Geno, Tavon set for first round
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 00:03
With a little more than a month to go before the 2013 NFL draft, a couple of former players from West Virginia University are on the precipice of history, as multiple accredited sources are now predicting that both Geno Smith and Tavon Austin will both be taken somewhere in the first round of this year’s draft.
WVU has produced nine total first-round selections in its 122-year history, but never two in the same draft class.
But then again, this program has also never seen two players quite as versatile and offensively talented as Smith and Austin.
In fact, in their time in Morgantown, the two literally rewrote many of the existing offensive records at WVU.
Smith now holds school records for every relevant passing quarterback statistic. He has the most single-game total passing yards (656), completions (45) and touchdowns (8) of any quarterback. He also holds the most career total offense (12,004), passing yards (11,662), completions (988) and touchdowns (98).
Last year, he had an incredible 273 consecutive passes without an interception – yet another measure of his physical capabilities at quarterback.
He can make all the throws, from the two-yard screen passes to the 40-yard go patterns, and he can make them all accurately. He also has great size for a quarterback at 6-foot-3, and his combine 40-yard dash time of 4.59 represents how agile Smith can be in the pocket when necessary. For reference, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson were in the 4.55 range just a year earlier, according to NFL.com.
But the most impressive thing about Smith, even more so than the numerous physical weapons at his disposal, is his mindset.
Some quarterbacks at the collegiate level are so intimidated of losing or being perceived poorly that they quite literally let it overwhelm them – especially in their transition to the next level.
Others may be physically gifted, but they don’t posses the vital leadership component necessary to lead the offense of a professional football team.
With Smith, there is no intimidation. He won’t be afraid to make a mistake or assume a leadership role right away on an NFL team because of his age or lack of experience; that’s just his nature.
And with several NFL teams currently lacking a quarterback with even a few of those traits, it’s no real surprise Smith will not only be taken in the first round, but he’s also more than likely to be a top-10 overall selection and the first quarterback taken in the draft.
One of Smith’s favorite targets during his time in Morgantown – and arguably the most dynamic football player in the history of West Virginia football – Tavon Austin, is also now being predicted to be a first-round selection after an impressive NFL combine.
Austin doesn’t posses quite the same mindset as Smith, but first of all, he’s not a quarterback, and second, there’s simply no denying that he’s just a blur in between the lines.
Austin certainly dazzled during his time for the Mountaineers, but he really started turning heads after finishing at the combine with the second-fastest official 40-yard dash time of any position player at a blistering 4.34 seconds.
But even a 40-yard dash doesn’t accurately measure Austin’s full quickness and agility. He can accelerate and decelerate instantly and change directions without losing any speed whatsoever.
He’s versatile, too, showing he’s capable of playing anywhere from the outside receiver position to tailback, although he is most suited to and prefers the inside slot receiver position.
His incredible speed and elusiveness make him a great candidate for kick and punt returns at the next level, as well.
Austin’s critics counter, saying that he’s simply not big or strong enough to play anything but the inside slot, and they may have a bit of a point. He may not be strong enough yet.
But that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t get there. Percy Harvin, to whom Austin has drawn a plethora of comparisons, had the same disclaimers when he came into the league in 2009.
He only responded by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and developing into one of the most exciting playmakers in all of the NFL. He’s gotten stronger recently and now even takes occasional snaps out of the backfield.
I think Austin can follow this same course and eventually be just as dangerous a playmaker, if not more so, as he continues to get stronger as he spends more and more time in NFL weight rooms.
One thing is for sure, the next six weeks leading up to the 2013 NFL draft April 25 will be an exciting time for Mountaineer fans as more national coverage of two of the most exciting athletes to ever emerge out of Morgantown will continue.