West Virginia currently has six tight ends on its roster and five are on scholarship. In the spring, Neal Brown said he thinks that number is “what you need to be able to play.”
“We’re playing in 11-personnel most of the time, and we’d like to get into some 12, too, because I think it gives us some advantages being able to do that,” Brown added.
A pair of redshirt juniors in Mike O’Laughlin and TJ Banks are the top returners at the position. The others are newcomers to the program. Here’s a look at the WVU tight ends in our latest roster review:
Mike O’Laughlin — redshirt junior
It seems O’Laughlin learned a thing or two from former teammate Trevon Wesco, who is currently with the Jets because he had some big-time Wesco-like plays last season. The first that comes to mind is his 4th down catch vs. Baylor. It was West Virginia’s first overtime possession and on 4th and 1, Jarret Doege and O’Laughlin connected on the 10-yard pass. That play set up a go-ahead touchdown on the next play. He had another crucial catch on 4th down in the Liberty Bowl, that one was caught in the end zone. The three-yard score was the first of his career.
After starting four games in 2019, he started all but the season-opener in 2020. He finished with 15 receptions for 137 yards and one TD. His best showing in terms of stats came at Texas Tech, finishing with two catches for 44 yards, including a long of 34.
O’Laughlin suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp in 2018. By 2020, he was averaging 9.1 yards per catch and 15.2 yards per game. Putting on the necessary weight to make the switch from receiver to tight end after that injury was O’Laughlin’s first challenges as a Mountaineer. Now that’s accomplished, he said the main area of emphasis ahead of the 2021 season is developing mentally.
“As you get older, you want to kind of develop the mental side as well, and the past two years working with coach Trickett, coach Parker and coach Brown, I’m kind of taking it to that next level of thinking,” he said this spring. He was the offensive honoree of the Perfect Effort award.
TJ Banks — redshirt junior
Banks came into the WVU program at the same time as O’Laughlin and also redshirted in 2018. He played the final four games of 2019 and saw action in eight last season. He finished the year with four catches for 41 yards and one touchdown. That two-yard score came in Lubbock, Texas, and led to a tied ballgame between the Mountaineers and Red Raiders. That was also his only catch in that game. He hauled in a 20-yarder in the Liberty Bowl.
Charles Finley — redshirt freshman
He was sidelined this spring with a minor injury. He appeared in two games in 2020 and finished with one reception for two yards.
Victor Wikstrom — freshman
The Sweden native was a commit in the 2021 class for over a year. Coach Brown and his staff first got a look at the international player at one of the WVU camps in 2019. Brown said one thing that “pleasantly surprised him” about Wikstrom was his football IQ.
“He can run. A really strong, athletic kid. From a skill and athleticism standpoint, I think he will be one of the top tight ends in our league,” Brown said of Wikstrom on National Signing Day.
Wikstrom saw reps at TE, WR and QB in Sweden. He enrolled at WVU in January and Coach Brown named him as one of the newcomers that impressed during spring workouts.
Treylan Davis — freshman
Davis also enrolled in January. His physicality caught the attention of Coach Brown and he said he believes Davis will “create some movement at the point of attack.”
Looking at Davis’ high school stats, the one thing that stands out is he registered 170 career pancake blocks and that has been tabbed as one of his strengths. He reeled in 30 passes for 510 yards and 10 touchdowns during his four-year career.