Austin and Bailey have emerged as the nation’s best receiver duo
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 06:09
I was going to sit down to write this column Friday but, at the last minute, I decided not to because, to be honest, I wasn’t 100 percent sure I agreed with the premise of it.
But after watching the No. 7 West Virginia football team’s 42-12 win against James Madison this weekend, I’m ready to say it: There is no better receiver duo in the nation than WVU’s Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
A lot of people will argue this is an honor that should go to USC’s Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and they might be the most talented duo in terms of potential at the next level. But when you look at production at this point, there shouldn’t be a question.
In an offense that has thrived on being extremely efficient this season, Austin and Bailey have been a picture of consistency in the first two games of the year.
Senior quarterback Geno Smith, who has thrown nine touchdowns and just nine incomplete passes, has looked to his top-two receivers for 47 of his 75 pass attempts. Of those 47 passes, they’ve caught 43 of them.
And they were fantastic Saturday. They were the target of 21 of Smith’s 28 first-half passes and combined for 18 catches, 230 yards and two touchdowns.
They complement each other so well. Austin’s the fast, shifty playmaker who can make anybody miss and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball, while Bailey’s the dependable possession receiver who hardly ever drops a pass.
Opposing defenses can’t think about paying more attention to one, because the next thing they know, the other will be in the end zone.
Smith has received a lot of attention throughout these first two games as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, and he deserves it.
But the way Austin and Bailey have played at this point in the season is a big reason for that. Smith’s completion percentage when he throws to those two is nine points better than when he throws to anyone else on the team.
They’ve been around for a while now, and they know what they need to do in order to produce in this offense.
Of course, it was expected for them to play this well against teams like Marshall, James Madison and even Maryland next week. The true test to see if Austin and Bailey are the real deal will come when they get into Big 12 Conference play. The same can be said about the Mountaineer offense as a whole.
But I guess I’m sold, even after just seeing them play against competition that isn’t that great.
The chemistry they have with one another, as well as the relationship they have with Smith, is going to be huge for this team moving forward. They’re two of the most talented receivers in the country – and two of the most versatile.
In a conference like the Big 12, in which the offenses pass more than anybody, it’s always nice that a quarterback has a receiver to depend on.
In West Virginia’s case, it has two, and the Mountaineers couldn’t have a better one-two punch to throw to.