Tight End An Evolving Position At WVU
Of all the position rooms in the West Virginia camp, the quirkiest of all houses the tight ends, if you want to dare call them that.
In many ways, this is the mystery position of the Mountaineers, a position that for many years was either lacking or ignored in the Mountaineer offense. It came in as a branch of Mike Leach’s Air Raid philosophy and has evolved into some far more versatile, far more likely to run and show power football even with the unique passing and pass catching skills of quarterback Will Grier and wide receivers David Sills and Gary Jennings et al.
First of all, let us take a look at the personnel that suddenly give WVU a workable group at the position.
At the top is Trevon Wesco, who is unique in that he is playing at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds and was an all-state basketball and football player, but hardly a tight end.
“I weighed 212 pounds,” he admitted. “I never thought I’d be this big. I added 60 pounds … but it all went to the right places.”
He left Musselman High and played for Mark Duda at Lackawanna Junior College, and then came to WVU and got his feet wet last year with most special teams stuff … while learning the tight end routine.
Then there is 6-foot-4, 245-pound Jovani Haskins, who came from Bergenfield, N.J., via the University of Miami. He figured to blow right by Wesco, but that’s a battle that is still engaged.
Why Haskins left Miami isn’t known, but coach Mark Richt admitted that he spoke to Haskins two weeks before he departed and said, “We both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else.”
Haskins had to sit out last season.
Then there is perhaps one of the most interesting prospects in college football in Jesse Beal, who at 28 is in his first season of football after a six-year minor league baseball career as a pitcher.
Drated by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft, the 6-foot-6 Beal has gone from 210 pounds to 260 from when he signed and brings a lack of football experience, but a full lifetime of practical experience, actually being older than some of the WVU coaches.
“He brings a unique perspective to the room,” said tight ends coach Dan Gerberry. “I can only talk so much about life and my experiences. I think it resonates so much more when you have an individual who has been a professional athlete. Not many have been professional athletes and come back to college.”
While Beal is learning the ins and outs — as a freshman, which means he could be playing college ball at 32 or so — he is a leader.
“He can be a leader in the aspects of life that really matter. Football obviously is very important to all of us. It’s a passion. It’s what we do, but when you leave here there are other things that matter,” Gerberry said.
“He’s a resource these guys can use. He brings an element of maturity that we have not had.”
All of this brings to exactly what tight end really is in this offense, considering that he sometimes will be a fullback, sometimes a pass catcher, sometimes a power blocker.
“I don’t believe it’s fair to call what we do as a unit a tight end,” Gerberry said. “If you go to a lot of schools in the country, you have guys who are put their hands down in the ground and are attached to the line of scrimmage.
“You can do that here as well, but you can also move to certain places and be a fullback or go and be a wide receiver and that’s who you are,” Gerberry continued. “But here, you have to have a unique ability where you can block, you can run, you can catch. You have to have the attributes of a lineman while having the finesse of a receiver. It’s a unique position.”
And these are unique players who will give a new dimension to coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense, which expanded some last year with Elijah Wellman, but he was mostly a fullback.
“I was playing tight end when I first got here, not fullback,” Wesco said. “Last year it changed we did more fullback, now we’re back to tight ends. You got to get accustomed to it.”
Why, one may wonder, would anyone who was a highly regarded fullback or tight end come to WVU?
“I’m just looking forward to doing anything to help the team win ball games,” Wesco said. “If that’s where they want me, where they want to use me, so be it.”
Make no doubt that quarterback Will Grier is thrilled to add a different look to the offense with options to use tight ends as receivers in a different way, perhaps giving him a chance to dump the ball off rather than trying to make plays with his legs.
And, if he does have to scramble, a tight end will add another blocker to help clear the way.