WVU Tight End/Fullback Outlook – Most Ingredients Return

West Virginia tight end Mike O'Laughlin fights for yardage against Oklahoma

WVU Tight End/Fullback Outlook – Most Ingredients Return


West Virginia football, and indeed much of the athletic world, may have halted for now in the face of the COVID-19 threat.

With the grace of God, though, eventually we’ll all return to normalcy at some point, and when that happens, football will be discussed again. WVU fans will want to know what to expect in 2020, so we are continuing with our position-by-position look at what to anticipate from West Virginia next season.

Today we focus on the tight ends and fullbacks.

During much of the Dana Holgorsen era, the tight end and fullback positions were morphed into one, often manned by the same person – be it Elijah Wellman or Trevon Wesco – who just lined up at different spots.

West Virginia tight end TJ Banks reaches out to snare a pass

But in Neal Brown’s offensive system, the two roles are separate. Tight ends are tight ends, and fullbacks are fullbacks. Thus WVU is looking for two different sets of players rather than one group with hybrid skills.

Returning – T.J. Banks (TE, Soph.), Truck Edwards (FB, Soph.), Jackson Knipper (FB, Jr.), Mike O’Laughlin (TE, Soph.), Logan Thimons (FB, Sr.)

Departed – Elijah Drummond (FB, Sr.), Jovani Haskins (TE, Jr.), Joseph Turner (FB, Soph.)

Recently enrolled newcomers – none

Expected to enroll this summer – Charles Finley (TE, Fr.)

With Trevon Wesco in the lineup in 2018, West Virginia got more production out of the tight end position than it had at any time since Anthony Becht departed the program as a first-round NFL draft pick 18 years prior. Like Becht, Wesco was drafted by the New York Jets, and he left big shoes to fill at WVU.

Brown’s offense still used a tight end a great deal last year, as Mike O’Laughlin (6-5, 250 lbs., Soph.) and Jovani Haskins (6-4, 245 lbs. Sr.) split most of the snaps at that spot in 2019, even working in tandem at times. Both caught some passes – O’Laughlin six for 24 yards and Haskins four for 18 yards – but were used more as blockers than receivers.

As West Virginia seeks to improve its run game in 2020, its tight ends need to become even better blockers.

That may not have sat well with Haskins, who entered his name into the transfer portal at the conclusion of the 2019 season. His departure will clear the way for O’Laughlin, who was earning more playing time in any event.

Haskins’ transfer also opens up the possibility for additional playing time for T.J. Banks (6-5, 253 lbs., Soph.). A promising recruit coming out of the Pittsburgh suburb of Duquesne a couple of years ago, Banks saw no action in his first 20 games with the Mountaineers. He worked his way into the tight end rotation the last four games during the 2019 season, and showed a willingness to block, though he wasn’t targeted for any passes. He’ll try to continue his progression this spring, and with Haskins gone, Banks’ development will be key.

Charles Finley (6-4, 215 lbs., Fr.) will also be added to the tight end group this summer when he arrives at WVU from DePaul Catholic High School in Irvington, New Jersey. Finley is perceived as similar to O’Laughlin in that he was a lanky receiver in high school – 29 catches for 366 yards and seven TDs in helping DePaul to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 3 State Championship in 2019 – but is projected to have the ability to add weight to his frame and be able to eventually play a true tight end at the Power 5 level. Such a transformation in size and strength took O’Laughlin a redshirt season to achieve, and Finley likely could use a year away from game action, concentrating mainly on the weight room.

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The fullback in Brown’s offense is an entirely different job than tight end.

Logan Thimons (6-0, 231 lbs., Sr.) was WVU’s top fullback last year, and he got a great deal of action early in the season. But as the Mountaineer run game struggled and West Virginia used more and more four-receiver sets, the opportunities for the fullback diminished. Thimons is eligible to return as a fifth-year senior in 2020, but a good student who is planning on furthering his post-graduate work pursuing physician’s assistant training, he may bypass his final football season to concentrate on academics.

If Thimons returns, he will again be the top candidate for WVU’s block-first (and second and third) fullback spot. If not former Western Michigan transfer Jackson Knipper (6-2, 244 lbs., Sr.) will get an opportunity to at the fullback job.

Another intriguing prospect at fullback is Jason “Truck” Edwards (5-10, 212 lbs., Soph.). A Bluefield (W.Va.) High product, Edwards was a preferred walk-on at Pitt as a true freshman in 2018, but then decided to transfer to WVU the next summer. He sat out last season, but may factor into the Mountaineer plans in the future. He was two-way dynamo in high school, leading the Beavers to a 14-0 record the 2017 Class AA state championship. He had 130 tackles as a linebacker and also rushed for 1,154 yards and 24 touchdowns as a running back. When Edwards originally arrived at West Virginia, he was listed as a linebacker but he’s since moved over to offense. He could play a conventional fullback role, but because he has better ball skills than the others currently at that position, he also could get his hands on the football some. He potentially could even see some time as a running back, especially in short-yardage situations.




 

Home Page forums WVU Tight end/Fullback Outlook – Most Ingredients Return

  • This topic has 4 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated by Greg HunterGreg Hunter.
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  • #114635

    WVU Tight end/Fullback Outlook – Most Ingredients Return West Virginia football, and indeed much of the athletic world, may have halted for now in the
    [See the full post at: WVU Tight end/Fullback Outlook – Most Ingredients Return]

    #114650

    Too bad Holgs didn’t leave a year earlier.  We could have landed 4* Strange from Parkersburg.  Holgs couldn’t commit to him as a TE and he took the PSU offer.

    Holgs really screwed the pooch recruiting kids in the 2019 class.  Along with Strange, two of our best OL in years 4* Nester and 5* Wright left the state along with another OL 3* Willimason to Lvlle. The bets rated athlete 3* Richardson to MooU.

    We were able to survive with 3* Martin and 3* Malone.  Malone only came in as a walk on after Pitt pulled his schollie.

    It will be a long time before we see that much talent in one class in WV.  Hopefully we can keep them here next time.

    #114656

    I think Sean Martin is quite underrated.

    Would have liked to see Strange at WVU too, and think he might have also been an excellent DE.

    Adding to Greg’s analysis, Banks catches the heck out of the ball in practice.

    #114663

    keep Knipper at 244(all muscle) and have him meet the LB or saftey in the hole…WVU will gain yards. Put two 6’5″ 250lb tight ends on each end of line. Throw 5-8 yard passes..WVU will move the ball. The 8 yard passes inside the 5 should be scores…right????

    #114665

    Tight ends are one of those positions that’s always hard to project, because so few of those who wind up at that position in college previously were tight ends in high school, Many, like Mike O’Laughlin, T.J. Banks and Anthony Becht, were high school wide receivers who had big frames and wound up as tight ends in college. Others were high school quarterbacks like Trevon Wesco and Jovani Haskins. None of those were asked to block in high school like they are as tight ends in college, so you’re never positive who will be good and who will be bad in that role. It took Wesco five years, but by his senior season, he was an excellent blocker. Becht the same. O’Laughlin shows promise but he still has a long ways to go. Banks is physically capable but needs to prove it. Haskins never developed into a decent blocker, and obviously now is transferring. Tight end is a tricky position to recruit, especially if you’re going to ask them to do a reasonable amount of blocking.

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Home Page forums WVU Tight end/Fullback Outlook – Most Ingredients Return

Home Page forums WVU Tight End/Fullback Outlook – Most Ingredients Return