Be Afraid: Meet Tavon Austin And Stedman Bailey

Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Quarterback Geno Smith isn't the only superstar for West Virginia, but rather a quarterback buoyed by the pre- and post-catch abilities of star receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

Robert Herron. Donte Moncrief. Josh Stewart.

All receivers who have torched the Longhorns through the early part of the season for long touchdowns.

As good as those players are, the Mountaineers will bring two wide receivers to town on Saturday who may be better than each of those three just mentioned.

Meet senior wide receiver Tavon Austin and junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey, the best and most explosive pass-catching tandem this side of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee for USC.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tavon Austin, senior wide receiver, 5-9, 174 pounds

A former five-star recruit, Austin isn't just an undersized, underrecruited prospect making it big in college -- he was expected to be a stud coming out of West Baltimore, and has every bit lived up to his billing.

An All-American last season and the national leader in all-purpose yards, Austin is dynamic on punt returns, kickoff returns, jet sweeps/reverses, short passes, and in the downfield passing game.

In fact, the Longhorns would be well-served not to kick to him at all. Not on punts, not on kickoffs. In regards to the latter, kickoff specialist Nick Rose appeared capable of kicking the ball well into the endzone when necessary for the first part of the season, making it rather odd that head coach Mack Brown seemingly abandoned all trust in his ability to do so at the end of the Oklahoma State game, opting to sky kick instead, which lead to excellent field position for Oklahoma State.

Maryland got off rather easily against West Virginia, as Austin wasn't used in the running game, but the Mountaineers run the same series that Oklahoma State was using to such great effect against the Longhorns, putting Austin in motion and crossing the running back and fullback/H-back in the zone game, though Smith is not the running threat that JW Walsh represents.

Texas had some issues dealing with the look, especially since defenders several times were caught trying to chase the motion man across the formation, a tactic that doesn't make much sense schematically and was probably not ordered by Manny Diaz.

Austin will also see action in the wide receiver screen game and on crossing routes to take advantage of his post-catch ability. Incredibly explosive, Austin can reach top speed in several steps and has the lateral quickness to make defenders miss and take the edge, even against fast opponents with angles.

For a secondary that has missed so many tackles, Austin is the stuff of nightmares.

Against Maryland, he was able to take a crossing route 44 yards for a touchdown when he beat the Terrapin linebackers across the field, used his lateral quickness to turn the corner and could not be caught down the sideline.

The Mountaineers also manufactured a match-up that had Austin being covered by a Maryland linebacker, which resulted in a seam route for a touchdown. Needless to say, even Demarco Cobbs doesn't have the speed to keep up with Austin and Diaz will need to scheme to avoid such situations, but have safety help over the top if it does, and make sure that the linebackers understand they need to carry the receiver down the seam instead of playing curl to flat.

Texas has already seen a handful of explosive players this season in Moncrief, Jeff Scott, Josh Stewart, and Joseph Randle, but Austin may be the most explosive the Longhorns see this season.

Stedman Bailey, junior wide receiver, 5-11, 195 pounds

The West Virginia single-season record-setter last season with nearly 1,300 receiving yards, Bailey has drawn comparisons to Quan Cosby for his solid athleticism and ability to create separation. From the same high school as Smith, the former four-star recruit isn't nearly as athletic as Austin, but may be a more refined route-runner -- one of those players who simply get open, aided, of course, by the Airraid schemes run by his head coach.

If Austin is primarily the underneath threat, Bailey is the deep threat in the offense and repeatedly got behind the Baylor secondary to the tune of 13 catches for 303 yards and five touchdowns. No, that's not a typo. Bailey's scores came went for 47, 20, 2, 87, and 39 yards. Those are big chunk plays.

Conclusions

In summary, Texas won't have the resources to double both of them. What teams like Maryland did was to roll their coverage in the direction of Bailey to help try to take away the deep plays, while relying on the linebackers and gang tackling to converge on Austin.

Both are excellent finding holes in zone coverage, which could completely preclude Texas from running zone schemes, never a strength of Duane Akina-coached secondaries. Problem is, playing a two-deep zone with man-under concepts, as recommended by Scipio Tex from a 4-1-6 look, means a player is chasing Austin across the formation unless Texas has a built-in adjustment to that. Which they will need.

But the strategy does make sense -- put Byndom on Bailey and Diggs on Austin, then give them help over the top, instead of making the one deep safety pick a side of the field while everything is happening so quickly.

Just a small example of how trying to scheme for West Virginia can feel like being a chicken with your head cut off, just running around in circles. Dana Holgorsen does that to you, and doesn't even need to get your plastered on Vegas Bombs to make it happen.

In fact, Bailey and Austin are probably the best combination of wide receivers that Texas has ever faced in an Airraid offense. Combined with one of the most accurate quarterbacks.

If you're not scared yet, you're not paying enough attention.

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