There was a mostly silent gripe that former WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel preferred to keep under his ever-present hat in 2011. The Mountaineers offense didn’t have a tight end, which meant the defense wasn’t practicing against one when WVU would go good-on-good.
Further, the roster didn’t have too many tight ends, which was more a problem of the past than the present, but Tyler Urban was about it and he was in indispensable part of the offense as an inside receiver. He couldn’t be a part of the scout team offense when Casteel was trying to get his defense ready for a team that featured the tight end. WVU really didn’t have someone to fill that role.
And all of those hushed talking points became quite loud after Syracuse riddled WVU with tight ends last season.
Three tight ends caught 10 passes for 101 yards and four touchdowns and the eight passes caught by the top two players at the position each went for a touchdown or a first down, including three on third downs that extended drives that would end in one of tight end Nick Provo’s three touchdowns.
“It wasn’t necessarily the tight ends. It was the scheme,” Stevens said of WVU’s now defunct 3-3-5 alignment. “We knew things would be open in certain areas of their defense and for whatever reason we kept finding it.
“But it wasn’t just the tight ends. A lot of people were open. We knew some of the routes we always ran would be open. That’s what we saw on film.”
The Mountaineers run a 3-4 now that will, on occasion, look and act like a 3-3-5, though those are rare events. Tight ends for James Madison, Maryland, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and Oklahoma State still had their moments against WVU this season.
The Mountaineers changed defensive coordinators this month, but Keith Patterson, who coaches the linebackers that are asked most of the time to track the tight ends, will keep the 3-4.
A year ago, Patterson’s Pitt defense held Provo to five catches for 37 yards and kept him out of the end zone in a 33-20 Panthers win.
But Syracuse has changed, too, and the now graduated Provo had more receptions and touchdowns and nearly as many yards on his own last season as all of the Syracuse tight ends have accounted for this season.
Still, we had to laugh Wednesday when Syracuse started the live portion of its practice with a goal line drill and a touchdown pass from Ryan Nassib to Stevens. There are no coincidences, right, Mr. Stevens?
“It’s a new year and a new scheme. They’re similar, but it’s a different team with a different defense, but some things we do are still going to be there.”