The Times West Virginian

WVU 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
WVU Sports
  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 22, 2014

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVU’s Fleming signs with Yankees

    Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.

    July 22, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos