West Virginia vs. Iowa State: Tavon Austin Solidifies First-Round Draft Status

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IINovember 23, 2012

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 03:  Tavon Austin #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers catches a forty three yard touchdown pass against the TCU Horned Frogs during the game on November 3, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Tavon Austin won the game for the West Virginia Mountaineers twice during Friday night’s Big 12 clash against Iowa State.

The first time, trailing 21-20, Austin returned a Cyclones punt 68 yards to put his team ahead 28-21. A holding call negated his timely explosion and the Mountaineers would settle for a field goal to take a 23-21 lead.

Iowa State would add another field goal, putting the pressure back on Austin and the West Virginia offense to avoid its sixth straight loss.

Austin then struck again, this time with no penalty flags.

With a little over six-and-a-half minutes left to play, Austin took a quick dump pass from Geno Smith and turned it upfield for an untouched 75-yard touchdown explosion to put the Mountaineers ahead.

The Cyclones still had a chance, but the quick strike by West Virginia was too much to overcome.

Can you recall anyone as explosive as the senior wide receiver? If you answered no, you wouldn’t be in the minority.

Austin has been labeled as a first-round pick by several NFL draft-centric websites. NFLDraftScout.com has him listed as the top wide receiver in this year’s receiver class while CBS Sports has him as the No. 2 receiver behind Keenan Allen of California.

Versatility and blazing speed are the biggest positives Austin has working for him. Both of those have been on display over the past two weeks as he’s run wild after being moved into the backfield.

As a dual-threat player, Austin displays extremely good vision, toughness and acceleration. He’s not soft either, by any means, despite his 5’7”, 172-pound frame.

Any general manager that thinks they wouldn’t benefit from adding him to their offense is lying to themselves. Although they may shy away from taking a risk on him because of his size.

One thing is certain after Austin’s impressive 2012 campaign: He’s got rare speed and a game-changing ability that you can’t teach. Bigger wide receivers may end up being more durable but players like Austin are the ones who can turn teams around.