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December 6, 2012

Austin, Bailey make Big 12 first team

MORGANTOWN — The postseason honors continue to stream in for Tavon Austin as the versatile offensive weapon of West Virginia University was named co-Special Teams Player of the Year in the Big 12 while also pulling down spots at three different positions on the All-Big 12 team.

In addition to joining Mountaineer teammate Stedman Bailey as an all-conference wide receiver, Austin was selected the conference’s best punt returner and kick returner.

The senior from Baltimore shared Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year honors with Oklahoma State placekicker/punter Quinn Sharp, who won the honor last year and is the third player from the Cowboys to win the award in the past five seasons.

Austin and Bailey were the only Mountaineers to be named to the All-Big 12 first team, while quarterback Geno Smith, who earlier in the season was a strong Heisman Trophy candidate, slipped to second-team quarterback behind Kansas State’s Heisman finalist Collin Klein.

Center Joey Madsen was also named to the second team, while true freshman safety Karl Joseph was honorable mention. Not unexpectedly, Joseph was the only WVU defensive player to be cited.

WVU’s senior wide receiver Ryan Nehlen was cited as honorable mention in the inaugural Scholar Athlete of the Year Award, which was won by Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, while Austin was also honorable mention in the Offensive Player of the Year voting.

K-State’s Klein was voted Offensive Player of the year over Austin and Baylor’s wide receiver Terrance Williams.

Austin and Bailey absolutely devastated Big 12 defenses all season, right from WVU’s introduction to Big 12 play with 70 points against Baylor in which Bailey caught 13 passes for 303 yards and five touchdowns while Austin caught 14 passes for 215 and two TDs.

That’s 27 catches for 518 yards and seven TDs in one game for the two of them.

In just conference play, Bailey was a 1,000-yard receiver, catching 78 passes for 1,169 yards and 18 touchdowns, while Austin in Big 12 play caught 76 passes for 914 yards and seven touchdowns, but Austin also had his school-record 344-yard rushing day when moved to running back for the Oklahoma game and then rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown against Kansas.

Both opponents and his own teammates were amazed at what he did in all three areas of the game.

“The special thing about playing with Tavon, especially for me, is that I grew up watching him in high school. We were both from the state of Maryland, me a year ahead of him. I always heard about him. I saw his highlight films, and I was in awe about it,” said guard Jeff Braun.

“When I saw he was coming here, I was excited to play with a guy from my home state who was that electric,” Braun continued. “Now, seeing what he can do ... I mean, he’s won games for us. He’s a special type of player who is not selfish at all and is a good teammate.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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