I wanted to drop in and share my perspective and knowledge on the two receivers the Rams have selected from WVU. Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Two extremely talented players, two very unique characters and two players who I am positive have a ton of star potential each in their own right. I will do this through providing thoughts on their character and abilities as well as sharing video of their entire careers here at WVU and pointing out specific examples you might find interesting.
First off, so you know who this is coming from I am Doug Cross. On the internet (and sometimes in real life) people call me Dougitydog or Dougity Dog. I currently work with WVU Football in a quasi-official capacity and have long been a devoted follower of WVU Football. As such I have attended every home game of each of their careers and almost all of their road games as well. Furthermore I make videos of them making good plays (which I will share with you in a moment). Given my background obviously you should expect bias, but I am someone who is big on facts and reason and that is what I feel my judgments are based upon. I will start this analysis or breakdown or whatever it should be called with Stedman Bailey, the lesser hyped of the two names.
Who he is: When you think of Stedman the one word that comes to mind is consistent. He approaches everyday with the same mentality, just like he approaches every practice and game with the same mentality. His humble dedication to working and developing at his craft is something which seems ingrained into the fiber of his being. If you follow him on twitter (click here to start following him) you will soon notice how he has built this mentality into a defining aspect of his character, and honestly this personal attitude/outlook might be his biggest strength. His constant progression as a player has been steady over his career at WVU and I expect it to continue in the NFL.
How he plays: He plays with effort, passion, dedication and an attention to detail. I doubt there are many skill players in college or the NFL who carry the same mindset that Stedman Bailey does. He will lay out to make the play. He will block downfield. He will run his routes and make his cuts like his life depends on it and when he breaks a tackle or makes a diving catch and gets into the endzone you will see in his celebrations just how much passion he has for the game.
Abilities: Stedman Bailey is a prototypical do-it-all receiver. Its hard to decide if he is better at making the routine plays or the spectacular ones . Though if I had to choose I would say he is the best at making the routine plays. His out routes and comeback routes are things of beauty. He can beat you deep and not because he is the fastest player, but because he will either find a way to get the separation through his route running or he will make a play on the ball and find a way to make the catch despite not having any significant separation. Stedman's abilities at the moment of the catch are his biggest strength. He will find a way to go up and get the ball at it highest point, or make an adjustment the defender is unable to make. His hands are some of the best out there (I would guesstimate top-20 in the NFL right now). Also he is deceptively shifty on his first move with the ball and has great balance that lends him to breaking or avoiding a significant number of tackles. He may not be a "YAC monster" like Tavon, but he is something slightly lesser like a "YAC machine". Forced to make comparisons I would say aspects of his game best draw from Jerry Rice and Hines Ward and while he may not end up having nearly the outstanding career of either of these players, I could certainly see him having a multiple pro-bowl career that puts him among the elite receivers in the game.
watch these videos or just read about the takeaways
First highlights from his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons
Abilities: 1:33 - Route Running - with his first move off the line he makes Tyran Mathieu aka Honey Badger fall down
Abilities: 0:55 & 1:50 - Moment of Catch - makes difficult catch in bowl game while being bumped in mid air
Abilities: 3:05 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - makes corner miss after catch gains extra 15-20 yards
How He Plays: 3:15 - Passion - getting into a shoving match with LSU/now Cowboys DB Morris Claiborne. He will compete with and likely beat anybody covering him as he does to Claiborne in the plays that follow (in the video)
Abilities: 3:31 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - makes Claiborne miss and goes in for touchdown against LSU
Abilities: 3:52 - Moment of Catch - makes catch while Bowling Green defender is literally draped all over him
Abilities: 4:45 - Moment of Catch - rises above Syracuse defender to make the catch
Abilities: 5:15 - Moment of Catch - both Stedman and Rutgers CB are in position, Stedman finds a way to come down with it
Abilities: 5:38 - Hands - makes an extension & catches a rocket from Geno Smith with his finger tips
Abilities: 5:47 - Hands - AMAZING one-handed catch. Stedman can make some AMAZING catches
