LIONS INSIDER

Tavon Austin in Allen Park on the final day of pre-draft visits

Posted Apr 17, 2013

After an impressive showing that the NFL Scouting Combine, with unofficial attempts of 4.25 and 4.31 in the 40-yard dash, Tavon Austin shot up the draft boards

Tavon AustinWR Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin is one of those football players who is simply electric with the football in his hands.

It's must-watch television when Austin had the ball at West Virginia, much like it was when Reggie Bush was playing for USC back in the early 2000s.

In fact, Austin told me during his final pre-draft visit in Allen Park Wednesday that any comparisons of himself to Bush are pretty accurate.

"They'd be getting another type of player like Reggie," Austin said when asked what type of player Lions fans would get if he ends up in Detroit. "Me and him would probably be twins back there.

"Just get me in space and get the ball in my hands quick."

The electric wide receiver/running back/kick returner out of West Virginia shot up draft boards this offseason after blazing two unofficial attempts at 4.25 and 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He left with an official time of 4.34.

But there aren't typically many 5-foot-8, 174-pounders that find themselves off the board in the top 10 picks of the NFL Draft. Why might Austin be different?

"Because I'm different," he said. "I have a different mind set. I'm 5-foot-8, but I think I play like I'm 6-foot. Some of the things I do, a lot of people my size haven't been doing. Some of the bigger guys haven't even been doing.

"When the ball gets into my hands, I turn into a running back. I believe in myself and that's pretty much the No. 1 thing."

Austin proved last year at West Virginia that he can truly do it all. He caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns, ran the ball 72 times for 643 yards and three touchdowns, returned 15 punts for 165 yards and one touchdown, and returned 33 kickoffs for 813 yards and a score.

It was his second-straight back-to-back 100-catch season.

"Teams really want to use me all around," Austin said of conversations he's had with other teams during visits. "Kickoff return, punt return, running back, slot receiver, outside receiver, pretty much all the skill positions on offense you can play.

"Anywhere I go, I just hope they have a plan for me and it works and it puts me in a position to make plays."

The Lions have a particular need for a player who can stretch the field opposite Calvin Johnson and open even more room for Bush, Ryan Broyles, Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and some of the Lions' other weapons.

The No. 5-overall pick is probably a little too high to select Austin with some of the other needs, but he could certainly be in play if the Lions move back a few spots or look to get back into the first round.

WILLIAMS MAKES MOST OF OPPORTUNITY

Vince WilliamsLB Vince Williams

Former Florida State middle linebacker Vince Williams is making the most of an opportunity afforded to him by a late invitation to the Senior Bowl.

Williams was an injury replacement at the last moment and spent a week on the South team coached by Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and his staff.

He parlayed that performance into a number of pre-draft visits with teams, including a closer look by the Lions on Wednesday.

"Thanks to (Senior Bowl Director) Phil Savage for getting me into the Senior Bowl to show my talent on a broad scale, in front of a lot of people, with a lot of talent out there," Williams told me on Wednesday.

"I can't really say the (pre-draft visits) would have taken place without it."

Williams (6-1, 238) was voted a team captain for the South squad during that week in Mobile and that should say something about the character of a player who wasn't originally invited.

He started the last 27 games for Florida State the past two seasons and had 59 tackles (38 solo) and 6.5 for loss in 14 starts last year.

He got some attention at the Senior Bowl with a few big hits, and recorded six tackles for the South in the game.

"I actually think I'm (like Stephen) Tulloch," Williams said when asked to describe his game. "I think me and his playing style is very similar. We are both kind of smart and instinctive guys, so I think I'd fit in great here."

Williams is listed as a late-round pick by most draft websites.

VERTICAL TO VISIT

Vince WilliamsRB Steven Miller (Photo: Appalachian State SID)

When Steven Miller went to the vertical jump station at his Appalachian State Pro Day workout last month, he knew he was about to amaze a few of the NFL spectators.

On his first attempt, Miller jumped so high that he out-jumped the highest marker on the pole. They actually had to raise the pole for him to jump a second time. It's then that he recorded a 43-inch vertical, which would have tied him for the top spot among all participants at the combine had he been invited.

Miller said some of the scouts started clapping and going crazy following the jump.

"I knew I was going to jump over 42," he said. "I actually wanted to get a 45, so I was a little upset with it.

"It shows my explosiveness. I'm not a titter-tatter runner. I may make a couple of moves, but after that, I'm looking for contact. I'm a hard runner, who plays with no fear."

Miller, who rushed for 1,438 yards for the Mountaineers last season and averaged 5.7 yards per carry, is only 5-foot-7 and weighs 173 pounds.

"I get compared to Darren Sproles a lot," said Miller, who also ran his 40 in the 4.4 range at his pro day. "I kind of look up to him and his game. We tend to play alike. He can catch out of the backfield very well and so can I and I like to base some of my skills off that."

In fact, Miller had 34 catches for 377 yards and 15 touchdowns in the passing game last season. He said he wanted slot receiver to be his secondary position in the NFL.

He was also asked by coaches and scouts to return punts during his pro day, which could be one of the other ways he makes a team in the fall.

Here's the final list of the Lions' 30 pre-draft visitors:

OL – Eric Fisher, Travis Frederick, Vinston Painter, LaAdrian Waddle, Chance Warmack, Brian Winters

RB – Mike Cox, Onterio McCalebb, Steven Miller, Latarius Murray

FB - Kyle Juszczyk

WR – Tavon Austin, Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Robert Woods

TE – Michael Williams, Dion Sims, Travis Kelce

DE – Will Gholston, Dion Jordan

LB –Jeremiah Green, Manti Te'o, Vince Williams

CB – David Amerson, Rashaan Melvin, Dee Milliner, Darius Slay

S – Cody Davis, Jonathan Meeks

P – Sam Martin