Right around this time last year, Tyler Urban probably thought he was done considering playing football at West Virginia University. It was August of 2007 when Urban, then a rising senior at Norwin Senior High School outside of Pittsburgh, gave a verbal commitment to the Maryland Terrapins.
But as the recruiting process continued throughout his senior season at Norwin, things began to change – on multiple fronts. First, his lead recruiter at Maryland was let go. Second, the head coach at West Virginia moved on. And third, his lead recruiter for the Mountaineers – then-tight ends coach Bill Stewart, was promoted to the top job.
As the Mountaineers continued to recruit Urban, the thought of playing in blue and gold became much easier for the fullback/tight end prospect to fathom, especially after a chat with newly-hired offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen prior to signing day.
"He said he was going to open the offense up here a little bit more and get the tight end involved," Urban recalled. "I thought that that would be an exciting thing for me to be a part of."
One official visit, a signed letter of intent and six months later, Urban is in Morgantown – just an hour and fifteen minutes from his Western Pennsylvania home – and has already to be quite the catch by Stewart, Mullen and the rest of the WVU coaching staff.
Despite having not even been through an entire two weeks of his first collegiate preseason camp, Urban looks as though he may be able to contribute on the field as early as the August 30 season opener against Villanova. Splitting reps at tight end between the first and second team, the talented tight end/fullback has shown promise both as a pass-catcher and as a blocker.
Although former wide receiver Will Johnson was moved to fullback/tight end during the spring, Urban sees no reason why the position can't accommodate both players.
"I'm more of a blocking, bigger tight end," Urban explained. "Will is obviously faster and quicker. I guess we're two different types of tight ends, two different styles.
"We can both go out on routes, we're just two different types of tight ends," he continued. "We offer different things."
Of course it hasn't all come easy for Urban in the early-going. The rigors of big-time college football can be a burden on even the most seasoned of veterans, let alone a true freshman getting his first taste of the Big East. The first few days of camp in particular served as an unofficial "Welcome to College Football" on-the-job orientation for Urban.
"The first week is pretty hectic," he said. "You have a lot of meetings, and then you're just out there on the field. It starts to wear on you a little bit during the second week. It's still exciting, though."
Urban also admitted that the biggest adjustment he had to make right away was getting used to the faster pace of the college game.
"I knew that it was going to be a lot faster in college, but as soon as you step out there and get a couple of reps, you realize how fast the plays are going," he said. "You've got to know what you're supposed to do in a split second, especially with the tempo of this offense. You've got to be on the ball quick, get lined up and then play well."
As preseason practice winds down, though, the game has ever-so-slightly slowed down for the newcomers, especially those such as Urban who look to be on track for avoiding a redshirt in 2008.
This time last year, it looked as though Tyler Urban would be spending his college football career in the red, white and black of the Maryland Terrapins. One year later, as a Mountaineer, the talented teenager is moving up the depth chart at anything but a turtle's pace.