Combine opens National Football League door for WVU’s Austin
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 07:02
Anyone who has seen former West Virginia Wide Receiver Tavon Austin play football knows he is fast. Just turn on game film of Austin against Clemson or Oklahoma.
But by running a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis Sunday, Austin proved to NFL scouts and coaches he maintains straight-line speed over a long distance. The Baltimore native needed to run well to confirm what NFL decision-makers saw on game film. Now that he has done that, the NFL door has opened up a multitude of options for Austin at the next level.
Anywhere Austin ends up, he’ll probably be sent to return kicks and punts in addition to his offensive responsibilities, so that is a given.
Start simple – say a basic pro-style offense like what the Pittsburgh Steelers run. By completing 14 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, Austin showed there is bulk to his five-foot-eight, 174 pound frame. Since Austin measured bigger than expected, pro-style teams may feel he is able to take hits that slot receivers sometimes take in the NFL. In that type of offense, Austin would essentially be a third option out of the slot.
Now, anything beyond the pro-style system for Austin is where possibilities get fun. Austin was paired up with arguably the best offensive mind at the college level in WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen.
At the next level, imagine Austin matched with Bill Belichick in New England, Sean Payton in New Orleans or even Gary Kubiak in Houston. These are three creative guys who could put Austin in playmaking situations.
Begin with Belichick and his offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. As innovators of offense, they would find ways to make Austin special. The obvious would be having Austin fill Wes Welker’s shoes in the slot and as underneath pass catcher for Tom Brady. The fun would be lining up Austin in different positions – the slot, wide out and backfield, similar to what Danny Woodhead has done for the Patriots during the past few seasons. Because Austin is a much better athlete than Woodhead, Belichick and Brady could do more in the screen game and run game for him.
In New Orleans with Sean Payton, the Saints have to be looking for someone to spark their 2013 season after a tough 2012. Darren Sproles, who will be 30 at the beginning of the season, is not that guy anymore. Austin can learn from Sproles how to fit in the Saints’ offense with Drew Brees. Payton has created opportunities for Sproles and Marques Colston, and Austin could be an added element to the wide open Saints offense.
Lastly, down in Houston, Austin could be that last piece to the Texans’ offense. Already having play makers on the outside in perennial All-Pro Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, Austin is the perfect complement on the inside. With Johnson drawing double teams and Walter needed attention from a number two cornerback, Gary Kubiack would gladly take Austin’s 4.34 speed matched up against a safety, nickel corner or linebacker any day. Austin would reap the benefits of an already talented offense.
The combine allowed Tavon Austin to prove measurable size and workouts like the 40-yard dash, but what it did more importantly was make NFL decision makers think about how they could use Austin. Since the combine went well for Austin, NFL teams will go back and watch more of his game tape. What they’ll find on tape is that he’s as good, if not better, as football player than he is a workout warrior. Because of that, Austin will be a sure first-round pick come April.