Terps hone in on Austin

Dunbar (Md.) coach Ben Eaton doesn't need to waste time sending video highlight films of Tavon Austin, his precocious sophomore star running back, to reporters and college recruiters. That's because they're already out there.


"I tell them to go to YouTube," Eaton says, laughing. "I don't know how much money he's making [for YouTube], but he's making them a lot."

Indeed, Austin has become something of an internet phenomenon, what with the 100s of hits his name produces when punched into a search engine and the highlight reel from his prolific sophomore season -- 1,701 yards, 32 touchdowns, six interceptions – posted on YouTube and other sites, drawing rave reviews for his ankle-breaking moves and blazing speed.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound playmaker led his team through its easy run to the Maryland Class 1A title. Earning Baltimore offensive player of the year honors from the Baltimore Sun. Sophomores generally don't garner such awards, but Austin is far from a normal sophomore.

Eaton, who has been coaching football since 1972, first realized how rare a talent Austin was when the coach watched him playing youth-league football.

"Same kind of moves you see on that video," says Eaton, who calls Austin ‘The Ghost' for his ability to seemingly cut and run from one spot on the field to another in the blink of an eye. "The ability to change direction from top speed, it's like he never stops."

"I have never seen him take a hit, except on the sideline when the kids" celebrate after his runs.

After Dunbar defeated Fort Hill in the state championship game, Fort Hill coach Barry Lattimer told The Sun, "Tavon is the best high school running back that I've ever seen, to this point, this year, or for that matter, any year … He understands the game, he's elusive, hard to tackle, has great field vision, and his feet never stop."

College recruiters have caught wind of Austin's exploits. The University of Maryland staff has taken a proactive approach to his recruitment, as head coach Ralph Friedgen has already been out to his school. Head coaches don't often make such trips for sophomores.

"It was a special moment," Eaton said, adding that Austin has good grades and shouldn't have any issues academically.

While the Terps technically might not have offered him a scholarship, they've made it clear he's wanted there. He'll attend camp at College Park this summer.

"He has coach Friedgen's cell phone number," Eaton said. "That's the only school that's really been on him hard since it came out about what he did … Coach Friedgen is very excited about him."

While the Terps have done a great job of forming an early relationship with him, it's safe to say it won't be long before a lot of schools are very excited about him. National champion Florida recently was in contact, Eaton said.

"I told him, all the accolades and everything are great, but there's still a long, long way to go," Eaton said.

But from the sounds of it, keeping perspective won't be an issue. Asked for Austin's best trait, Eaton said: "His character. He's a great kid. And his leadership. He's very disciplined."

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