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Playing wide receiver starts to grow on WVU sophomore

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By Tony Dobies
Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia coach Bill Stewart went into the season believing sophomore Tavon Austin would replace senior running back Noel Devine when he graduated.

Austin, who holds many Maryland high school records for career points (790), touchdowns (123), total offensive yards (9,258) and rushing yards (7,962) as a running back, made the transition to receiver this season, though, so he could be used most effectively in the offense instead of playing behind Devine.

What was just a temporary move may turn out to be more permanent than anyone originally thought.

"He's too valuable out there," Stewart said.

Austin had a breakout game against Pitt, scoring two touchdowns against the Panthers.

"I never played receiver a day in my life," Austin said. "Now, I kind of like it."

In fact, Austin has taken such a liking to the position that he asked his coaches to stay at receiver after this year.

"I get in space more, and I don't take too many hits," he said.

It has been an adjustment for Austin, however, who was used to carrying the ball nearly every play in high school. While he admits football is a team game, he had to change his mentality because he knew he could touch the ball, at times, only once or twice in a game.

"I know at the end of the day, everyone is going to get their chance," Austin said. "If you call for the ball and you don't get it, then everyone will look at you like you're impatient. But if you're patient, it will come."

Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen has used Austin differently throughout the season. He has been a deep threat, a possession receiver and a running back, too.

Austin has 47 catches for 636 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has 13 carries for 105 yards.

Austin said he started to feel more comfortable at the position a few weeks ago.

"We gave the right guy No. 1," Mullen said. "He works hard in practice, he plays hurt, he is just a wonderful, wonderful person, and we're so glad he's on our football team."

In addition, the emergence of sophomore running back Shawne Alston could make Austin's move permanent. Alston has taken the majority of the carries at the running back spot over the last three games.

"Running back is still my love," Austin said. "I'd like to get a few snaps, but I'm really starting to love receiver."

Notes: West Virginia's game against Rutgers will be televised at noon on ABC ... If Connecticut wins Saturday, there is a good chance the Big East's BCS team will not be ranked in the top 25. Stewart said that does not hurt the conference. "The formula says the Big East gets a bid to the BCS through 2013," he said. "If they don't agree to that formula, they can get out and go somewhere else."

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