At West Virginia both Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey had outstanding careers. During the 2012 season, both caught 114 passes. Bailey, a Biletnikoff finalist, finished with a nation leading 25 touchdowns, while Austin finished 1289 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago.
In April's NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams selected Austin eighth overall, and Bailey in the third round at 92nd overall. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Rams beat writer Joe Lyons speaks with WVSports.com about the progression Austin and Bailey have made since being drafted.
During the NFL free agency period, the Rams let receivers Brandon Gibson and Danny Ammendola walk leaving room for both Austin and Bailey to work as the cornerstones of a young skill position group during St. Louis' rookie minicamp and OTAs.
"So far both of them are running with the number ones and have been doing real well. It's exciting around here because it has been a while since the Rams have had the playmakers at the receiver spot," said Lyons.
Bailey is working in both inside and outside. It seems like he will do a little bit of both for the St. Louis Rams. As for Austin, St. Louis and offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, are trying to get the ball in his hands anyway they can. Austin has lined up primarily in the slot, but has also taken handoffs out of the backfield.
"If you put him (Austin) in the backfield it's going to force the defense to adjust, whether it's a quick pitch to get him outside or handoff," said Lyons, "The Rams realize he has special ability, and the more he has the ball in his hands, the better it is."
Austin and Bailey are part of a young nucleus of skill players centered around Sam Bradford. As Steven Jackson has moved onto Atlanta, Bradford has showed more of a leadership role according to Lyons. With Austin, Bailey as well as second year guys like Brian Quick and Isaiah Pead in addition to newly acquired tight end, Jared Cook, Bradford has already taken time to teach the offense to these young guys.
"The one day we were out at OTAs last week, after practice, Sam Bradford was out there with Tavon (Austin) and Stedman (Bailey) working on routes," Lyons explained, "He (Bradford) is at the point where he can pull Tavon (Austin) and Stedman (Bailey) aside to say this is how it has to be done. It seems like he's working hard with the two of them to kind of develop that relationship you need to have with the quarterback and top receivers."
The former West Virginia tandem have already become extremely well received in St. Louis not only by Bradford and other teammates, but by just about everyone in the organization. While it may take time to become the second-coming of the greatest show on turf, the two are off to a good start on the path to becoming solid NFL players.
"I haven't heard anything negative, both of these guys' attitudes seems great, I know the coaches are thrilled with them. I think all they have is to make that step from college football to the NFL," added Lyons.