yardage leader will be in New York a few months later than he should have been for a certain ceremony, but this time when he leaves it will be with his pockets stuffed with cash as he flashes that 1,000 watt smile at Roger Goodell.
Let's take a quick look at his profile.
2012 stats: 114 receptions for 1289 yards & 14 touchdowns, 72 rushes for 643 yards & 3 touchdowns, 15 punt returns for 165 yards & a touchdown, 32 kick off returns for 813 yards & a touchdown
A combination of blazing top end speed (4.34 seconds to be exact) and insane lateral quickness that makes him a threat to go the distance anytime he touches the ball. Excellent field vision and ability to cut back and make something out of nothing. And if that wasn't enough, his ability to accelerate out of one of those stop-start cuts is unmatched. Seems to have a wonderful attitude - confident and fun with healthy swagger without being arrogant. Enjoys the entertainment aspect of the game and playing to the crowd (see his Kansas game Heisman pose). As versatile as it gets he can catch the ball, take it out of the backfield on a hand off, or receive kicks or punts.
Kidding (kind of).
Small for a wide receiver at 5'-8" - the position he predominantly played in college (although he also started a pair of games at RB). Has never been an very gifted or disciplined route-runner - he makes his plays in space AFTER the ball is in his hands, not before. Never shown much ability to jump up and make great catches - although he did make one such play in the final game of the regular season against Kansas. Reports of a low Wonderlic score (7) got a lot of press, but with a history of learning a new position (was recruited as a RB out of high school) and a reputation among scouts as a worker (the same report that included his low score contained the following quote: "he will work at it, he cares greatly about it") seem to minimize concerns about his mental aptitude (also maybe Wonderlics aren't so great). Worth nothing he worked with a two different coordinators in college and learned a new offense after his sophomore year, all without missing a step.
Spent time in a pair of systems in college. Did not redshirt and during his first two years was a notable playmaker in Jeff Mullen's traditional "pro-style" offense (although in all honesty none of us were every exactly sure what it was). Made some notable plays his freshman year and landed on the nation's radar with a very solid if not spectacular sophomore effort With the arrival of Dana Holgorsen's "Air Raid" in 2011, Austin was finally fully utilized, given the ball in space where he could leverage his considerable physical gifts to their fullest. Caught many of his passes near or behind the line of scrimmage, but was could also be a downfield threat. Single-handedly vaulted the "tip-pass" into the national lexicon.
There are many to choose from, but nothing he (or anyone) has done can approach The Oklahoma Game. In a single night, Tavon both set the WVU single game rushing record in his first start at running back since high school (on 21 carries) and came within 6 yards of the all-time NCAA FBS single game record.....and did it against the #12 team in America (the record was set in 2000 against a team that won 3 games all year). If you want a sense of where that effort stands in the impressive history of Oklahoma football, read this. And if you want to see the most impressive performance you'll ever witness, watch this:
For all the amazing things Tavon did on the field, this will stick out with me. In the wake of the Wonderlic score report, when people were saying all manner of nasty things about Tavon's intelligence, I asked WVU radio sideline reporter Jed Drenning what he thought as someone who had spent extensive time with him. He responded with this:
"Quiet. Soft spoken, somewhat reserved. Came out of his shell in the spotlight last year and handled it well. I remember thinking when I interviewed him at pro day that he'd come a long way in 4 years."
It's nice to think that for all the amazing football memories Tavon gave Mountaineer fans for 4 years, he also experienced some real personal growth and is poised for a very bright future. This was a young man who was never anything but a positive force in his football program and among fans and there's 1 NFL team among 32 that will be fortunate to bring that on board.
On Thursday night we'll see who the lucky squad is.