MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Tavon Austin set a West Virginia University record for receptions last season, turning 101 catches into 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns. He was good enough to make every preseason watch list for receivers and the Big 12's all-conference team this summer.
He might be better in 2012.
At least, that was the intent behind a subtle, yet significant coaching decision that went virtually unnoticed in the spring and appears to be here to stay.
Austin played last season inside at the "H" spot in Coach Dana Holgorsen's offense. When the depth chart before April's spring game came out and was followed last week by the depth chart in the team's official guide, Austin no longer was there.
He was instead at the other inside spot, the "Y," where Tyler Urban and Devon Brown played last season and where Austin was Thursday as the Mountaineers opened preseason camp at Mountaineer Field.
"I noticed that I definitely didn't catch as many passes last spring as I did this past spring," Austin said.
"It seems like there are some better plays, too."
By his nature, Holgorsen is inclined to tiptoe around the topic and insist "it's not a big deal." Yet when the Mountaineers looked back at 2011 and things they could make better in the spring, it was agreed that the team's best offensive player needed a new position.
"We got him closer to the ball now," Holgorsen said. "The guys that are closest to the ball touch the ball the most."
The "Y" has been the most important receiver position in Holgorsen's offense through the years and moving Austin figures to continue that trend. It keeps Austin on the field and makes the most of his gifts.
The "X" and the "Z" are outside positions and when WVU went with two running backs and three receivers last season, the "Y" was typically on the field while Austin was on the sideline.
As the "Y," he would be on the field more, but also in more advantageous situations.
"Just from being in the offense a whole year, I see where the ball goes and last year those guys got the ball a lot on some good routes," Austin said.
"The 'Y' had Tyler and Devon lined up against one person at different times and they'd have just that one person, but couldn't make him miss. I feel like, putting me in that position, I can catch the ball and make that one person miss."