Abilities: 6:17 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - Delivers his signature stiff-arm to Pitt defender to allow him to take it in for a touchdown
How He Plays: 6:28 - Effort - In the most crucial and memorable play of the season Stedman lays out on a 4th down and makes an amazing diving catch injuring himself in the process and allowing for the game-winning FG that sent WVU to the Orange Bowl
Now highlights from his junior season (this past season)
Abilities: 0:37 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - Makes a few Balyor defenders miss
Abilities: 3:13 - Moment of Catch - notice the pass-interference flag. Stedman makes the catch while being face-guarded by TCU corner
Abilities: 4:29 - Hands - makes an insane diving catch on a laser of a throw from Geno Smith against Texas
Abilities: 5:33 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - Stiff-arm again on the Oklahoma St. defender
Abilities: 6:07 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - Avoids multiple Oklahoma tacklers
Abilities: 6:16 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - Breaks shoestring tackle by Syracuse defender
Abilities: 6:27 - Breaking/Avoiding Tackles - Jumps over Tavon and then stiff-arms Syracuse defender before being pushed out of bounds
Final Note: I want to draw attention to something that might not be relevant to his play for the Rams but then again it might be as it indicates what kind of player Stedman is. Throughout his career (even his all-american junior year) he made important yeoman's type plays on special teams. His freshman season he had a tackle that forced a fumble on a kickoff return against Syracuse. His junior year he made key tackles on kickoff returns against both Maryland and Oklahoma. And pay special attention to him PANCAKING TWO DEFENDERS when blocking on Tavon's long kickoff return against Texas in Tavon's senior highlight.
Who he is: Tavon is a confident player and person. He hates losing. Once game-time comes he is electric on the field and the sidelines. He was in every huddle pumping-up his teammates at WVU. This means he ran over to special teams and defensive huddles to support them and motivate them. He has an energy that is easy for his teammates to feed off of.
How he plays: It is understandable for people to harshly characterize Tavon as "cocky" or a "showboat" with some of his after-play antics. Understandable but incorrect. The beauty of watching Tavon play is realizing how much fun he is having while playing. His high-steps or celebratory post-play actions are spontaneous and organic. They all reflect him enjoying playing the game he loves and nothing more. The other criticism that should actually be considered a strength especially now that he is in the NFL is his tendency to avoid contact and duck out of bounds when a few more yards might be available. He has an uncanny ability to avoid taking any big hits and part of that is measuring risk vs. reward and dipping out of bounds when it seems reasonable. I do not remember a single time he did this and it cost WVU a first down.
Abilities: By now you surely know he is a quick-footed, agile, speedy play-maker. He can be very effective running drags, crossing routes and screens. But to get full use of his abilities a team would be wise to work him into the backfield or use him on reverses, basically just find creative ways to get the ball in his hands (like the touch-pass used by WVU that you will see in his highlights). Also it should go without saying at this point that he is a nightmare for opposing teams in the return game, though he did struggle fielding some punts in traffic especially his junior season.
watch these videos or just read about the takeaways
First highlights from his freshman and sophomore seasons
Not going to breakdown anything here. Watch if you want to get the best perspective on his abilities and progression at WVU.
Highlights from his junior season
Again not going to breakdown anything. Watch if you want to get the best perspective on his abilities and progression at WVU.
And his senior season (this past season)
Stedman: 3:18 - Double Pancake - Stedman putting two players on their back blocking for Tavon (mentioned earlier)
Abilities: 3:30 - Another Gear - Pulls away from numerous Texas defenders to go in for a TD
Abilities: 4:14 - Another Gear - Pulls away down the sideline vs. Oklahoma
Abilities: 4:57 - Deep Threat - Displays some abilities making a catch with coverage against Oklahoma. Useful when running deep routes on the outside.
Abilities: 5:22 - Crazy Cut - Embarrass number 6 for Oklahoma
Abilities: 5:50 - Crazy Cut - Embarrass number 30 and number 6 for Oklahoma
Abilities: 6:37 - Crazy Cut - Embarrass entire TCU defense and goes in for TD
Abilities: 7:40 - Deep Threat - Locates the ball and goes up and gets it over top of Kansas DB
Abilities: 8:02 - Crazy Cut - Embarrass number 23 for Kansas
How he plays: 8:20 - Having Fun - Dancing on the sideline and daps for coaches
I doubt you read and/or watched all this but if you did you know substantially more about what kind of players both of these guys are.