All-American teams announced, highlighted by West Virginia's Austin
December 12, 2012 8:00 PM
Christopher Jackson/Associated Press
West Virginia's Tavon Austin's huge game against Oklahoma is a big reason for his selection to the Associated Press All-America first team.
By Jenn Menendez Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
West Virginia standout Tavon Austin was named a first-team Associated Press All-American Tuesday as an all-purpose player, the most prestigious honor yet for the Mountaineers' most explosive playmaker.
Teammate Stedman Bailey, a wide receiver with 23 touchdown receptions this season, was named to the second team.
The two are in elite company on a list that includes Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, USC sophomore wide receiver Marqise Lee and standout Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
Austin, a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, amassed 2,760 all-purpose yards this season as the team's most consistent playmaker at receiver, running back and kick-and punt-returner.
He was a slot receiver most of the season before the coaching staff took a gamble and lined him up in the backfield against Oklahoma Nov. 17 in an effort to get the ball in his hands more. Austin then put on one of the most remarkable displays in West Virginia history, rushing for 344 yards and collecting 572 all-purpose yards against the Sooners in a 50-49 loss.
Most NFL draft analysts predict Austin to be a high pick next spring, potentially going in the late first round.
"He is the No. 1 slot guy in this draft," said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. "I saw him in high school. Solid kid. He works hard. Works hard on his business ... I wouldn't be shocked if he went in the late first [round], no later than mid-second [round]."
Four players from No. 2 Alabama were first-team selections. Among them was center Barrett Jones, who became a two-time first-team selection. No other team had more than two players selected to the first team. Alabama also led with six players chosen to all three teams.
Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Stanford and Florida were second with four players on the three teams, though Te'o was the only Fighting Irish player to make the first team.
Te'o, a Heisman finalist and winner of seven other awards -- including the Maxwell, Nagurski and Butkus -- is also the first Notre Dame defensive player to be an AP All-American since Shane Walton in 2002.
Manziel is the first freshman to make the first team as a quarterback. Heisman finalist Collin Klein of Kansas State was named the second-team quarterback.
Bailey, a junior who has not made clear whether he will return to West Virginia for his senior season, caught 106 passes for 1,501 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He was also a Biletnikoff Award finalist.
After leaving mid-game against Texas Tech with an ankle injury, Bailey spent several games playing injured, eventually needing cortisone shots.
Still, he managed to lead Division I in touchdown receptions, thanks in part to his long-standing relationship with quarterback Geno Smith.
Kiper, who suggested any player who is not a surefire first-round pick should return for his senior season, ranks Bailey No. 5 among junior wide receivers and projects him as a second or third-round pick.
"I'd say unless you want to move on and you don't care if you're a second or third round pick [you should return to school]" said Kiper. "If you're Stedman Bailey, you go back to West Virginia for another year."
The receivers who beat out Bailey for first-team honors were Lee, who led Division I in catches (112) and was second in receiving yards (1,680), and another Big 12 receiver, Baylor's Terrance Williams, who led in yards with 1,764.
Nine SEC players made the first team, more than any other conference. The Pac-12 was second with six players on the first team. No other conference had more than two.