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Next Level Player of the Year: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

By Matt Bracken

The Baltimore Sun

7:22 PM EST, January 9, 2012

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The Next Level is a Recruiting Report feature that focuses on natives of Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County who appear on NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision rosters.

For former Dunbar star Tavon Austin, 2011 was the season that he officially lived up to -- if not exceeded -- the hype.

Austin, the 2009 Baltimore Sun Male Athlete of the Year, was an often unstoppable scoring machine for West Virginia in the fall. Never was that more evident than last week in the Mountaineers' 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl, when Austin caught 11 passes for 117 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 46 yards on four carries and returning five kickoffs for 117 yards.

Austin finished his junior season with 101 catches for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns, 16 rushes for 182 yards and one score, 19 punt returns for 268 yards, and 36 kickoff returns for 938 yards and two TDs. The former Poet was named to the All-Big East first team as a wide receiver and a return specialist.

For his performance in the Orange Bowl and all season long for the Mountaineers, Austin is your 2011 Next Level Player of the Year.

Honorable mention

* Colorado State sophomore linebacker Shaquil Barrett led the Rams in total tackles with 99 (45 solo). The Baltimore native, who graduated from Boys Town High School in Nebraska, also contributed 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, three pass breakups, two fumble recoverines, two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one interception. Barrett, an honorable mention All-Mountain West selection, returned the interception 52 yards for a touchdown, and he returned one fumble 15 yards for a score.

* Maryland junior safety Eric Franklin (Archbishop Curley) was the Terps' second-leading tackler with 106 stops (64 solo), including 4.5 tackles for loss. He also broke up four passes, recovered one fumble and blocked one kick.

* North Carolina senior linebacker Zach Brown (Wilde Lake) was the Tar Heels' leading tackler with 105 stops (62 solo). He also had 13.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback hurries, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Brown, a first-team All-ACC defensive team selection, is a potential first-round prospect for April's NFL Draft. UNC fell to Missouri, 41-24, in the Independence Bowl. 

* Syracuse junior wide receiver Alec Lemon (Arundel) was the Orange's top pass-catcher with 68 receptions for 834 yards and six touchdowns. Lemon, who also threw a 28-yard touchdown pass, was a second-team All-Big East selection.

* Temple junior running back Matt Brown rushed for 947 yards and six touchdowns on 155 carries in 13 games. The Baltimore native and Peddie School (N.J.) grad also returned 28 kicks for 703
yards and one touchdown,
18 punts for 182 yards, caught one pass for three yards, and made three tackles (one solo). Brown rushed for one score in Temple's 37-15 win over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl.

* Virginia Tech sophomore cornerback Kyle Fuller (Mount St. Joseph) was the Hokies' fourth-leading tackler with 65 stops (46 solo), including 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Fuller also had seven pass breakups, five quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, and two interceptions -- one of which he returned for a touchdown. The Hokies dropped a 23-20 overtime game to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

* Wake Forest sophomore wide receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill) caught 73 passes for 833 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 23 yards on two carries, was 3-for-4 passing for 106 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, returned nine punts for 81 yards and one touchdown, and returned seven kickoffs for 149 yards.

* West Virginia junior safety Terence Garvin (Loyola) was the Mountaineers' fourth-leading tackler with 72 stops (43 solo), including 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also had three pass breakups, two interceptions and one quarterback hurry. West Virginia routed Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl.

Senior salute

* Arkansas State senior cornerback Darron Edwards (Dunbar) contributed 49 tackles (29 solo), including one tackle for loss and half a sack. He also broke up four passes, forced three fumbles and intercepted three passes in 12 games. The Red Wolves fell to Northern Illinois, 38-20, in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

* Mississippi senior defensive end Wayne Dorsey (Southwestern) recorded 22 tackles (14 solo), five tackles for loss, three sacks, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, one forced fumble and one interception in six games. Dorsey, a captain, broke his right arm in the Rebels' 52-7 loss to Alabama on Oct. 15 and was lost for the season.

Rookie standouts

* Michigan true freshman cornerback Blake Countess (Owings Mills native, Good Counsel grad) recorded 44 tackles (30 solo) for the Wolverines, who beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, 23-20 in overtime. Countess also collected 1.5 tackles for loss and six pass breakups, appearing in 12 games and starting six. 

* New Mexico true freshman safety Zach Dancel (Ellicott City native, Good Counsel grad) finished the year with 32 tackles (17 solo), one pass breakup and one interception in nine games. Dancel announced last week that he was transferring to Maryland.

* Penn State true freshman cornerback Adrian Amos (Calvert Hall) collected 13 tackles (nine solo), four pass breakups and one interception in 12 games. He also returned eight kicks for 163 yards. The Nittany Lions dropped a 30-14 game to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl.

Other contributions

* Arkansas junior fullback Kiero Small (Cardinal Gibbons) appeared in all 13 games for the Cotton Bowl-champion Razorbacks (11-2), carrying the ball once for a 1-yard touchdown. Small, considered one of the SEC's best blocking backs, also returned two kickoffs for 17 yards and caught one pass for 7 yards.

