The 2018 recruiting cycle roars on as the Notre Dame football team assembles on campus for summer workouts. Recently, the 2018 class lost four star receiver Braden Lenzy to Oregon, leaving them with just a single wide receiver commitment, Micah Jones, but with an addition possibly on the way.
Notre Dame has been heavily linked with four star receiver from Broward County, Florida Kevin Austin for some time. He last visited Notre Dame unofficially on April 22nd and on April 30th announced on Twitter his top four of Miami, Duke, Tennessee, and Notre Dame with an announcement date coming “soon”. Well, turns out “soon” is relative as it’s June 26th and still no word on his verbal commitment.
— Kevin Austin Jr (@Ka_szn) April 30, 2017
In between that post and present time, Austin received an offer from the defending national champion Clemson Tigers that many thought would throw a monkey wrench into his recruitment. He later confirmed that his top four remained unchanged and on June 20th, Irish Sports Daily wrote a premium article on Austin, with a headline on Twitter that his recruitment should be ending…wait for it….soon.
— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) June 20, 2017
Not that Notre Dame isn’t willing to wait for the Miami product and currently the 141st player nationally, according to 247. And on the 247 site, the crystal ball predictions show Notre Dame as the choice at a 100% clip, which if it turns out wrong doesn’t say much for the crystal ball.
Given the attention around Austin and his possible, and perhaps likely, commitment to Notre Dame in the near future, lets put a spotlight on his game and what he can bring to the table.
Size and Physicality
Austin is listed at 6’3, 200 pounds and is built very well in his upper body. He’s listed on Hudl as having a 37 inch vertical leap, which combined with his height creates real problems for defenders. At 6’3 he’s got an advantage over a lot of players anyway. His 37 inch vertical exacerbates that advantage making it extremely difficult to stop him in jump ball type situations.
His size and strong upper body also makes things difficult for defenders in press coverage. Smaller defenders are reluctant to even get up on him, as they know they are likely not as strong and are susceptible to get bullied at the snap. When they try to get physical as the route progresses, they are often just tossed aside or dismissed all together. Basically, all that’s left is taking a penalty.
The other issue Austin presents is even when coverage is solid, his large frame and strong hands still put him at a distinct advantage. It’s just hard to get through him and make a play on the ball. In the clip, the defensive back is late in his pedal and to open up, but is bailed out by the route Austin has chosen to run. If it’s a go route it’s an easy touchdown, but he breaks off on an out, and the defensive back is in pretty good position to drive on it. Austin attacks the ball with his hands, the defensive back can’t reach the ball to break it up and it ends in a reception.
In this video clips, Austin displays better route running that shows up on his junior film, which can be the result of a couple things. First, players get better from their junior year to the summer of their senior year. Second, high school offenses can limit the types of routes receivers can run because of offensive limitations or quarterback limitations.
Austin shows the ability to make sharp cuts, vary his speed in the route, and has impressive burst when taking the route upfield. He also has an understanding of how to stem his route on the snap to create an opening on an inside route when the corner is playing inside coverage. At the outset of this clip, you’ll Austin just outside the numbers, with the corner in the middle of the numbers. Austin pushes inside to get his inside, threatens up the field to open the corners hips, then drives hard on an in route. The corner is no where.
This one was hard to gauge on film because he doesn’t look to have the most impressive speed, but he breaks off a ton of long plays. My suspicion was the competition wasn’t the best in the world. However, some of the plays he made at the Opening regional in Miami shed new light on his ability to create separation down the field.
He was able to accelerate and run past players consistently, and this is a competition with other division 1 football players, the best in Miami. On a couple of receptions he was even able to display the vaunted 5th gear, where he was even able to accelerate to a ball that looked to be overthrown. On another play Austin took the long route on a post, running on the outside of the defensive back before beating him on a post route to the middle of the field. This elicited an “oh my” from me sitting in my office.
My initial reaction watching his film was to say “oh, he’s Davaris Daniels”. They have similar builds (although Austin is two inches taller) and similar games. They both played a bit of quarterback, they both were given the ball as running backs, good size, nice speed, very good hands. And I think people would read the name Davaris Daniels and cringe, but that’s mostly because of the way his career ended. Had Daniels been paired with Will Fuller and Everett Golson in 2014, that’s a duo that would have rivaled Golden Tate and Michael Floyd in 2009.
I see Austin a little differently after his performances in camps this offseason. I just don’t remember Daniels displaying that kind of explosiveness in high school, although he did develop that in college. Daniels ran a 4.62 at the combine and a 4.53 at the Notre Dame pro day. If Austin shows himself to be more of a 4.50-4.45 guy at Notre Dame, then they’ve really got themselves something, should he choose to play his football for the Fighting Irish.