Second Time Around

It has been almost exactly one year since Tavon Austin first joined the WVU football program for its summer workouts. And while a year's experience has made a difference in many areas, it has not made the work being done in the weight room any easier.

That isn't because Austin hasn't made any gains in terms of overall strength.

In fact, the sophomore-to-be said that the adjustment from the workout program at his alma mater, Dunbar High in Baltimore, to that of coach Mike Joseph's program in Morgantown, was possibly the biggest challenge he faced last year.

"A lot of us come from different programs, and my (Dunbar) program, our weightlifting wasn't that good," said Austin, who was reporting to one of Joseph's sessions at the Milan Puskar Center on Tuesday. "When I came in, that was one of my big problems. It was different for me."

That translated to added strength, which Austin said made it all worth it. But a year later, West Virginia's strength and conditioning coach has apparently seen fit to ramp up the difficulty. Austin has noticed.

"I can tell you now, this year is way different from last year as far as the workouts," he said. "Last year, you'd come in like, ‘I'll get through today.' Now, you come in and you're like, ‘I hope I get through today.'"

"It's everything -- strength, conditioning, agility -- everything is turned up. He's not taking no more stuff from nobody. He is seeing who really wants to push when times get hard. That's what Coach Joseph is doing right now."

"I like it. And hopefully he keeps doing what he's doing and we can just get better."

Of course, more and more members of a new crop of freshmen are arriving on campus. They must endure what is apparently an even more arduous version of what Austin went through a year ago.

And while the receiver/running back is only entering his true sophomore year, he already realizes the opportunity exists to be a leader on the Mountaineer offense. Part of that entails getting the newcomers up to speed as quickly as possible.

Austin said he empathized with the plight of the rookies that are getting an early wake-up call as to what college football is all about while going through what is, for many, a difficult adjustment to life away from home.

"I just know how them boys feel," he said. "Coming in, your first time from home, it's hard for them. It was hard for me. I wanted to go home."

"I lived a city life. Up here, it's a country life. It's slower. I was in a faster environment. That was where my big difference was."

"But hopefully I can just get into one of their heads, keep them here and keep them level-headed."

One way to do so is to get time with the younger players on the field -- a process that began Tuesday with the first 7-on-7 drills of the summer, away from the eyes of the coaches in what is an important bonding experience for the players.

That also provides an importance chance for leaders to emerge from the group. Austin said that when it comes to vocal leadership, he will, for the most part, defer to the upperclassmen ahead of him -- Noel Devine and Jock Sanders.

But he will do his part by trying to give the freshmen someone to emulate on the field.

"I'm the type of person who just tries to lead by example," said Austin. "I know sooner or later I'll have to become a vocal leader. But I think I can take a couple of those young boys under my wing and try to help them out just like Jock and Noel did for me."

And while Austin says he will do all he can to help the newcomers get acclimated, it won't distract him from accomplishing his own goals for this summer.

The speedy sophomore said he actually was held back a bit last year by the mental hurdles all true freshmen must overcome to contribute. As he continues to grow more comfortable in coordinator Jeff Mullen's offense, opposing defenses may have yet another WVU weapon to worry with.

"It was a lot of mental stuff for me," said Austin. "Last year I came in and it was hard for me. But it in the spring, I played a little bit more fast."

"I still haven't got to my top speed because I'm thinking on the field a lot. But hopefully in the summer, I'll get everything down pat and I'll be running full blast."

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