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Rams Select WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia in 1st Round

Posted Apr 25, 2013



Overview

The Mountaineers have had a dangerous spread offense since Rich Rodriguez led the team, but have moved from a run-based system (ranked third in the FBS in rushing in 2007) to a pass-based spread (ranked sixth nationally in passing in 2011, 10th in 2012). A huge part of the offensive success the Mountaineers have enjoyed over the last two seasons is due to the talent of Austin. A small but quick and elusive playmaker, Austin's role and impact grew seemingly by the week during his senior season, as he went from a slot returner and returner to a fully fledged Swiss-Army knife, including lining up in the backfield and taking handoffs, The two-time Maryland high school player of the year set all kinds of state career and single-season records, a large share of which (34 touchdowns, 2,660 rushing yards -- that's 12.2 yards a carry) as a senior. WVU coaches couldn't wait to get him on the field, playing him in all 13 games and starting him in four. He caught 15 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown while racking up 476 kick return yards (including taking the opening kickoff against Connecticut 98 yards for a score). Big East coaches named him second-team all-conference in 2010 as he became a larger part of the passing game (58-787, 8 TD) and rushing attack (15-159, TD), but kicked him up to first team as a receiver (101-1,186, 8 TD) and returner (36 attempts for 938 yards, two TD on kickoffs; 19-268 on punts, ranked sixth in the FBS with a 14.1 yard average) after an excellent junior season. He led the FBS in all-purpose yards once his 182 rushing yards (one TD) were added in, and finished 2011 with 390 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in the team's 70-33 blowout win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Austin burst into Heisman contention during his senior season with a 572 all-purpose yard (second most in FBS history) performance against Oklahoma on national television. Austin's full repertoire was on display, as he caught 4 passes for 82 yards, rushed 21 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns, and 146 kick return yards. His senior season saw him total career highs in y.f.s. (1932), all receiving categories (112-1289-12 TDs), and rushing (72-643-3 TDs), as well as 978 return yards and two touchdowns. His dominating play saw him finish eighth in Heisman voting, win the Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player), and garner a first-team All-America as an All-Purpose player.

Analysis

Strengths
Slot receiver possessing elite acceleration with the ball in his hands, takes advantage of available lanes to explode for big gains. Shows excellent vision both as a runner out of the backfield, as a returner, and as a receiver with the ball in his hands. Almost unstoppable at continue on for additional yardage. Not a frail receiver; plays tough, has some upper-body thickness, and bounces up quickly from hits. Varies the speed of his route, lulls defenders to sleep and takes off to create space on out routes or over the middle. Tough to grab after the catch in zone coverage. Flashes the hands to adjust to wide or high passes, as well as tracking balls over his shoulder. Also goes down to grab low throws. Displays excellent balance to tightrope the sideline. Often used on fly sweeps, using his elite quickness and acceleration to cut inside or get the corner for big plays. Finds space as a kickoff returner to use his speed, will head straight upfield and can spin off tackles in the open field to maximize the return. Can make the first man miss on punt returns and has the vision to slalom between players to the sideline or up the middle. Very difficult to track down from behind. Wins at every level of the field despite his size, and has been somewhat underutilized deep. Improved as a blocker, and will body up on bigger players.

NFL.com

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