Sometimes things don’t look as good in person as they do on paper. As NFL Scouts found on this past week at the annual combine in Indianapolis, Tavon Austin looked even better. All it confirmed is what so many of us knew all along about Austin. And that is that we may never see his kind again in Morgantown. Let me go a step further. While we can debate forever about the best player to ever don the colors in Morgantown, I could live another 20 lifetimes and never see a performance better than what Austin did against Oklahoma on a cool November evening at Milan Puskar Stadium. I can’t go back to the glory days of Sam Huff. But, I can go back to Oliver Luck, Jeff Hostetler, Renaldo Turnbull, Major Harris, Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. All had their moments that will live forever in our minds. That said, what Austin did against the Sooners with 572 all-purpose yards, including 344 rushing yards (a school record) and two touchdowns didn’t just better what those previous WVU legends did for any single game, it blew it out of the water. Outside of WVU’s defense being so horrid that it allowed for the Mountaineers to suffer a 50-49 loss, Austin’s numbers were made even better considering that OU’s own defense wasn’t too shabby and, well, he made them look foolish. We were all witnesses. Now, it appears those who covered and evaluated the NFL Draft Combine are witnesses as well. Count Corey Chavous, the top dog and founder of Draftnasty.com, as a believer as well. Chavous raved about Austin’s showing at the combine. “He’s amazing with his burst, control and speed. The first thing you look for is the body control and that’s certainly not a question. But, you have to ask how did he control the speed in and out of his routes? The way he did that is what impressed the NFL brass,” said Chavous, who started Draftnasty.com four years ago and has been covering NFL drafts since 1997 for various national media outlets. “You knew from film he could play fast, but when you see him in person, it’s even better.” Unlike many who saw Austin for the first time – outside of television – Chavous watched him earlier this season. He was able to take in the WVU win at Texas. “From the field, in a real game setting, I was very impressed,” Chavous said. “When you see him in person, the thing that stands out is the energy level he plays with. He’s a tough guy and don’t let the size fool you. He had 14 bench press reps at 225 that tells you all need to know from an upper body perspective. The overall package of what you see was only supplemented by what he did in Indianapolis.” As for limitations, Chavous said the same thing Austin has heard since setting foot on a Division I campus – “size.” “I don’t think it’s an issue, but teams look at that for sure,” said Chavous of the 5’8, 174 pound Austin. Even with that, Chavous believes Austin is likely going in the first round. He thinks the high end is around the 15<sup>th</sup>pick in the draft. Most teams, he believes, have him in the 24-25 position of the first round. “Honestly, you’re looking at anywhere between as high as 15 to as low as 40. If he drops behind 40, teams will be salivating to get him,” Chavous, who knows a thing or two about talented receivers as a former NFL All Pro safety, said. “I think he’ll be long gone by that time.” As for where he’ll line up, Chavous said playing some Z receiver, playing the slot where he’ll be in motion is most likely. With the exception of Steve Smith in recent years, who Chavous said Austin compares to favorably, not a lot of players Austin’s size are on the outside. There will be questions, he said, on how teams will want to use him on offense. “Let’s just say he’s going to play receiver. He can catch the ball and he’s a natural route runner. Like Steve Smith, he’s the same type of run after the catch player,” Chavous added. There’s one thing, he said, that’s not in doubt. Tavon Austin, he said, will be on special teams. “There’s no question; he’ll be a punt returning. I think it’s a little iffy with the kickoffs because of the exposure to taking high impact hits, but that could also happen,” said Chavous. “Bottom line, Tavon Austin is the real deal.” Chavous also had good words after watching fellow wide receiver Stedman Bailey and quarterback Geno Smith. As for Bailey, he sees him as a second round pick and has him, along with Austin, in the top 10 receivers in the class. “The thing that impresses me about Bailey is that he had a period during the season with injury that slowed him down and he still caught 25 touchdown passes,” Chavous said. “That’s amazing.” As for Geno, Chavous said he “established himself as a legitimate player to be the first quarterback taken among some strong competition.” The biggest concern Chavous has for Smith is ball security, and not when throwing the ball. “He had times when he would fumble the ball on contact. You saw it not only in the bowl game with Syracuse, but you saw it in other games,” Chavous said. “That’s going to be a concern for a lot of teams.”
He is indeed a special player, anytime he touched the ball it was exciting, and every play could go for six. Best ever is, as you said, debateable. We have had some great players for the 40 or so years I have paid attention. I like offense, but LOVE defense, so I would look over there too for greats. There were some great individuals players who suffered from being on some really poor teams. Nehlen's early years were some of the most exciting players on both sides, Talley, Fowlkes, Agee, Hollins, Woodside won us quite a few games. I have to figure Austin is right up there, the hatter seemed pretty impressed with him.
I have been watching WVU football since OL's senior year and have never seen another Mountaineer player with the individual speed and agility which Tavon possesses. Now, he was almost never in a position to take over a game with the exception of the Oklahoma game this (which I had the pleasure to watch from the lower level on the 50 yard line marker) like a Major Harris was often able to do. That being said I think Tavon is athletically speaking the most gifted offensive player to ever walk onto Mountaineer Field.
He kind of reminds me a little bit of Barry Sanders but lighter in weight.