The Times West Virginian

Sports

December 7, 2012

FURFARI COLUMN: Austin best Nehlen has seen in years

MORGANTOWN — Don Nehlen thinks the versatile Tavon Austin is the fastest, most well-rounded football player West Virginia University has had since 1980.

That includes his 21 years as head WVU coach, Rich Rodriguez’s seven years, then three seasons by the late Bill Stewart, and Dana Holgorsen’s two seasons.

Austin, an All-America scoring star in at least four ways, is a pass receiver, rusher, punt returner and kickoff returner.

Nehlen recalled that Willie Drewrey of Columbus, N.J. (1981-82-83-84), and James Jett of Shepherdstown (1989-90-91-92) were among the best such performers he had in similar roles.

Both earned All-America status, Jett in track. Jett already is in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. Drewrey seems deserving, too.

Each spent several years playing in the National Football League.

“But neither of these two that played for me had as much talent as Tavon Austin,” said Nehlen, WVU’s winningest grandmaster. “Tavon does remind me of both Willie and James, though.”

Austin is at the top of the coach’s list of players he’s seen during his WVU career and since his retirement in 2000.

“Tavon is the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of football since I first came to Morgantown in December 1979,” said Nehlen, a College Football Foundation Hall of Famer.

“That kid will be a No. 1 (round) draft pick. He’s a dynamic football player. He’s the best I’ve seen around here or anywhere with his talent and speed.

“If he’s not a first-team All-America selection, then something is wrong, because he’s a special player.”

Nehlen also voiced tremendous respect for Stedman Bailey, the junior wide receiver from Miami. He is expected by Nehlen to pass up a senior season and make himself available for the NFL draft in the spring.

“That kid Bailey isn’t that far behind Austin,” Nehlen continued. “He’s a dynamic player.

“We have two dynamic receivers, that’s for sure. And I think Geno Smith, if truth is known, is the highest rated quarterback out there.”

Smith, a senior from Miami, was the No. 1 Heisman Trophy candidate in the Big 12 before the season’s start.

If he’s not the highest rated, the retired coach thinks he’s close to that, despite his team’s record. Nehlen doesn’t think the pros have seen anybody that throws the ball as well as Smith does.

He believes it’s hard to find these players (this great) on the same team, and two of the three (Smith and Bailey) played at the same high school.

“And those two played together for one of my former players (Damon Cogdell),” he noted proudly. “(Cogdell) has coached a lot of great players, I’ll tell you that.

“But Austin is a special guy. He’s probably a 4.4 (seconds for 40 yards, and maybe even faster). You can’t teach that. I’ve had some doggone good football players who returned punts and kicks.

“But I never had anyone on the same team as these three guys.”

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Morgan Hoke -ts.jpg Polar Bear tennis sweeps East: PHOTOS

    Last week East Fairmont’s girls’ tennis team beat Fairmont Senior, 4-3.
    Wednesday at Fairmont State University, the Polar Bears returned the favor with a 5-2 win over their cross-town rival.
    Alissa Link won No. 1 singles, 8-4. Morgan Hoke won No. 3 singles, 9-7. And Avery Towns won No. 4 singles, 8-5, for the Polar Bears.

    April 24, 2014 8 Photos

  • Falcons set for spring game

    Football is back … well, kind of.
    Today at 7 p.m., Fairmont State will hold its annual Maroon & White spring game at Duvall-Rosier Field. The scoreboard won’t mean a whole lot since it’s little more than a glorified scrimmage. Instead, here are five things to watch during today’s game.

    April 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age

    The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
    “There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”

    April 24, 2014

  • Hillberry commits to Wesleyan

    Last year Emma Harrison and Kaitlyn Conaway teamed up with Alexis Hillberry to win several relay medals at the state track meet.
    Though the two West Virginia Wesleyan runners are now in college, they helped to pass the baton to Hillberry Wednesday when she signed her National Letter of Intent to join her former teammates on the Bobcats’ track team.

    April 24, 2014

  • O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall

    Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.

    April 24, 2014

  • North, East softball earn blowout wins

    The North Marion softball team was at it again Wednesday night.
    Mattie Polling tripled and singled, starting pitcher Chelsi Latocha doubled and gave up just one hit as the Huskies rolled to another 3-inning mercy-rule victory over Lewis County, 18-1.

    April 24, 2014

  • Simon, Bruce lead Reds past Bucs, 5-2

    Alfredo Simon pitched into the seventh inning despite erratic control, Jay Bruce drove in a run for a fifth consecutive game and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 Wednesday night.
    Simon (3-1) worked 6 2-3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits and five walks while striking out four.

    April 24, 2014

  • Pens squander lead, fall to Columbus

    Brandon Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Nick Foligno’s wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

    April 24, 2014

  • FSHS #32, 29-BU #15-TS.jpg Cousins Sansalone, Craig lead Polar Bears past B-U: PHOTOS

    They say you don’t mess with family. Buckhannon-Upshur found that one out the hard way.

    April 23, 2014 7 Photos

  • Gabbi Mascaro Signing -md.jpg Mascaro signs with FSU

    Gabi Mascaro is staying in Fairmont.
    After considering several out-of-state colleges, the Fairmont Senior soccer standout signed her National Letter of Intent Tuesday to continue her career at Fairmont State University, an upstart program which will play its first games in 2015.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos