Off to the Races


By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
February 24, 2013 06:06 PM
Earlier this week, Tavon Austin said he would run a fast time at this year’s NFL Combine. Sunday he backed it up with an unofficial time of 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Officially, his time was readjusted to 4.34, which tied him with Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope for the second-fastest time among wide receivers, trailing only Texas track star Marquise Goodwin’s 4.27.

"The player who blew it up the most at the Combine was a player from West Virginia and you are wondering if it was Geno Smith. No. It was actually Tavon Austin," said ESPN's John Clayton. "Tavon Austin ran a (4.34) on the official time, but other people had him in the 4.2s.

"There has been a lot of criticism that there could only be two guys in the receivers corps go in the first round, but with Austin's speed and explosiveness, plus, he showed a great ability to catch the football, he might be able to go in the first round."

Goodwin’s unofficial time was also 4.25 seconds; the fastest time in Combine history was former East Carolina running back Chris Johnson’s 4.24 clocking in 2008 that ended up getting him in the first round.

Former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt, now an analyst for NFL.com, wrote on Twitter that he has hand-timed players’ 40-yard dashes since 1976 and never has seen two players run so fast back to back (Austin and Goodwin).

Austin’s Mountaineer teammate Stedman Bailey ran an official 40 time of 4.54.

Quarterback Geno Smith was also impressive, producing an unofficial time of 4.56 before it was officially readjusted to 4.59, still best among all quarterbacks. Smith came into this year’s workout rated the top quarterback in the draft and after today’s performance he likely solidified that standing.

"He probably did about the best among the quarterbacks," said Clayton. "He threw effortlessly on some of the short passes, did OK, but had some difficulty on some of the long passes, but some of that was his footwork and that can be cleaned up."

Here was USA Today’s assessment of Smith’s performance today: “Scouts were disappointed Smith chose to bypass the Senior Bowl in January, but he proved Sunday why he's the draft's top quarterback. Smith displayed athleticism, a strong arm and, most of all, consistent accuracy throughout the workout. He was precise with his short passes and effectively placed deep outs into receiver's hands. Smith showed a nice combination of touch as well as the ability to drive the ball downfield. Was the workout good enough to make Smith the first pick in the draft? Unlikely, but his performance today will secure his place in the top dozen selections.”

Smith and Austin (despite measuring in at 5-feet-8 inches and weighing 174 pounds) could both be first-round draft picks this year, while Bailey is projected as a possible third-round-or-higher choice.

"If anyone was wondering whether (Austin) can go in the first round he cleared that up today," said Clayton. "He blew it up with his time and he blew it up with his hands."

West Virginia has never had two first-round choices in the same draft, the closest coming in 1990 when Renaldo Turnbull was the 14th overall player taken in the first round by the New Orleans Saints, while wide receiver Reggie Rembert was selected in the second round (28th overall) by the New York Jets.

Former Mountaineer center Joe Madsen is also participating in this year’s NFL Combine, which ends tomorrow.

Tags
Tavon Austin, Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, Joe Madsen, NFL Combine, West Virginia Mountaineers, NFL Draft


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