Austin Getting Used to National Attention

Running back Tavon Austin of Dunbar High in Baltimore has been highly touted locally for some time, the result of his prodigious accumulation of statistics and championships. But only recently has Austin's name begun to show up frequently on the national recruiting radar. It's a new experience for Austin, who's being helped through the process by his cousin, former Terps linebacker Aaron Thompson.


"He's really overwhelmed right now. He's a kid from Baltimore who's just played ball … he's been in Baltimore all of his life and now he has schools all over the country calling him, and reporters calling him all the time. But he's making the adjustment," Thompson said of Austin, who holds a dozen scholarship offers, including Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Penn State, West Virginia, Boston College, South Carolina, Illinois, Rutgers and Georgia.

Austin has catapulted to No. 8 in Scout.com's national 2009 running back rankings, and for good reason: A dazzling playmaker at 5-foot-9-and-a-half and 170 pounds, he rushed for more than 2,500 yards and 40 touchdowns last season as a junior and has led his team to consecutive state championships. He run's a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, and as his highlight tapes exhibit, he has fantastic shiftiness, a threat to go to the endzone on virtually every play. In three years he's moved to No. 1 on Maryland's career touchdown list and he's won Baltimore Sun player of the year honors the past two years.

Austin has made spring visits to Maryland, Penn State and West Virginia and is likely to head to Illinois, Virginia and Boston College. There could be others as well, but it remains undecided.

"We're still taking unofficial visits. We're going to sit down sometime soon and plan the official visits that we want to take," Thomson said. "He's not leaning anywhere in particular right now because new offers are still coming in. Right now we're still evaluating all of the options."

Austin has been to Maryland on numerous occasions and has forged a strong relationship with new offensive coordinator James Franklin, his primary Terps recruiter. The proximity to his home – about a half-hour away – is a major plus as well.v
"He still likes Maryland. The thing is, Maryland is home. Because Maryland is home I think that Maryland will be there to the end, because Tavon wants to be near his family and he likes coach Franklin," said Thompson, whose Aunt is Austin's mother.

Thompson, like his cousin, was a standout in-state running back in high school. He was the Sun's offensive player of the year in 1996-1997 as a senior at Mount St. Joseph's in Baltimore and capped his career by helping the Terps to an ACC title and Orange Bowl in 2001, head coach Ralph Friedgen's first year.

"I'm still up there. I'm a season ticket holder and I go to some of the functions," Thompson said. "I definitely can give him perspective because of the experience that I've had at Maryland."

There has been some chatter that Austin might be favoring Penn State, but it's inaccurate, Thompson said.

"He does like Penn State, but a lot of that is probably because he's had more interaction with Penn State [than some of the other schools]," he said.

West Virginia, meantime, has tried to sell Austin on being the newest version of current Mountaineer star Noel Devine, another diminutive back with outstanding speed and quickness and eye-popping highlight films.

"They're making that comparison. I don't know yet how Tavon feels about that quite yet. I don't know what to make of that. I don't know if it's an advantage or a disadvantage," he said.
To two biggest factors for Austin in his selection: playing time and education.
"One of the top things Tavon is looking at is, Tavon wants to play next year. He wants to go somewhere he can make an impact or contribute in his first year," Thompson said. "For his mother, of course the academics. The better the degree, the better for him as a person in the real world.

"For me, I want him to go somewhere he can fit in, where he won't feel alienated. We don't oppose change, but we want for him to be comfortable where he is. And of course his family and friends would like to be able to come and see him play, so it would be nice for him to be somewhere that's not too far away. But if that doesn't happen, as long as it's the best place for him everyone will be happy."

Thompson said the most likely scenario has Austin taking several more unofficials this summer, taking a few official visits after his senior season, and then making a decision. It could happen sooner than that, though, depending on how everything plays out.

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