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Friday, February 22, 2013
Ranking the Big 12's top 25 players: No. 2

By David Ubben

We’re continuing our countdown of the Big 12's top 25 players from the 2012 season. Here's more on my criteria for the list. You can take a peek at how the preseason list looked here.

We're in the top 10 now, so it's about to get heated, I'm sure. If you've got complaints, I've got a mailbag. Let's hear it. We'll be revealing our No. 1 player on Monday morning.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day moving forward.

On with the show ...

No. 2: Tavon Austin, WR/RB/KR/PR, West Virginia

2012 numbers: Caught 111 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Rushed 73 times for 652 yards (8.93 yards a carry) and three touchdowns. Returned 15 punts for 165 yards and a touchdown. Returned 32 kicks for 813 yards and a touchdown.

Most recent ranking: Austin was ranked No. 3 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Austin: I feel like I need to invite Oklahoma's defense to collectively write this post as a tribute to Austin's greatness in 2012, but I really don't think even it could truly get a grasp on just how shifty and elusive Austin can be. That's not just in the open field, either, as he proved with his 344-yard rushing night against the Sooners that was seven yards short of the NCAA record for all-purpose yardage, with 572 yards in the narrow loss to Oklahoma. Austin racked up 224 all-purpose yards a game in 2012, which led all players in BCS conferences, 18 yards a game ahead of Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee at USC. Austin has stellar straight-line speed, but what sets him apart is his change of direction. I've been watching college football for most of my life and I've never seen anything like it. He can shift direction with a swivel of his hips when he's running full speed, but he can also vary that speed in the open field and completely change direction with one cleat in the turf, making him something of a ghost to tackle when it's just you and him at the second level of the defense. He was the most dangerous player in the Big 12 all season, the type of guy who truly gives defenders and defensive coordinators nightmares. If West Virginia's 7-6 season had played out differently, he definitely would have been in the Heisman picture, but don't let that make you believe he doesn't have a case as one of college football's biggest talents and best overall players in 2012.

The rest of the list: