Physically, there’s not much else Dakota Austin can do. He’s not about to grow, will stay around 5-foot-10. He’s never really been able to put on weight, listed at 157 pounds.
Entering his junior season at Oklahoma, he was who he was, for better or worst. There might be some things he can’t do particularly well in the secondary, but he can compete.
Anybody who has followed him since his high school days knows there is a dog in Austin that was just waiting to come out. That opportunity happened last Saturday against Texas Tech in OU’s 63-27 victory.
Starting cornerback Zack Sanchez sprained his ankle on the first play from scrimmage. With backup Marcus Green already hobbled with his own injury, Austin was thrust into the spotlight.
What could have been a disaster turned into Austin’s finest moment in Norman, registering 11 solo tackles and an interception in the end zone right before the end of the first half.
“Through maybe some of his flaws or what he can or can’t do well, he’s not scared,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “That’s the great thing about him. The moment wasn’t going to be too big. It ain’t going to both him.
“He’s going to go out and do the best that he can. He relied on his instincts and made some terrific plays.”
Austin saw limited time as a freshman, even recording an interception in OU’s win against Iowa State. Entering the 2014 season, it felt like he could be in contention for a starting spot. That never panned out, and he sort of faded away from the discussion.
He worked hard on special teams and has been a big contributor there, but there was a good reason to believe that would be the only chance he would have at making a difference in Norman.
Patience is preached, but it’s hard to actually have it. Austin’s recruitment still stems mainly from a one-day event at OU’s summer camp in 2012.
Back then, all eyes were on a wide receiver known as K.D. Cannon and the show he was going to put on in front of everybody. But it quickly became the Austin and Cannon show as both had their moments in a number of quality one-on-one battles.
Cannon, of course, is now a big part of the Baylor offense. The same could never be said about Austin with OU’s defense before Saturday.
“It’s definitely hard to be patient,” Austin said. “It’s even harder to keep the will. If you can keep that, before you know it, your time is going to happen. It happened today (Saturday), and I’m just thankful I got the opportunity.”
Playing on the field is the easy part. It was having the determination to still want to be out there that no doubt was a challenge for Austin.
Seeing himself dwindle down the depth chart, nobody would have been shocked if he was on his way out the door before this season. He made the decision it wasn’t going to end that way.
“Just knowing it’s not over,” Austin said. “What difference would happen if you stop believing? You either stop believing and you don’t make plays or you believe and you eventually get in. I just felt like I might as well ball out the rest of the time I’m here.”
That’s what he did Saturday. The 11 tackles are impressive enough, but it’s in breaking it down where his performance stands out even more. It’s tough to get 11 solo tackles. He was on his cornerback island, and if he misses some of those tackles, they would have earned big-time yards.
But Austin came through every single time. He said he actually wasn’t that nervous and actually even relaxed more when he got in the game. He figured he would be picked on, and he was sort of surprised Tech didn’t throw it his way more.
With Sanchez out for sure with a sprained ankle for Saturday, the smart money is on Austin making his first career start. After the way he played against the Red Raiders, he certainly has earned it.
“Dakota is one of those guys that had a lot of snaps in the spring,” sophomore defensive back Steven Parker said. “He has been through the process. He’s always been ready. It’s just been about when is my name going to be called?”
It’s calling now, and Austin is answering the bell.