WVU Football Questions For 2018: Tight Ends
Question 6 – Tight Ends/Fullbacks – It may seem odd to put a position that has been underutilized during the Dana Holgorsen era so high on this list, but it appears there are significant changes coming at West Virginia to how it uses its tight ends.
Elijah Wellman was a major part of WVU’s offensive scheme at his fullback position the past four years, playing in 51 games in that time. The Huntington native didn’t have a lot of touches (35 carries and 15 receptions), but his lead blocking opened many a hole for Mountaineer running backs. But the co-captain of the 2017 squad was a senior this past season, and now West Virginia must find his replacement. And WVU appears ready to tweak its offense to go away from using a traditional fullback and emphasizing tight ends more.
While there’s not another scholarship fullback on West Virginia current roster, walk-on Elijah Drummond likely could handle the chores. The 6-foot, 232-pounder from Bridgeport, W.Va., played in a few games as a redshirt freshman this past season and showed promise.
But the Mountaineers are investing more in the tight end position for the future than they are at fullback. Trevon Wesco has been the only scholarship tight end on the WVU roster the past two years. He’s been more of a blocker during that time, catching just a pair of passes in his career as he heads into his senior year.
Wesco is now about to get a lot of company at the tight end position, as West Virginia will have three more available this coming season.
Jovani Haskins has been in the wings since this past summer, waiting for his opportunity at game action. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound product of Bergenfield, N.J., spent his true freshman season in 2016 with the University of Miami (Fla.) before transferring to WVU last June. Now he’s ready to put his impressive physical tools to use in game action for the first time at the college level. A former high school quarterback and linebacker, he’s regarded as an athletically gifted pass catcher. The thing he will have to prove is if he can handle the dirty work a tight end also must perform.
That same question is true of the two high school tight ends WVU signed as part of the class of 2018 – T.J. Banks and Mike O’Laughlin. Both have the size of a tight end – each is 6-foot-5 with Banks weighing 240 and O’Laughlin 230 – but were more receivers in high school then end-of-the-line tight ends. Banks caught 48 passes last year and was first-team all-state at East Allegheny High School outside of Pittsburgh. O’Laughlin hauled in 54 receptions in 2017 and was a two-time all-state selection for Fenwick High School, which is in Chicago.
Without a scholarship fullback on the team, West Virginia figures to use its tight ends in a variety of roles – tradition end-of-the-line tight ends, in a flex position like a slot receiver, as an h-back and also in the backfield as a fullback. So, while all these new tight ends appear very capable of becoming outstanding receivers, their ability to handle the other aspects of their job will determine their ultimate wealth to the Mountaineers.
And we should not forget about Wesco, who has been a solid contributor at WVU as its lone scholarship tight end the past two seasons. The 6-foot-3, 259-pound senior-to-be, who is an alum of Musselman (W.Va.) High School, hasn’t been much of a threat as a receiver in his time at West Virginia, but he has become a good blocker.
Wesco and Haskins each will likely be utilized in a variety of roles next year, and if WVU truly uses multiple tight end sets, as is currently the plan, there will probably be the need for at least one of the true freshmen to see immediate action as well.
The use of the tight ends next season will almost certainly be the most significant schematic change the Mountaineers have in any play phase in 2018.