By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Tavon Austin is one of the most versatile, most productive runners in West Virginia University’s football history.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior from Baltimore, Md., ranks No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards with 2,294. That is a new school single-season record.
Steve Slaton held the previous record of 2,204 as posted in 2006.
Austin is averaging nearly 190 yards per game in helping the 21st-ranked Mountaineers (9-3, 5-2 Big East) to a share of the conference championship.
He’s the Big East’s leader by far in all-purpose yards, and he has been since the season’s opening victory against Marshall. He was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Week after that game.
Austin is listed as an inside receiver in West Virginia’s potent passing game. But he piles up yardage in other functions, too.
He has a record 89 receptions for 1,063 yards and four touchdowns, and has rushed 13 times for 142 yards and one TD.
In his special teams role, Austin has returned 31 kickoffs for 821 yards and two touchdowns, and he has run back 19 punts for 268 yards.
Austin, who is shifty and smart with blazing speed, returned kicks twice for touchdowns this year and now has a total of three. The career record is four.
He obviously loves long distances. He went 100 yards with a kickoff this season. His longest punt return was a 64-yarder.
Austin, who has played in 38 games as a Mountaineer, had his longest rushing play of 80 yards in the victory at Rutgers earlier this season.
For his three years, here are his career totals going into the upcoming bowl game:
Pass receptions: 162, 2,001 yards, 13 touchdowns.
Punt returns: 19, 268 yards, 14.1 average returns.
Kickoff returns: 60, 1,474 yards, 24.6-yard average, 3 touchdowns.
Rushing offense: 35, 551 yards, 3 touchdowns.
With record-breaking quarterback Geno Smith still around in 2012, there’s no telling how much more productive Austin can be as a senior.
He’s deserving of more credit than he may be receiving this go-around.