MORGANTOWN — When No. 22 West Virginia opens its 2017 campaign against longtime rival No. 21 Virginia Tech on Sunday, Sept. 3, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., fans can rest assured that the Hokies and veteran defensive coordinator Bud Foster will be ready for the Mountaineers’ vaunted running attack, led by senior Justin Crawford.
But, first year offensive coordinator Jake Spivital may have a few surprises up his sleeves when the two programs clash for the first time since the 2005 season.
“I think over the years that position (tight end) has evolved a little bit,” Spivital said. “You’re going to move those guys all over the field, in and out of different sets to keep the defense a little off-guard.
“You look at (redshirt senior tight end/fullback) Eli (Wellman), who you see more as a fullback body type, but that kid is going to be attached, he’s going to be detached, he’s going to be split out, he’s going to be all over the place. That’s kind of what we’re asking with our tight ends. So, him and (redshirt junior tight end/fullback Trevon) Wesco are going to be the guys that you are going to see more.”
Wesco, the Musselman High School product, saw action in 10 of WVU’s 13 games a year ago. The 6-foot-3 receiver saw action on 256 total plays, 170 on offense with a season-high of 48 plays in the victory over Kansas.
The redshirt sophomore, who spent two seasons at Lackawanna College (the second recovering from a season-ending injury), made his first catch in Morgantown a memorable one when he hauled in a Skyler Howard attempt and carried it 6 yards for a score in WVU’s win at Iowa State.
Wesco came out of the spring atop the depth chart at tight end and appears to be the kind of target Spivital and University of Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier have been looking for to attack the middle of the field against defenses like the one they will see with Tech.
“I think it’s different when you go up against a guy like Bud Foster, who’s very intelligent in terms of how he matches up his defenders on certain guys,” Spivital said. “If they feel like Wesco can stretch the field vertical enough, then they’ll put a faster body type on him when they match and cover. So, I think that does help and can clear up some other opportunities for other people to get the ball, but if we can find those teams that aren’t really going to match their personnel very well, then we can get a mismatch with Wesco in the game.”
An all-state football and basketball player for the Applemen, Wesco could see action in the backfield as well.
“I think he’s doing a little bit of both positions. He’s more of the tight end body type when you look at him. He’s had a great summer and a great fall camp. The improvements that he had from the spring going into the end of fall camp has been a tremendous jump. He’s put on good weight; he’s about 270 pounds. He’s moving really good. I think he’s going to give us some added body types in a game, and I feel comfortable putting him in.”
Wesco’s rise in the passing attack could go a long way in alleviating the loss of junior Jovon Durante, who elected to leave the program following spring drills, and sophomore Marcus Simms, who has been suspended for at least the first game due to a DUI arrest.
Backing up Wesco at the position will be Wellman and redshirt freshman Matt Bezjak (Loveland, Ohio).
On the defensive side of the football, veteran coordinator Tony Gibson believes the unit is becoming more settled at the cornerback position.
“I’m feeling good,” Gibson said. “I think we have three guys right now that I’d be comfortable with in game action. Still, we have six or seven practices to go before we have to get into it, but with (senior cornerback) Mike Daniels (Jr.), (senior cornerback Elijah) Battle and (redshirt sophomore cornerback) Hakeem Bailey right now. Those guys have separated themselves from the rest and they’re going to be the three guys we throw out first and see what happens.”
WVU will use the remainder of this week mock preparation for when the season begins for real Sunday.