West Virginia: Tight end Urban expects air time

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- To the patient come the passes.

Or so that will be the case -- if you believe the talk -- this season for West Virginia sophomore tight end Tyler Urban.

"I'm excited," said the Norwin High School product. "When I decided to come down here [to West Virginia] they said, 'We are going to throw it to the tight end a lot.' But now, that is really going to happen."

As a freshman, he realized what was told to him as a recruit about how the tight ends would get the ball thrown to them, well (excuse the pun), that ended up being an Urban legend.

Last season, Urban came firing off the ball time and again, locking up the man in front of him, driving that defender -- or at least trying to -- downfield and the ball seemingly never flew his way.

It was break the huddle, get down in a stance, block the guy until the whistle and repeat until the West Virginia defense came trotting out.

And the numbers quantify as much -- just a handful of passes were tossed in his direction; he pulled in four of them, catching two for touchdowns and didn't make a grab until the fifth game.

"Just tried to do my job, whatever they asked, and they asked me to block -- a lot," Urban said with a smile. "To be honest, I was just happy I was playing as a freshman. My parents were coming down from up at home to games down here to tailgate, coming to watch me play in this stadium, I was just happy I was out there. But..."

But what, Tyler?

"But, yeah, I guess everybody does want the ball thrown to them more, I'll admit it," he finished with a laugh.

This year, with what will be at least partly an offensive overhaul (because of the graduation of quarterback Pat White) the West Virginia offense won't exactly throw pass-after-pass, but under first-year starting quarterback Jarrett Brown, it should feature more throws than it did with the nifty and fleet-footed White under center.

Who stands to benefit to a large degree as the Mountaineers will go with more of a pro-set look rather than the backyard football, somewhat-jailbreak offense White engineered?

"The tight ends will be much more involved, that's for sure, and you look at Tyler Urban, that is a guy who we will depend on this year, there is no question about it," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen said. "Tyler got a lot bigger from the time he came here last year, a lot stronger and he just knows the offense a lot better. He understands how to get in and out of zone coverages a lot better and so he presents matchup problems. Football is about matchups and there is no question we are going to try to look for him in certain situations, in certain matchups. He's a hard worker, a big strong kid. He is going to be a big part of what we do."

Indeed, Urban should be -- but to his credit, he has sort of forced the West Virginia coaches into making him a pivotal piece. He came out of Norwin as a 6-foot-3, 232-pound fullback, more apt to lower his head with the ball in his belly and try to run through you.

Then came the growth spurt -- he's 6-feet-4 1/2 now -- and the hard work in the weight room that put him up to about 253 pounds. With that, Urban has gone from a player who the coaches waffled over making an H-back or a tight end, into a full-blown tight end and will enter the year as the starter, a job he grabbed last season.

"Throughout last season, I grew up in a lot ways," Urban said. "It was just a process where I had to get comfortable being out there with the athletes who were out there. I just kind of had to understand that I belonged out there."

He more than belongs -- there was no greater testament to as much than what Brown, a redshirt senior, had to say about him.

As media members nudged and jockeyed for space around Brown Thursday afternoon following practice, he was asked to name a target who excited him.

Off his tongue rolled this: "Tyler. He's gifted, he's special, very special. He's my security blanket."

Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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