Looking At WVU’s Position Battles – Tight Ends/Fullbacks
In his final season as West Virginia’s head coach, Dana Holgorsen utilized the tight end position more than at any other time during his tenure with WVU. But now with a new head coach and a new offensive system, what will the role of the tight end be this coming season?
Today we’ll look at WVU’s tight ends and fullbacks, as we continue our position-by-position examination of the 2019 Mountaineers.
(Note – Year of eligibility for returning players listed below is for the 2019 season, while that listed for the departing players is their 2018 class. The * indicates a newcomer who is already enrolled at WVU.)
Returning – Jovani Haskins (Jr.), Logan Thimons (Jr.), Elijah Drummond (Jr.), Joseph Turner (So.), Jesse Beal (RFr.), T.J. Banks (RFr.), Mike O’Laughlin (RFr.)
Departing – Trevon Wesco (Sr.)
Newcomers – none
This past season the tight end position emerged from a decade in the shadows, as Trevon Wesco developed into an outstanding all-purpose player. Lining up at fullback, h-back and tight end, the Martinsburg, W.Va., native developed into an excellent blocker and also a quality receiving option. His 26 receptions were the most by a WVU tight end since Anthony Becht hauled in 35 passes in 1999 on his way to becoming a first round NFL draft choice. Wesco is now headed to the NFL as well, leaving Neal Brown to look for a replacement. There is one obvious option waiting to take over, as Jovani Haskins (6-4, 245 lbs., Jr.) proved to be a nice backup behind Wesco last year. The former Miami transfer caught 16 passes for 148 yards himself, and while he wasn’t as efficient a blocker as Wesco, the former high school quarterback was still fairly new to that assignment.
Dana Holgorsen also left WVU’s new coaches with two other promising tight ends in redshirt freshmen T.J. Banks (6-5, 253 lbs.) and Mike O’Laughlin (6-5, 231 lbs.). Neither played in a game last season – in fact, O’Laughlin injured his knee in August, so he was very limited in his practice work in the fall – but each could very well be major factors this coming season. Both were more receiver than tight end in high school, so they’ll have to adapt to the blocking requirements, but they have the size and athletic skills necessary to play the position. O’Laughlin will be able to participate in only non-contact practice work this spring as he continues to return from his knee injury.
In addition, West Virginia also has an intriguing walk-on tight end. Jesse Beal (6-6, 262 lbs.) is a 28-year-old redshirt freshman who spent 10 years as a Minor League Baseball pitcher before deciding last winter to try his hand at something else. He enrolled at WVU in January of 2018 with a major of sport psychology, and decided to give football – a sport he did not play at South County (Va.) High School – a try.
Last year Holgorsen and Jake Spavital adjusted West Virginia’s offense to utilize tight ends much more than it had previously. How Brown uses these tight ends still remains to be seen. In the past, his tight ends at Troy were primarily blockers, though the Trojans threw to them a bit more last season, as they caught a combined 12 passes in 2018.
Wesco’s versatility allowed the Mountaineers to not only use him as a tight end, but also as a lead blocking fullback. When WVU wanted to use a tight end and fullback in the lineup together, Logan Thimons would get some playing time at the fullback spot, which in the Neal Brown system is called the S-back. The 6-foot, 231-pound converted linebacker was a special teams regular and also was inserted as a blocking fullback in certain formations. Troy used a fullback in a similar role under Brown, so the position should still get some opportunities in WVU’s new look offense. Walk-on Elijah Drummond (6-0, 231 lbs., Jr.) figures to compete with Thimons for the fullback job this spring, as will Joseph Turner (6-0, 228 lbs., So.).
Previously In The Series