Kansas prepares to face West Virginia’s triple-threat player Tavon Austin

Although West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has snagged all of the attention this season, he couldn’t have earned it without the help of wide receiver Tavon Austin. Austin is a triple-threat player who has troubled many defenses this season.

Kansas knows that defensively this is the player Smith will throw and hand the ball off to this Saturday. Austin’s speed and elusiveness has helped him succeed this season. Kansas coach Charlie Weis said Austin ranks high among players Kansas has faced this season.

Ashleigh Lee/KANSAN
Senior safety Bradley McDougald motions for the Kansas fans to make some noise as the football team makes its way into the Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State University on Oct. 6 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium where the Jayhawks lost 16-56.

“Most small guys are quicker than they are fast, and what you have to worry about more is them as slot receivers, them having that wiggle and not being to tackle them,” Weis said. “Not only is he quick, but he is just blazing fast too.”

Austin became a household name after his performance against Oklahoma two weeks ago. Despite a one-point loss for West Virginia, Austin caught four passes for 82 yards. The most impressive part of the game was Austin getting 21 carries and lighting up the Sooners for 344 yards on the ground.

“If he can make Oklahoma’s defense look silly running the ball, then that is a scary proposition,” Weis said. “So he runs with toughness, he runs with power and somebody forgot to tell him he weighs 170, because that is not the way he plays.”

Out of eight conference games, Austin leads the Big 12 for all-purpose yards with 2,040 after handling duties on offense and special teams. He’s amassed 1,670 yards this season on offense alone.

Kansas defensive coordinator, Dave Campo said Austin is similar to Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSaun Jackson. Campo coached the Dallas Cowboys secondary unit and had to prepare his players for Jackson twice per season.

Campo finds himself in a similar position as he’s arranged a game plan against Austin.

“That guy is scary,” Campo said. “He’s not only quick, but he’s fast. This guy can do it. When he touches that ball, there will be a lot of people holding their breath.”

The toughest part for Kansas is that the defense has to be prepared for Austin to get the ball at any time.

Bradley McDougald admitted that this is one of the more explosive teams he’s gone up against and he credited Austin for that offense. Even though McDougald and his teammates in the secondary have to keep a close eye on him, the entire defense has to follow suit because of Austin’s versatility.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” McDougald said. “Not just the defensive backs, but the linebackers and the defensive line because he will go back into a running back. He definitely has made his point.”

It’s no secret that West Virginia offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen will use Austin a lot in Saturday’s match. He’s averaged 23 touches for 300 yards offensively in the last two games against Oklahoma and Iowa State.

Smith’s success as quarterback can carry over against Kansas by taking advantage of his supporting cast. And for Smith, Austin is his top go-to guy.

“He is just a dynamic player,” Weis said. “You can throw his size right out the window, because at running back he is as good as I have seen there. At wide receiver he is good there.”

  • Updated Nov. 28, 2012 at 9:57 pm
  • Edited by Lauren Shelly