The West Virginia roster features 10 players from Maryland, including Baltimore native Terence Garvin who returned a pick-six against the Terps last year. (MetroNews file photo)
If not for an Internet rumor, Tavon Austin might be catching passes for Maryland. Linebacker Terence Garvin nearly became a Terrapin too, before choosing West Virginia.
They’re among the 10 Maryland natives on the WVU roster, players carrying extra incentive for Saturday’s rivalry showdown at Milan Puskar Stadium.
"If I lose against them, I’m going to hear about it from my homeboys, my parents, coaches and all that," Austin said Tuesday night.
As of yet, the senior receiver from Baltimore hasn’t had to hear any gloating from the folks back home, considering West Virginia has beaten the Terps twice during his career — and six straight times overall.
- The despot’s heel is on thy shore,
- His torch is at thy temple door,
Though Maryland’s program has toiled of late, the Terps were in the midst of three consecutive bowl appearances when Austin approached signing day in 2009.
Coach Ralph Friedgen and top assistant James Franklin had made a splashy spectacle of attending one of Austin’s high school games — arriving via helicopter.
"That was something to see — I don’t think that had ever happened to no one in Baltimore," said Austin, the state’s two-time offensive player of the year. "They was heavy on me."
After helping Dunbar HIgh win three state championships, and setting Maryland career records for touchdowns (123), rushing yards (7,962) and total offense (9,258), Austin had the Terps among his finalists, joining the likes of Michigan, Pitt and North Carolina.
So why couldn’t the Terps land Austin like they landed the helicopter?
"I had seen something on the Internet and they said I was going to play cornerback in college, and it kind of scared me," he said. "I kind of just backed off."
Even though Maryland’s coaches insisted the Internet report was false, Austin wasn’t convinced — he committed to West Virginia in mid-January.
In 2010, in his first college matchup against the Terps, Austin caught seven passes for 106 yards and two scores as WVU won 31-17. Last season, he shelled Maryland for 122 yards on 11 catches in a 37-31 Mountaineers win.
Garvin also haunted his home-state school during that 2011 game, making nine tackles and returning an interception 37 yards to put WVU ahead 14-3.
"That pick-six was pretty exciting," said Garvin, "because that’s school’s right down the street from home."
Another Baltimore native who signed with WVU in 2009, Garvin strongly considered an offer from Maryland.
"I was really looking into going there, but my parents kind of wanted me to go out of state," he said. "Plus," and here’s the part that sounds familiar, "there was some talk about them wanting me to play different positions."
- Hark to an exiled son’s appeal,
- My mother State! to thee I kneel,
West Virginia fifth-year fullback Ryan Clarke did not receive an offer from Maryland out of Hyattsville’s DeMatha High, which only intensifies his emotions upon reuniting with players he faced in high school.
"Since I’ve been here, they haven’t beaten us," Clarke said. "So it’ll be an honor to go out and beat them. It will mean a lot to me, actually."
The Terps were 2-10 in Austin’s freshman season and 2-10 last year, sandwiched around a 9-4 campaign in 2010 — Friedgen’s final season before Randy Edsall was hired in from UConn.
"They’ve had a couple losing seasons, but everybody has got to go through them," Austin said. Garvin, meanwhile, said the perception of the Terps back in his home state is that "they’re trying to get better, trying to come up."
- I see the blush upon thy cheek,
- For thou wast ever bravely meek,
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he enjoys watching out-of-state recruits add flair to these special game weeks, the way Pennsylvania natives got pumped for Pitt and the Florida transplants built excitement for USF.
Austin suspects the cluster of Maryland natives will be feverish this week.
"I’m really not a rah-rah type of person — I just play football," he said. "But on Saturday I’m definitely going to try to turn it up and do a little something against Maryland."
WVU’S MARYLAND TRANSPLANTS
Tavon Austin WR Sr. Baltimore, Md.
John Bassler OL r-Sr. New Windsor, Md.
Jeff Braun OL r-Sr. Westminster, Md.
Ryan Clarke RB r-Sr. Glen Burnie, Md.
Josh Francis LB Sr. Damascus, Md.
Terence Garvin LB Sr. Baltimore, Md.
Troy Gloster LB r-So. Germantown, Md.
Jarrod Harper S Fr. Frostburg, Md.
Mikal Mayo CB r-Fr. Baltimore, Md.
Nana Twum Agyire CB r-Fr. Chevy Chase, Md.
Tavon Austin on the Maryland series