While there's still plenty of goals left to accomplish this season for senior inside receiver Tavon Austin, it's not too early to take a peek ahead and look at the prospects for success at the next level. And with a pair of talented slot receivers that have played in the air-raid offense already in the NFL, there's a good reason to believe Austin could be next in line.
Austin is the career leader in receptions at West Virginia with 208 catches and he's caught at least 10-passes in every game this season. A dynamic talent that's used as a threat receiving, rushing and on special teams, Austin has accounted for 28 total-touchdowns during the course of his career.
And the introduction of Dana Holgorsen's offensive system has taken his production to a new level catching 101 passes for his first 1,000 yard season a year ago and exploding onto the national scene with his performance in the Discover Orange Bowl. This season Austin is well on his way to another 100-catch year with 34 in three games to go along with five touchdowns.
Against his home-state Maryland Terrapins, the Baltimore native had his best game of the season exploding for 179-yards and three touchdowns to go along with tying a school record with 13-receptions.
And it isn't the first time Holgorsen and the offensive scheme have groomed a very productive inside wide receiver.
Former Texas Tech wide receivers Wes Welker and Danny Amendola both played under Holgorsen, with Welker there from 2000-2003 and Amendola from 2004-2007. During those time periods, Holgorsen served as the inside wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator from 2005-2007.
Welker caught 259-passes for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns over his career, and also ran for 456-yards and two more scores. Like Austin, he also was a standout on special teams and scored eight touchdowns returning punts during the course of his career.
Welker wasn't drafted in 2004, but has become one of the prominent inside receivers in the NFL accounting for over 600 receptions for almost 7,500 yards and 32 touchdowns. Since arriving in New England in 2007, Welker has gone over 100-receptions four times, not bad for someone that wasn't even invited to the NFL Combine.
Amendola stepped in where Welker left off in Lubbock on the inside, catching 204-passes for 2,246 yards and 15 touchdowns. Like Welker, he also returned punts accounting for one touchdown during his career. Amendola's breakout season for the Rams came in 2010 when he caught 85 passes, but he missed all of 2011 with an injury.
However, in 2012 he's developed into the number one option in St. Louis and has caught 25-passes for 296 yards and a touchdown through three games, including a 15-catch performance in Week 2 against the Redskins.
Austin is currently ranked as the 32nd best player on the ESPN Scouts INC's 2013 NFL Draft rankings and is the fourth wide receiver on the list. Austin is the only inside wide receiver listed and undoubtedly has a good chance to be selected this April, unlike both of his prominent predecessors at the position.
But if Welker and Amendola's accomplishments at the professional level are any indicator of what to expect in terms of success for air-raid alumni, Austin should be prepared for a long and productive NFL career.