Memphis HC likes Calvin Austin’s fit in Canada attack: ‘I don’t think you need to be worried’ about his size
Ryan Silverfield was the offensive line coach and running play coordinator for the Memphis Tigers in 2018 when the small wide receiver by the name of Calvin Austin III first walked into the building. Not just short, but short, he was a real freshman who walked in 2017, even though he would be redshirted that year. it wasn’t the most memorable first impression.
“I just remember this skinny guy – probably 149 pounds at the time – just this little guy who looked like a little kid,” Silverfield, now the head coach, told Brian Batko for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “He sat in the back of the team room and I was like, ‘What is this? This is not a good choice here’”.
Of course, things have a way of working out, and Austin put his skills on tape and in the field. Although he hasn’t played much of an attacking role until 2020, his last two seasons have shown what he can do. He caught 63 passes for 1,053 yards and 11 touchdowns that year, and followed in 2021 with 74 catches for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had three combined rushing and returning touchdowns during that span.
Despite standing just under 5’8” and weighing 170 pounds at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, Austin’s defining trait is what stood out the most. That would be his sheer speed, exemplified by his sprint time of 4.32 seconds for 40 yards. Despite his small size, it was enough to have him drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers to plug into an offense led by Matt Canada who should have a plan for how to use him.
“He can benefit from doing that kind of stuff, so I think it’s a unique fit, system-wise, because Matt does flying sweeps, does movement,” Silverfield told Batko at about the opportunity of his former catcher in Pittsburgh. “So if you’re still worried about Calvin’s size, I don’t think you need to be because they’ll be able to move him around so much.”
Silverfield probably knows a thing or two about the Steelers’ intentions for Austin that we don’t, given that they would naturally have spoken to him several times during the pre-draft process in order to get a feel for the player.
Pittsburgh has natural ties to Memphis (head coach Mike Tomlin was even a graduate assistant there in 1996), but nonetheless, by the very nature of his skills, one would imagine that any team willing to invest in a player like Austin will have ideas. in mind on how to maximize what he can offer, and that includes finding ways to get the ball to him through space.
Going into the 2022 season, Austin will have to fight for playing time behind Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, as well as fellow rookie George Pickens, who was drafted two rounds earlier. This is truly the first year with Canada as offensive coordinator in which he is expected to lead an offense that truly reflects his intentions, so it will be interesting to see how the Memphis product stacks up. integrate in there.