MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen knows what can happen when the football is placed in the hands of receiver Tavon Austin. After all, he saw the speedster catch and run for a bowl record four touchdowns in West Virginia's crushing defeat of Clemson in the past Orange Bowl.
But now, Holgorsen said, Austin is looking even more impressive during spring drills.
"He's moving a lot faster than he did," the coach said. "One of the deals that we were talking about him earlier is that he's fast 15 percent of the time - when the ball is in his hands - and not fast when the ball is not in his hands. Now he's playing fast all of the time. He looks like a totally different guy, which is obviously exciting."
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said the sky will be the limit for Austin, saying the Mountaineers have to find a way to consistently get the ball in his hands and then let his feet doing the talking.
"You can do whatever you want with him," Dawson said. "He is a playmaker not that he wasn't before. He is also a leader."
Quarterback Geno Smith may have been named the outstanding player in the Orange Bowl, but he acknowledges that Austin played a huge role in that honor. He said he is playing second fiddle to his receiver.
"Right now, Tavon is leading this offense, there's no doubt about that," Smith said. "In the Orange Bowl, he took it upon himself to be that guy in the offense, and now he's just making us go. Not to say anything about the rest of our receivers, but he's one of those special guys who can make something happen any time he touches the ball."
Because defenses have to be aware of Austin, he could also make things happen even if he doesn't touch the football.
"You can't focus on one guy," Dawson said. "When you have a guy like Tavon, you have to (use) two defensive guys on him every snap. When you do that, it means that Stedman (Bailey) is going to have a big day. It also works the other way if you try to eliminate Stedman in the game. If we have one or two other guys who can do that, it really opens things up for us."
Austin is now being looked upon to not only be a statistical leader on the field, but also off of it.
"If you pay attention to him, he is an emotional leader," Dawson said. "He is going to sit there and talk to the group while having high energy. When things are going good, he just shuts up and plays."