Tavon Austin went to Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland where he played running back, where he had 2600+ yards and 34 touchdowns his senior year. WVU recruited him as a RB and he came to WVU thinking that he would be backing up and eventually replacing RB Noel Devine, who quite a playmaker himself. Needless to say he impressed the coaches so much in summer practice with not only his speed, but his elusiveness. They needed to put him on the field. So the coaching staff approached him and told him he could wait (presumably a redshirt) for Noel Devine to graduate after the next season to play, or he could switch to WR and play immediately. Austin had never played WR and was initially not happy about switching positions, but ultimately decided that he wanted the playing time.
He definitely made the right choice. He has great hands, makes sharp cuts off of routes and can make tacklers miss in a "phone booth". When Austin arrived in 2009, he played for a team that was guided by Jarret Brown at quarterback. He threw for just 2100+ yards and 11 tds that year. WVU for years previously with Pat White was always a spread rushing attack, and the playmaker who was given the ball that year the most was Noel Devine. As a result Austin just 15 recs and 151 yards and 1 td and 47 yards and 1 td with limited opportunities.
The next year, WVU had a new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen (previously with Wake Forest) and the offense was taken to more of a pro-style offense in Geno Smith's first year. Jeff Mullen did not have much imagination in my opinion, but Austin saw the field more - 58 recs and 787 yds receiving - which was quite the improvement from his first season. Enter Dana Holgersen and spread passing attack in 2011. He nearly doubled his receptions from 58 to 101 and ended the season with 1100+ yards. This past season, he had almost 1300 yards and 12 tds receiving and 643 yards rushing and 3 tds to go along with a punt and kickoff return for touchdowns.
Enough about history and stats, let's talk about how he plays on the field. You know about the speed and elusiveness, but you really have to watch him on the field to believe it. He plays mostly near the line of scrimmage and short to intermediate passing routes (occasionally goes deep, but Bailey was the deep threat). Tavon Austin can make tacklers miss in a phone booth. His main weapon is his explosiveness. He can stop on a dime and then accelerate to full speed in no time flat. He sets up his defenders and really makes them look foolish at times. There have been a number of times I think he appears to be bottled up, and then Tavon will kick it into another gear and separate from his would be tacklers. HE IS VERY EXCITING TO WATCH!!! Tavon has never been injured and in four years I have never seen him even take a big hit. He has such great body control. Austin is slight in stature but what makes him different from others his size is that he has great upper body thickness and strength, which explains why he is such a capable blocker in the run game. Just ask Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas, who was repeatedly unable to disengage from Austin's blocks. Austin can flip the field on Special Teams. There are many times that WVU had short drives because of the great starting field position (which is how you can rack up 70pts). Austin and Bailey had a symbiotic relationship, as Austin benefited from Bailey's ability to stretch the field. Bailey benefited from teams playing defensive backs closer to the line of scrimmage to CONTAIN Tavon!
NEXT POST: Introducing Stedman Bailey