No Consensus For Tavon

  • By John Antonik
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  • December 20, 2012 12:36 PM
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Years from now, when people like me research college football’s 2012 FBS Consensus All-America Team, there is going to be one very deserving name missing from this year’s list of players – Tavon Austin.

Tavon Austin not a consensus All-American?

How can this be?

This is the same guy who came up just six yards short of equaling the NCAA single game all-purpose yardage record with his unbelievable 572-yard performance against Oklahoma. That’s O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, not Ohio U., Akron, Bowling Green or some of the other schools the player named instead of Austin on this year’s consensus team played against (with apologies to long time Mid-American Conference promoter Don Nehlen, of course).

Nothing against those teams, but I think anyone who is not a living brain donor would agree that performing at the level Austin did against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor, TCU and the rest of the Big 12, which, by the way, Jeff Sagarin recently rated the most difficult conference in the country this year, is a little bit different than racking up big numbers against a bunch of MAC schools.

“I don’t really look at stuff like that now – in the future I probably will, but yeah, it’s kind of disappointing to me,” said Austin of not making the consensus All-America team. “I don’t want to say names, but some of the people who were picked over me I kind of feel like I was a little better than them, but at the end of the day I was on other ones so I’m definitely happy I was on them.”

Austin’s coach Dana Holgorsen said after the Oklahoma game that what Tavon did against the Sooners was the single greatest individual performance he’s ever seen – and the way Holgorsen’s offense moves the football and scores points, he’s clearly seen a bunch of good ones.

“I definitely feel good about it to do what I did against Oklahoma and all of the games like that, and it feels good to know I can come in and compete on a level with a lot of the top guys,” said Austin.

Berry Tramel, who covers Big 12 football for the Oklahoman, was asked if Austin’s performance against Oklahoma reminded him of Percy Harvin following the Sooners’ narrow 50-49 win in Morgantown on Nov. 17.

Percy Harvin? Try Gale Sayers, Tramel wrote.

“I would venture to say there’s not many people could have done what he did, just because of his unique ability to run in space and not get our hands on him,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said after the game. “Certainly, the effort, the speed he was able to do it at, to cut like he was able to do, was something I haven’t seen on a football field.”

Oklahoma was not the only team Tavon performed well against.

Here is what Austin did this season: 110 catches for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns as a receiver, 598 yards and three touchdowns as a ball carrier, 738 yards and one touchdown as a kickoff returner and 165 yards and a TD as a punt returner. He is the only player to score a touchdown four different ways this year.

Austin had at least 200 all-purpose yards in seven games this season, including the aforementioned 572 yards against Oklahoma, 286 versus Baylor, 261 against Iowa State, 233 against Kansas State and 222 at Texas.

And here is what the guy named to this year’s consensus All-America team did against the four best teams he faced:

- 205 all-purpose yards against SEC bottom feeder Kentucky

- 137 all-purpose yards against Rutgers

- 124 all-purpose yards versus Ohio U.

- 96 all-purpose yards against Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game

Again, not to belittle the guy - and he did have a outstanding season with 1,352 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns, 539 yards and four touchdowns receiving and 573 yards and three touchdowns in kickoff returns – but one can only wonder what Austin would have done against similar competition.

Here are the five All-America teams the NCAA recognizes for consensus All-America honors: American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Associated Press (AP), Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), The Sporting News and Walter Camp Foundation.

In order to be considered for consensus honors a player has to be named to the first team on at least two of those five teams, with second and third team selections being used to break ties. Tavon satisfies the consensus criteria by being named to the AFCA and AP All-America first teams.

However, he was named to the Walter Camp second team as a wide receiver (he did not make the first team as a kick returner), did not make the Sporting News All-America team, and failed to get named to the 26-member Football Writers All-America team picked last week. That squad did not recognize an all-purpose performer, instead selecting a kickoff returner and a punt returner, and that’s where Austin got edged out, basically by a technicality, because the other guy ended up on three teams.

What a shame.

“It’s not really surprising,” said Austin’s teammate Geno Smith. “If you look at the history of those awards or whatever, I think they’ve been cheating West Virginia for a while now.”

That’s probably a stretch, but leaving Austin off the consensus All-America team is clearly an unfortunate oversight, nonetheless.

Is there a more dynamic player in college football than Tavon Austin? Sports Illustrated recently listed him as the “fifth-most exciting player to watch this bowl season.” In my opinion, that’s selling Austin short. In my 20-plus years of following Mountaineer football, Austin is Steve Slaton’s equal as far as an explosive playmaker, but what Tavon did this year came against much, much stiffer competition than what Stevie faced while playing in a watered down Big East. Incidentally, Slaton was a consensus All-America choice in 2006.

The Austin-American Statesman thought so much of Austin that the publication picked him over Kansas State Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein as its Big 12 player of the year.

Austin still has a chance to win the Paul Hornung Award, presented to college football’s most versatile player. The recipient will be announced in January after all of the bowl games are played.

It’s difficult to imagine a more versatile player in the country than Austin, but then again, it’s also difficult to imagine a consensus All-America football team without Tavon Austin’s name on it.

Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.


Tavon Austin, West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 Conference football, NCAA All-America team