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WVU receivers catching on quick this season

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By Josh Sickles
Friday, Sept. 2, 2011
 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen wasn't happy with his receivers at the start of camp. Despite their speed and talent, he thought they weren't playing up to their potential.

"Those guys are all incredibly inconsistent — all of them," he said.

Junior Tavon Austin and redshirt sophomore Stedman Bailey turned that criticism into starting roles for this season, which opens Sunday against rival Marshall.

"Stedman and Tavon have established themselves," Holgorsen said this week. "The more they can handle, the more they'll play."

Austin, a 5-foot-9, 176-pound converted running back, led the team in receiving last year with 787 yards and eight touchdowns. He'll play an inside receiver role, where he can use his speed and quickness to gain separation.

Bailey, a 5-10, 190-pound receiver, started nine games last season. He caught 24 passes for 317 yards and four scores. Holgorsen has been impressed with Bailey's big-play ability and named him the starter at outside receiver.

"I've been wanting to become one of those household names here at West Virginia," Bailey said. "For him to put that trust in me, it kind of puts pressure on me, but I'm going to rise to the occasion."

Even with the vote of confidence, Austin and Bailey know their jobs aren't safe. The coaching staff has taken a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?" approach, and the duo are working hard to keep their spots.

"At any given time, they can snatch you off the field," Austin said. "That's the type of coaches we've got. Me and Stedman have to bring it in practice ... and hopefully we can keep it up and keep that confidence."

Last season, when Holgorsen was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Justin Blackmon caught 111 passes for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was a unanimous All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award as college football's top receiver.

Austin and Bailey are focusing on themselves, but they have seen the statistics. They're excited about the possibilities in an offense that has produced tremendous numbers.

"I've thought about it a couple times," Austin said. "If it happens, it's meant to happen. If I don't, hopefully I can make a few plays to make our team win."

Added Bailey: "I'm actually pretty excited about that, too. I always look up his numbers and think that's pretty amazing."

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