Catching On

For the past few years, there's been a perception that the Mountaineers don't use the tight end for anything other than blocking. With the move of a former receiver to tight end, don't be surprised if you see that position featured a little bit more in the passing game over the next couple of seasons.

Brandon Tate, the 6'3" 235-pound receiver turned tight end, was first introduced to Mountaineer fans during last week's 38-0 win over Cincinnati. Tate ran downfield on a pass play, and looked to have hauled in an acrobatic catch for a WVU first down. The replay official felt otherwise, and Tate's first catch was overturned.

"It was a catch, I'm sticking to it," said the polite Tate with a grin.

Despite the ruling, the play did show a flash of what's to come from Tate. With his size, he's certainly big enough to play tight end. His speed and pass catching abilities, both of which made him a touted receiver prospect, also could make "Mookie" an integral part of the Mountaineer offense.

Tate had to sit out last season as a non-qualifier, but reported for fall camp this past August. But after sitting out of football for a year, it's no surprise that he had an uphill climb when the season began.

"I had a tough time last year, when I had to sit out. I came in and I had built myself up to really have a good year, but it didn't go as planned. I had to work my way back up, and that's what I'm doing now – working my way back up," he said.

Originally, he had planned to play receiver. Once the season began though, it was evident that he would be buried on the depth chart behind players like Brandon Myles, Dorrell Jalloh, and Rayshawn Bolden.

"I really can't remember exactly what game it was, but it was like the fourth or fifth game of the season," he said of the move to tight end. "I figured I could be big enough to play tight end, and I know how to catch the ball."

Some would view that move as a step down. After all, the number of catches for receivers compared to the number of catches for tight ends haven't exactly been equal lately.

"I always hear people say that we don't use our tight ends, or that we never throw to our tight ends and stuff like that. Some people don't think that the tight end is really a part of the offense," said Tate, echoing the thoughts of many message board readers and casual fans.

From his experience at receiver though, he knows that's not the case.

"When I was playing receiver, I had to know all the routes of the other receivers and things like that," he explained. "Whenever the tight end is in the game, he always has a route. It's just a matter of whether he's going to get open, or whether he's going to catch the ball. But he was always running a route. The tight end really is in the offense."

So much for that myth.

With just three games remaining this season, Tate's contributions at tight end certainly won't match those of Vernon Davis at Maryland or Anthony Fasano at Notre Dame. It's unrealistic to expect a big contribution from a guy who basically has received a crash course in how to play the position over the past few weeks.

What he can do though is provide another weapon for the Mountaineer passing game. And there's no better time to begin than next week's Backyard Brawl.

"I know how much it means to the team, and really to the state of West Virginia," he said of the rivalry. "With the way we're practicing now – intense players, intense coaches – you can see that it means a lot."

You get the sense that he's comfortable with the switch. He brings a lot to the table at his new position. With basically his entire career ahead of him, it's a safe bet that this change was for the best.

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