WVU’s Haskins Hopes To Continue Path Blazed By Wesco
MORGANTOWN — In a year in which the West Virginia football team might consider changing its logo from the Flying WV to a Flying WV with question mark upon it, one of the most intriguing questions surrounds the tight end position.
It’s expected to be manned by Jovani Haskins, who last year played behind NFL draft pick Trevon Wesco, and while he showed great promise you never know until you are the man.
However, if you seeking a positive sign in this direction, take note that on Friday the junior Haskins was one of 59 named to the John Mackey Award watch list. The award is presented each year to college football’s top tight end.
This is a tricky nomination for not only isn’t Haskins a well-known name, but no one really is sure how the tight end will fit into Neal Brown’s first offense at WVU, although the fact that last season his ability to catch 16 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown while his blocking improved screams out that there might be a pretty good player waiting to blossom.
“I learned, definitely, that you have to be a complete player at that position,” Haskins noted this spring when asked what he had gained from understudying Wesco. “Everyone can catch balls, but the guys that are able to get down there, make blocks, stick their head in there, just be a tough guy in there. I definitely learned that about being a complete tight end.”
That is key, according to the man who will coach him this year, Travis Trickett.
“The biggest thing I tell all of our guys, whether it’s the tight ends or the slot receivers, is you have to be a complete player,” Trickett acknowledged. “You have to be able to physically dominate your opponent not only blocking, but route running, your releases and everything we’ve asked those guys to do.
“We focus on being football players. Some guys probably think of themselves as just route guys or this and this. We’re not doing that. You have to be a full football player.”
The idea of thinking of yourself as a football player rather than a position player adds so much to your approach to the game and that’s what produces winning teams.
“If you want to win, I really do believe you have to be a really great perimeter blocking team,” Trickett said. “That’s what we can control. When we’ve become the best perimeter blocking team in the Big 12, then we’ll have a chance to win the Big 12.
“Until we get to that point, it’s going to be tough. We have some skill guys that can do some things with the ball. That’s what we’re developing is that mindset right now.”
A tight end is sort of like a baseball utility player. He can line up tight, split out, in the backfield, go in motion, even do some fullback things.
“Like I told them, at the tight end position,you have to play the slot receiver position. You have to do all the on-the-ball stuff, and then, you have to do all the slot and in the backfield stuff, too,” Trickett explained.
“And that’s really three different positions. That’s three different fundamentals; that’s three different techniques. You’re involved in the run game, the passing game and pass protection. So, you have a lot on your plate.”
“I’m split out as well, but they like bringing me in as well, getting me involved in the blocking game and being in the trenches a little with my hand down. So, I like that a lot,” Haskins said.
He knows that after Wesco’s performance last year, a lot of attention will be cast upon him, especially with the offense changing away from the Will Grier-Gary Jennings-David Sills trifecta.
“I think [Wesco’s play] definitely gave us a jump forward and put a couple more eyes on us, which I appreciate Trevon for doing,” Haskins said. “It’ll leave my foot in the door a little bit. Just him leaving his mark and everything he did definitely helped us.”
What are they shooting for at tight end? Nothing short of creating another Rob Gronkowski.
“I’m challenging all of our guys,” Trickett said toward the end of the spring. “I showed them (Rob) Gronkowski. They did a little montage, and I went to them and said, ‘This is the definition of being big. This your advantage. Take advantage of advantages.’
“We have to be complete, but we also need to make sure we’re great at what we’re designed to be great at.”