MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Neal Brown hasn’t been too keen on utilizing tight ends since taking over WVU’s football program in 2019. With a new offensive coordinator running things, though, things might change in 2022.
Graham Harrell knows what it takes to succeed in the Big 12, telling GBN in January that it starts with a strong run game. Of course, there’s no doubt that the former Red Raider gunslinger will want to explode down the field with some passing, and he has a talented wide receiver corps with which to do that.
WVU did, however, load up on tight ends this season, many of which are on the roster to help with the run. Brown stated in the spring that they will look to go into more 12 personnel packages (one running back, two tight ends) for their ground game this season, and his offseason additions truly reflect that notion.
Entering the summer, WVU has nine tight ends on the roster.
Our roster review series continues with a first look at the trenches:
Mike O’Laughlin – redshirt senior
Although he has held the top spot on the depth chart since 2019, O’Laughlin has struggled to burst onto the gridiron. He was the top receiving tight end that season, but only made six receptions for 24 yards as WVU’s struggling pass game did have the advantage of a deep wide receiver corps.
O’Laughlin’s production trended upward in the following two seasons, but again, he has struggled to become a mainstay in the lineup. He had his best season in 2020, playing in nine of WVU’s 10 games and catching 15 passes for 137 yards in the campaign, and capping the year off with a touchdown in the Liberty Bowl. Although the scope of his game goes beyond his stats, 2021 appeared to be another step in the right direction as he upped his production to 2.2 catches per game — but the season was cut short as he sustained a season-ending injury in WVU’s game against TCU.
The Illinoisan missed the spring season due to that injury, but he is still poised to take the top spot in the depth chart in the fall. With a new quarterback (be it transfer JT Daniels, freshman Nicco Marchiol, or somebody else), O’Laughlin will look to make 2022 his breakout season.
Brian Polendey – redshirt senior
While O’Laughlin watched from the sidelines, Brian Polendey ran with WVU’s first-team offense in the spring and impressed his coaching staff from his first reps as a Mountaineer.
Polendey comes to Morgantown with a wide and diverse set of Division I experience. He spent his first three seasons with Miami, appearing in 14 games primarily as a blocking tight end. He held the same role at his next stop, playing in 15 games for Colorado State.
This season, Polendey hopes to be a more balanced tight end. He played with the Blue squad in the Gold-Blue Spring Game, catching one of his two targets for 10 yards as the only tight end to log a reception. Still, Neal Brown emphasized after the season’s first practice that Polendey was added to the roster to help the run game — although adding some catches to the pile would definitely be a plus for the Mountaineers.
Treylan Davis – redshirt freshman
Davis appears to be the third man on the depth chart, if there is anything to gather from the spring game. The Jackson, Ohio native did get some playing time in 2021, seeing 29 snaps, but mostly on special teams.
He did get some time in the spring game, though, and was even targeted once — although he was unable to reel it in.
Corbin Page – freshman
The Huntington product was eager to become a Mountaineer, becoming the class’s first commitment about two full years before officially signing on in 2021.
Page, a consensus three-star tight end, did not enroll early at WVU, so he did miss the spring season. With a crowded tight end depth chart, it is difficult to truly tell how much burn Page will get this year, but he is surely an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on at least for the future.