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West Virginia's Austin doesn't minimize opportunity

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By Tony Dobies
Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — West Virginia junior receiver Tavon Austin is just 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds.

But despite his size, his 191.2 all-purpose yards per game rank second in the nation. He's also sixth in punt return yardage, 12th in receptions and 17th in kickoff returns.

Austin was always told, because of his size, that he would never be a factor in big-time college football.

"I remember my third-grade teacher, when I told her I wanted to be a college football player and eventually go to the NFL, she said I wouldn't make it," Austin said. "I have proved people wrong my entire life."

He says he remembers every person who doubted his ability and uses that as motivation.

"When I was little, everyone used to pick on me. Now that I'm not little anymore, they don't," Austin said. "Every time I do go home and I see those people, I let them know it's still on my mind."

Austin grew up in Baltimore around a lot of violence. Many of his friends, he said, had seen trouble or had spent time in prison.

"When I look back at it, I definitely didn't think I would be here based on the place I've been to," he said. "Basically, nobody made it out. I haven't been an angel, but I'm happy that everything has worked out for me."

Clemson healthy; 'Eers not

While West Virginia has had two season-ending injuries since traveling to Florida, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said his team is as healthy as its been this year.

Tigers linebacker Tony Steward will miss the game, still healing from a torn ACL suffered in October. DeAndre Hopkins, the team's second-leading receiver who was in a car accident the day Clemson left for the Orange Bowl, practiced this week and will play.

The Mountaineers will be without starting freshman running back Dustin Garrison. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said it's likely junior Shawne Alston will start. Alston is more of a power back compared to freshman Andrew Buie and Garrison.

"I'm usually nervous before every game, but once the ball snaps on the first play, I'll be good," Alston said. "I've prepared well, so I'll be just fine. It's what I do."

Tight end troubles

Earlier this season in the loss to Syracuse, West Virginia allowed Orange senior tight end Nick Provo to have a career day with six catches for 61 yards and three touchdowns.

The Mountaineers will face a tight end with more potential Wednesday night when they face Clemson junior Dwayne Allen, who has 48 catches for 577 yards and eight touchdowns.

"He's a tremendous football player," Holgorsen said. "He's a guy that does a heck of a job of blocking ... They move him around a bunch, and he's a guy that you've always got to keep your eye on. They're going to get him the ball."

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