"It's an uphill battle," said Tyler Urban, fresh off the practice field after the first day in shells. "It has been the past couple of seasons. I've been in the game. It's just pass catching is what people notice. I had a few catches last season; I would just like more of an increased role."
Urban has been told that passing would be a bigger part of the offense this season, with three players vying for the starting quarterback position and anxious to show off their passing arms. Starting quarterback Geno Smith and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen have both assured Urban that he will be used more than he has in the past.
"Coach Mullen said that I was going to be more of a factor," said Urban. "Geno [Smith] said I was going to be more of a factor. Throughout summer drills and everything, it seemed like I was going to be getting more involved this year."
As a sophomore, Urban finished with nine receptions and one touchdown catch against Connecticut. While he hasn't seen the ball that often, Urban is often put into the game for his blocking skills, which is somewhere that he sees a difference between himself and fellow tight end, senior Will Johnson. Instead of competing for playing time against Johnson, Urban prefers when the two are in the game together.
"I am more of a blocking tight end where Will [Johnson] used to play wide receiver here so he's definitely better at the route running and everything," said Urban. "I think when we're on the field together we complement each other well."
Joining that duo is Chris Snook, a high school tailback who also has a great deal of athletic ability. Combined, the trio probably gives WVU its best group of tight ends in some time -- at least in terms of potential.
Urban and the rest of the tight ends are still adjusting to their new position coach, Dave McMichael. While learning the new teaching style and techniques of a coach is always difficult, Urban admits that it helped to be able to work with McMichael during spring practice.
"It was nice having him here [during spring ball]," said Urban. "I was able to start working with him then, and we were able to build a relationship earlier. It's been good having him here."
Although he has spent some time under the new coach, Urban admits that some of the new adjustments have taken some time to get used to. Fundamentals don't change, but he still has some techniques to learn from his new coach.
"It's definitely different [working with McMichael]," admitted Urban. "He's way more technical. He's having us work a lot more with the linemen. We do different stuff throughout practice. It's a different style but I like it. I'm getting used to it. It's not bad."
While no one knows if Urban and the other tight ends will finally be worked in as staples to the Mountaineer offense until the season begins, Urban's size, talent, and experience can undoubtedly be an asset to an offense that shouldn't lack for weapons.