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Tavon Austin Makes WVU Defense Better

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia University Inside Receiver Tavon Austin is a special talent. He plays football in a way few have with the ability to score every time he gets the ball.

Quarterback Geno Smith characterized Austin as a guy who could make, "two or three guys miss in a phone booth."

Receivers Coach Shannon Dawson calls Austin, "a quick-twitch threat."

Quick-twitch is the phrase Dawson uses to describe his ability to make would-be tacklers come up with air rather than a tackle.

Austin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. He is expecting to top those totals in 2012.

Austin is focused on making himself better, but a side-effect of having a player like him is that he is also making the defense better.

"I'm glad I am on his side," Co-Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest said. "I'm glad I don't have to play against him. I hate having to play against him in practice, but he is probably the most explosive player I have ever seen."

"I honestly believe, and I have watched a lot of college football, that I haven't seen anything like him in college football," Cornerbacks Coach Daron Roberts stated. "I feel very comfortable looking at film of any team and finding a guy that does not have the quickness and ability to make cuts that Tavon does."

That unique talent and ability creates problems for the defense in practice. It also provides an opportunity to get better.

"Our corners love the fact that we know we are going to have to guard Tavon Austin at some point in practice," Roberts said. "You can't ask for a better receiver to prepare against than Tavon Austin. If you can tackle Tavon Austin, you are going to be in a good position to tackle every wide receiver you are going to see in the Big 12. We love it."

Sure, the coaches love it. The players are the ones who have to actually take on the challenge of keeping Tavon Austin in check. Some players might look at that as a pain to have to deal with every day in practice, but not this group of Mountaineers.

"Going against Tavon who is quick and fast with great hands and great routes, receivers can have less moves or the same moves as Tavon, but you can't have better moves," Defensive Back Avery Williams said.

"Me and him went at it one-on-one today and I gave him some of that quick-twitch stuff," Defensive Back Darwin Cook said. "It's very hard to stay in front of him, so it makes us better players."

"Tavon helps me and the defense to figure out how we can tackle a player like that," Defensive Back Brodrick Jenkins said. "It helps teamwork because not one person is going to take him down by themselves."

When asked about Tavon Austin, defensive players were also very quick to discuss some of the other players on offense that are helping them improve their skills.

"Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Ivan McCartney, Ryan Nehlen, it's tough," Williams said. "We have a lot of players coming back from that record-breaking Orange Bowl. I feel like we have the top offense in the nation. You can't get no better."

"Players like Tavon, Stedman and getting the routes from Geno, going against them everyday, I feel like I can go against everybody in the nation," Jenkins said.

Defensive coaches are keeping a close eye on their players in situations against these talented offensive players. Body language tells these coaches a lot about their players' mental makeup.

"He reminds me of Calvin Johnson," Roberts said. "Not in the sense of height, but when I was in Detroit the corners loved that they were going up against a premier wide receiver every single day. We have to rise up to the challenge to play [Tavon Austin] to the best of our ability. He is going to help us get better and vice versa."

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