* Army junior slotback Kelechi Odocha (Atholton) played in five games for the Black Knights, rushing for 82 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries.

* Boston College redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Bordner (Century) suited up in five games for the Eagles, completing 1 of 2 passes for 37 yards and an interception. He also rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

* Central Michigan sophomore safety Leron Eaddy (River Hill) recorded 16 tackles (five solo), intercepted one pass and forced one fumble. He played in all 12 of the Chippewas' games.

* Connecticut junior safety Jerome Junior (Archbishop Curley) collected 60 tackles (30 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack, one interception, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. 

* East Carolina sophomore defensive end Derrell Johnson (Cardinal Gibbons) made 39 tackles (13 solo), including 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He also registered three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

* Kent State redshirt freshman offensive guard Terrell Johnson (Archbishop Spalding) contributed one solo tackle in eight games.

* Maryland junior defensive lineman A.J. Francis, a Severn native and Gonzaga (D.C.) grad, also had a productive year with 31 tackles (11 solo), including three tackles for loss and two sacks, plus one pass breakup and one fumble recovery in 12 games. Before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, sophomore safety Matt Robinson (Atholton) contributed 36 tackles (24 solo), four tackles for loss and two pass breakups in three games. Junior defensive lineman Alvin Thomas (Long Reach) added three tackles (two solo) and one fumble recovery in 11 games. Freshman wide receiver Tyrek Cheeseboro (Milford Mill) made two special teams tackles in three games before suffering a season-ending injury. He and Robinson both received medical redshirts. Junior tight end Ryan Schlothauer (Eastern Tech) recorded one special teams tackle and returned three kickoffs for 32 yards in 12 games.

Three other local players contributed to the Terps, but have since announced their intentions to transfer. Freshman wide receiver Adrian Coxson (City) caught four passes for 90 yards and one touchdown in nine games. Sophomore defensive end David Mackall (Edmondson) totaled 30 tackles (13 solo), six tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles in eight games. Sophomore defensive lineman Cody Blue (Wilde Lake) had five tackles (two solo), including one tackle for loss, in five games.

* Michigan redshirt freshman safety Josh Furman (Old Mill) made 10 tackles (five solo) and blocked one kick in 12 games. The Wolverines beat Virginia Tech, 23-20 in overtime, in the Sugar Bowl.

* Penn State senior long snapper Jon Rohrbaugh (Howard) made one tackle in 10 games.The Nittany Lions fell to Houston, 30-14, in the TicketCity Bowl.

* Pittsburgh sophomore linebacker Carl Fleming (Franklin) contributed five tackles (four solo) and one interception in 11 games. The Panthers fell to SMU, 28-6, in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

* Rutgers sophomore linebacker Nick DePaola (Hereford) recorded nine tackles (six solo) in 13 games. The Scarlet Knights defeated Iowa State, 27-13, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

* San Jose State senior cornerback Brandon Driver (Parkville) had 18 tackles (12 solo), one tackle for loss and two pass breakups in five games. He also returned six kickoffs for 110 yards. Driver suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.

* Temple senior quarterback Chester Stewart (Hanover native, DeMatha grad) was 54 of 83 for 743 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 230 yards on 64 carries, averaging 87.2 yards of total offense per game. Owls senior offensive lineman Pat Boyle (Calvert Hall) made two solo tackles in 13 games and sophomore linebacker Gary Onuekwusi (Dunbar) recorded seven tackles (two solo)in 12 games. Temple beat Wyoming, 37-15, in the New Mexico Bowl.

* UAB sophomore quarterback Jonathan Perry (Dunbar) was 174-for-300 for 2,042 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 294 yards and three touchdowns on 92 carries.

* UNLV freshman defensive back Mike Horsey (Dunbar) recorded 13 tackles (nine solo) in 12 games.

* Utah State senior wide-out and returner Xavier Martin (Joppatowne) caught six passes for 91 yards. The Aggies fell to Ohio, 24-23, in the Idaho Potato Bowl.

* UTEP sophomore defensive end Horace Miller (Dunbar) collected 36 tackles (15 solo), including eight tackles for loss and five sacks. He also had seven quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and one forced fumble.

* Virginia freshman Darius Jennings (Gilman) caught 20 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown, carried the ball seven times for six yards, returned 30 kickoffs for 599 yards, and returned two punts for 30 yards in 13 games. Freshman wide receiver E.J. Scott (Ellicott City native, Good Counsel grad) returned four kickoffs for 97 yards in two games. Senior defensive tackle Nick Jenkins (Westminster native, Good Counsel grad) had 23.5 tackles (11 solo), including five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, plus one fumble recovery and one pass breakup. The Cavaliers fell to Auburn, 43-24, in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

* Virginia Tech junior wide receiver Corey Fuller (Woodlawn) caught two passes for 19 yards in six games. The Hokies fell to Michigan, 23-20 in overtime, in the Sugar Bowl.

* Wake Forest junior linebacker Joey Ehrmann (Gilman) recorded 54 tackles (29 solo), including three tackles for loss and half a sack. He also posted one interception, one forced fumble, one pass breakup, one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery.