FALL CAMP: You Don't Know Jack
BERKELEY -- In a camp with a Biletnikoff Award Watch List member, a former five-star receiver recruit and umpteen other pass-catching options, sticking out is hard to do, especially as a freshman.
California's Jack Austin, though, has done just that.
Having put on around 15-20 pounds of muscle between when he made his official visit to Berkeley on Jan. 18 of last year, Austin has become a dark horse candidate on the outside, behind Bryce Treggs and Maurice Harris. In fact, with Harris on the shelf over the past day and a half, Austin has taken reps behind the sophomore son of former Bears wide out Brian Treggs.
"Jack Austin is looking really good," says the younger Treggs. "He's coming out here and working every day. He never takes a day off, or even a rep off. He's one of those guys that's really going to make a difference in this offense."
Austin doesn't have Treggs's swagger, nor his vociferous nature, and when he hears what the leader of the receiving corps has to say about him, he humbly demurs.
"It means a lot to me. I look up to Bryce a lot as a player," Austin says. "He's a very talented and very smart and very kind guy. I'm learning a lot from him and coach [Rob] Likens along the way."
In front of a camera or a microphone, the former Boise State commit may be shy, but when he pulls on his helmet, he's anything but. Now at 6-foot-3 and well over 200 pounds, Austin has gone nose-to-nose with some of Cal's toughest defensive backs over the last four days, and has come out on top more often than not.
"It's definitely helped me get up to speed with all these guys out here," Austin says of Damon Harrington's new strength and conditioning program. "Coach Damon's been a big part of that. He's definitely worked us pretty hard in the weight room and on the field. It's helped me get up to speed with everybody."
The toughest DB he's faced?
"Probably Kameron [Jackson]," Austin says. "He isn't a big guy, but he's very quick. He has great hands, gets up in your face when he needs to and even when he's off the ball, he's pretty hard to fight with, but I feel confident going against him."
Austin also cited one of his recruiting classmates -- Cameron Walker -- as a tough match-up.
"Cameron, he's a very good DB, very tough, if anything," Austin says. "He'll get up in your face and he'll manhandle some guys."
Austin knew coming in that the defensive backs would be physical, and he's played to that without hesitation.
"I expected it. I expected these DBs to be tough, and I expected them to be smart and quick, so I expected all of that," Austin says. "I can see that they're trying to compete, and I feel that I'm finally on their level. I'm able to compete with every single one of them, and I have the confidence to go up against every single one of them, without feeling that I'm going to fail. I'm happy about that."
When Austin flipped from the Broncos to the Bears late in the recruiting process – less than two weeks before National Signing Day, had been committed to Boise State for seven months when he made the decision to commit to Sonny Dykes and his new Bear Raid offense.
Austin called Likens "really insightful," and saw the new offense as the "perfect opportunity that I couldn't pass up."
Now that he's waist-deep in that offense?
"I'm happy about it. This offense is very fun, if anything," Austin says. "I get to look at one guy on the sideline and see what my route is, and it's very simple, but at the same time, it's very complex, because everyone's running their own routes and you don't know what everyone else is running, so you have to run your route 100 percent, because you don't know if the ball's coming to you."
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