Maryland's Stefon Diggs dives for a first down last Saturday against Connecticut.
MORGANTOWN - Someone asked Dana Holgorsen this week if he thought his Tavon Austin and Maryland's Stefon Diggs might be clones.Well, stand the two side by side and it would be obvious they are not.Not with Austin standing 5-foot-9 and weighing 171 pounds and Diggs four inches taller and 14 pounds heavier.What the two tend to do on the football field, however, is very similar, and both figure to play important roles at noon today when No. 8 West Virginia (2-0) hosts Maryland (2-1) at Mountaineer Field.Austin is WVU's most electrifying playmaker whose quickness and athleticism often leave defenders grasping at air. He plays an inside receiver spot and returns both punts and kickoffs.Diggs is Maryland's most electrifying playmaker whose quickness and athleticism often leave defenders grasping at air. He plays an inside receiver spot and returns both punts and kickoffs.Other than the few inches and pounds, the only other discernible difference is that Austin is a senior and Diggs a true freshman. They even wear the same jersey number and are both from Maryland."He's a [Maryland] kid that wears No. 1 that's a receiver and return guy,'' Holgorsen said. "I guess they're clones. I don't know the kid, but he's a good player.''
In the first three games of his college career, Diggs hasn't disappointed. He had his best game so far last week in a loss to Connecticut, netting 223 all-purpose yards. He ranks 26th in the country, averaging 147 all-purpose yards, four spots below Austin. Austin was the nation's leader in that category last season."You see similarities when you watch the film,'' Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "They're both kickoff returners and punt returners and they both play the slot position on offense. They might use Austin more from a running game standpoint than we do with Diggs. They are both great athletes and great competitors with the ability to change the game quickly and make big plays."Diggs caught his first touchdown pass last week, snaring a tipped ball in the end zone. That, Edsall said, shows how advanced Diggs is from a mental aspect of the game."He still has a lot to work on in terms of fundamentals, technique and some other things in terms of route running and all that,'' Edsall said. "But I think the thing I didn't realize is how far along he is in terms of understanding and his knowledge of the game."If you take a look at the [touchdown catch], I mean how many guys are going to realize that it's one-on-one coverage, the ball is thrown not to me, but over to a guy next to me, and all I'm going to do is play to the whistle and run to the ball because the ball might be tipped, and then I catch it? There's a lot of guys that wouldn't have that instinct that have been playing for a long time."The athleticism, the dynamic plays, I kind of expected he could do those things. But I didn't expect the experience, the knowledge of some of the things he can see that he's doing. I think it's rare to have a guy do some of the things we've seen him do out there.''That's probably something West Virginia hasn't seen this season. But as Holgorsen pointed out, his defense had better get used to it, starting today.
"Everybody else on our schedule is going to have a quick-twitch return guy that can make plays and is problematic because of talent and all the rest,'' Holgorsen said. "We faced a guy that was just like it in the bowl game last year [Clemson's Sammy Watkins]. They're called good players and there are more than just Tavon Austin and Stefon Diggs across the country, I can assure you that."Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.