Passing (And Blocking) Grades For WVU Tight Ends
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Employed on some 46 offensive snaps in West Virginia’s 40-14 win over Tennessee, Mountaineer tight ends Trevon Wesco and Jovani Haskins got more playing time than many observers might have expected. While the intent to utilize the tight ends more in 2018 was an open secret, there was still doubt as to just how many plays that might constitute, especially following a 2017 season in which the same sort of preseason ballyhoo was followed by a very small role.
Some of that was due to the presence of rowdy fullback Elijah Wellman, who more than adequately filled the blocking need. With three receivers being the minimum that the Mountaineers want to employ on most plays, there just wasn’t room for a tight end on the field.
This year, the situation was reversed. Wesco and Haskins are the best to players at the position — which includes the fullbacks — and thus were used in a variety of manners. One or both were on the field for a total of 46 plays against Tennessee, and they filled many roles, from lead blocker in the backfield to wingback to traditional tight end. Each got out into pass patterns on many occasions, with Wesco snaring two balls for 35 yards and Haskins one for nine. The highlight was the last, when Wesco got a match-up he liked and rumbled up the field for a 29-yard gain, disposing of a potential tackler in the process.
“I don’t make a lot of moves,” the former high school quarterback said with a smile. “I like to get north.”
While the catches were the visible highlight of the day, the blocking provided by both, especially Wesco, was also notable. Head coach Dana Holgorsen mentioned that as one of the items standing out on video review, while tight ends coach Dan Gerberry concurred.
“I think [the catches] are fun, but it’s not what is important to us. At the end of the game, whether we have eight catches or zero catches, what’s important is that we have a win,” Gerberry detailed. “My guys understand that, and they are all in.”
It’s been a long process in getting to this point. WVU simply hasn’t had tight ends on the roster with the pass catching abilities of Haskins and Wesco, thus their roles have been limited. The Mountaineer coaching staff had to decide to commit to the position and recruit to it, and obviously that doesn’t yield immediate results. Getting Wesco from Lackawanna and Haskins from Miami helped speed the process, but a lot of work remained.
“Obviously Coach Spavital and Coach Holgorsen put a lot of time into it,” Gerberry said. “It’s been a long process, and it hasn’t developed overnight. It started back last winter with a vision of where we wanted to go. We’ve gotten to a place where we feel we can do it and be effective.”
Again, that effectiveness wasn’t limited to just passes to Wesco and Haskins. Their alignments in so many different positions caused a number of on the fly adjustments by the defense, and help position the Mountaineers for future plays that can be schemed against those reactions. There was also the running purist’s dream late in the game — Wesco and Haskins aligned as wingbacks on either end of the line, providing a front for some power runs.
That alignment helped West Virginia stretch the defensive front and establish a wider edge, which was then exploited with inside runs. Kennedy McKoy, Leddie Brown and Martell Pettaway all had productive rushes over the final two series — a promising development that can hopefully be utilized to secure future leads.
With all the good news, though, Gerberry still sees the potential for more.
“I think Trevon did a good job. I think he can be better,” the animated assistant said. “I think the expectations he has for himself and the expectations we have in our room are for him to be great. Being average is unacceptable for him. I’m not saying he was average at all. He had a good game. But I do believe he has more.”
If he does, that’s a scary thought for future Mountaineer opponents, who can no longer ignore West Virginia tight ends as they head out into pass patterns.
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Gerberry spent two years of his young coaching career at Youngstown State, which serves as this week’s opponent. Usually in contact with members of the staff where he served as an offensive quality control coach in 2013 and tight ends and fullbacks mentor in 2014, a communications blackout has fallen as the game approaches.
“I don’t know if it’s me or it’s them,” Gerberry joked when asked about the frequency of contact between himself and his former compatriots on the Penguin staff. “There has been zero communication since late in the fall camp.”