Remember our base classification system that we are using to classify the players on hand for spring practice:
Starter: Players with established Division I starting experience Contributor: Players with significant backup time at their primary position Unproven: Those with only special teams experience or minimal playing time
STARTER: Fullback Elijah Wellman is the stalwart of stalwarts on the Mountaineer offense. He forged a role for himself early in his career, and is a rowdy blocker with a love of the physical side of the game. A lot of what WVU does begins with his lead blocks or pass protection help.
UNPROVEN: Tight end Trevon Wesco was targeted a few times last year, but injuries prevented early season action, and his one catch for six yards and a TD isn't enough to push him to the next level – yet. That could change this spring, as he has one of the widest ranges of possible outcomes possible in terms of both personal improvement and potential contributions to the team. Behind him, redshirt freshmen walk-ons Matt Bezjak and Nate Green are the penciled in back-ups. Some position moves, which we'll discus shortly, have left this position a bit thinner than expected, but it could be bolstered by moves from fullback.
At fullback, walk-on redhsirt freshman Elijah Drummond made some noise on the scout team a year ago, and will make a bid for playing time in a backup roles and on special teams. A high school tailback, Drummond could bring a little more shiftiness to a run or two from that position. Freshman Maverick Wolfley, who enrolled in January, will make his first efforts to impress. He might be considered the heir apparent behind the senior Wellman, but he will have to show that he can approach the former's consistent performance, especially in the blocking game. There's also walk-on Matt Vucelik, who is entering his third year in the program. Vucelik knows the ropes, and could be a blocking and heavy short yardage situation blocking option. He's also played tight end, and that versatility could help him through the course of the season.
Maverick's brother Stone, in his second year in the program, was moved to defensive end for the spring after having played at tight end last year. While head coach Dana Holgorsen said the move was made due to concerns over his blocking ability, it also makes sense, as the defensive line saw Chase Behrndt and Alec Shriner move over to the offensive side.
Will tight ends become a bigger part of the passing offense? That question has been on the lips of many Mountaineer fans since the days of Mark Raugh and Lovett Purnell, and while it gets overblown at times, it seemed like that could finally come to fruition this year. At least, that is, judging from the hints dropped by head coach Dana Holgorsen recently, as well as recent trends in recruiting offers. It's not likely that WVU will show much of this during the limited open sessions during the spring, or in the Gold-Blue Game on April 15, but if there are going to be more than one or two passes per game directed at the tight ends, or if the running game continues as a heavy emphasis, it should be a busy spring for both the fullbacks and the tight ends. Still, there's no proven depth at the position, so it is going to take a quantum leap in performance and confidence if that is to occur.
If WVU commits to the run game even more, however, it is going to need more players to work their way into the proven and contributor categories. Wellman, for all his toughness, can't play every snap, and the Mountaineers need another dependable blocker to spell him, and also to play alongside in short yardage situations. Conversions of those plays has been an issue at times, and more productive bodies at tight end and fullback is one part of the answer. Auditions for those roles will play a big part in the development of both positions over the next month.
It's also interesting to note that at these positions, which require a lot of mental and physical toughness, West Virginia natives are in the majority. Of the seven listed fullbacks and tight ends on the spring roster, six call the Mountain State home.
Previously In The Series: