By Aaron WIlson
The Baltimore Sun
5:57 PM EST, February 24, 2013
In mere seconds, Tavon Austin confirmed what he had already predicted: that his speed would create separation from the pack of fellow NFL draft prospects.
The former Dunbar and West Virginia all-purpose star ran an unofficial time of 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash Sunday at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was later adjusted to 4.34 seconds.
"If we all lined up and raced, I think I'd come out on top," Austin said prior to running, citing his preparation with renowned speed coach Tom Shaw in Orlando, Fla., and his previous best of 4.29 seconds.
The fastest 40-yard dash time Sunday was from Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, whose initial 4.25 time was adjusted to 4.27 seconds. The combine record is still held by Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who ran a 4.24 official time.
"I expected him to run fast," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said of Austin. "What it does for him is worst-case is he's a second-round pick. If you buy into him as a route-runner and his toughness and that you can get enough touches every game for him, he might be a first-round pick. The NFL has evolved into more and more of a college look: Spread the field, get the football in playmakers' hands.
"He's a playmaker, he's a mismatch. I can only imagine being a nickel back or a safety and having to line up across from him in the slot knowing he runs 4.35, knowing how quick he is. He's really a difficult matchup. All that time does is endorse what we thought of him on tape."
NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis placed Austin in a much different class than Goodwin.
"Austin is a football player who runs like a track athlete," Davis said. "Marquise Goodwin, in my opinion, is a track athlete trying to play the game of football. And it's a different deal."
Virginia Tech wide receiver Corey Fuller, a former Woodlawn standout who ran track at Kansas before transferring to play for the Hokies, ran an official 4.43 in the 40-yard dash shortly after Austin's first sprint. His unofficial time was 4.38 seconds.
Austin caught 288 career passes for the Mountaineers for 3,413 yards and 29 touchdowns, also rushing for 1,033 yards and six touchdowns.
Against Oklahoma last season, Austin generated 572 all-purpose yards as he rushed for 344 yards and two touchdowns, caught four passes for 82 yards and gained 146 yards on eight kick returns.
"Tavon is incredible," said Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson, who was repeatedly juked to the ground by Austin in that game last November. "He's the best player I've ever played against. I expected him to run fast."