About nine days after saying that pro football was “a little harder” than he thought, Tavon Austin is officially a stud — if only for one week. The Rams just laid a pasting on the Colts, who prior to today were a team that (a) had the second coming of Elway/Manning as QB and (b) had beaten the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos. Austin had three touchdowns of over 57 yards and went HAM on this punt return too. Austin was a stud in high school and college (more on that in a second), and the Rams moved up last year to grab him at No. 8; the thought was that he’d be the first main connection WR that Sam Bradford has had in STL. Bradford’s career to date has been questioned by many. Austin’s outburst today came with Kellen Clemens at the controls, as Bradford is out with an injury. I don’t think it’s time to print the Clemens-to-Austin shirts just yet, but … two of the Rams’ remaining games (TB/ARI) could be big pops for Austin. The rest of the schedule isn’t that easy, though. It kinda makes you wonder if the glut of QBs in this upcoming draft means Bradford is done in STL, and Austin will be catching passes from a new young gun come August.
The bottom line on Austin is that he’s insanely fast; his 40-yard time at the combine was about 4.3 seconds. It might have even been a 4.25.
Austin was an absolute stud at Dunbar High in Maryland (Baltimore); his team won three consecutive state titles and Austin racked up over 9,200 total yards. (This is a good timeline of his high school days.) He went to West Virginia — here’s a good story about his recruiting process, which also included Maryland, Michigan, and PSU — and finished his career there with 7,286 all-purpose yards and 40 touchdowns. He was probably the star of the 2012 Orange Bowl, when he hung four touchdowns on Clemson en route to WVU scoring 70 points.
That game led people to believe that the 2012 WVU team might be all-worldly; they opened pretty strong but the wheels fell off — they didn’t win a game from October 6 until Thanksgiving. In short, ’twas a mess. Even with all that going on around him, though … Austin was a bright spot for the Mountaineers. He racked up 572 all-purpose yards in a loss to Oklahoma last November.
Because of a past like that, and speed like he has, everyone expected him to be the man; his slow start was thus a bit confusing. Now, in addition to being the man for Week 10, he’s rocking the Terio Dance like a champ.
There’s been a lot written about Austin before this breakout: whether Sam Bradford is a hindrance for him, whether he’ll be worth the wait, whether he’s living up to his status, whether he’s becoming ‘a flopper,’ and what the real problems with his game are. For one week at least, the Maryland-to-WVU-to-STL product shut ’em all up. That schedule linked up doesn’t look great for the remainder of the season — he’s going up against a series of potential playoff teams — which does lead you to wonder what’s going to happen to his QB situation. (Look at all these names who could end up throwing him the ball if the Rams pick in the top 12; in this mock, they have two picks in the top 12 and use one on a QB.) His speed isn’t in question, though. He could become a special player in the NFL if given the right situation; Jeff Fisher has done more with less, such as Justin Gage on that 13-3 Titans team. For now, I’ll leave you with this: