A year ago, the tight end made its way back into the WVU offense with a breakout season from Trevon Wesco, now with the New York Jets. In addition, the previous staff brought two freshmen in to fill out the depth chart. TJ Banks and Mike O’Laughlin, along with Wesco, became the first members of WVU’s tight ends room.
O’Laughlin was more of an oversized receiver in high school but he has been able to add weight since coming on campus that has made him a more well-rounded player. However, the circumstances that allowed him to focus on his conditioning were less than ideal. He suffered an ACL tear in his very first practice at WVU and spent the entire 2018 season as a medical redshirt.
After a season on the shelf, the departure of the staff that recruited him led the Illinois native to put his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal as a precautionary measure. In the ensuing weeks, Neal Brown was hired and O’Laughlin decided that he wanted to stay in Morgantown.
As Spring practice concluded, the other two WVU tight ends found themselves on the sidelines with Banks and Haskins both having long term injuries that have kept them out of full-contact through Week 1. This provided an opportunity for O’Laughlin to get first-team snaps throughout fall camp. With the first game approaching and Banks still nursing an injury and Haskins dealing with discipline issues, O’Laughlin has been listed as the starter for the opening game against the James Madison Dukes.
Though O’Laughlin was thrust to the top of the depth chart out of necessity, Neal Brown appears to be pleased with the progress the redshirt freshman has made.
“I think he’s been getting better,” Brown said about his tight end’s improvement, “He’s been really solid. I know exactly what to expect out of him. He’s been a better blocker in camp than I anticipated because I hadn’t seen him play.”
The addition of that blocking ability has been key to O’Laughlin finding himself in line for playing time. Entering college as more of a receiving g threat, he has transformed both his body and technique to be more conducive to tight end play. However, according to Brown, it is when those physical improvements are paired with his football IQ that O’Laughlin becomes a real threat.
“He’s a kid that’s physical. He’s extremely intelligent.” Brown said. “He’s picked up what we’re doing. Obviously, his background is in playing receiver so he runs routes and catches the ball extremely well. He’s a threat in the pass game. It’s gonna be his first piece of college football so we’re going to have to deal with that but I’m excited about his future here.”
When you put together the physical gifts that Mike O’Laughlin brings to the table for WVU with his own natural intellectual ability, you can see why Neal Brown and his staff are confident he can be a contributor for this football team.
Be sure to subscribe to WVSportsNow.com for all the latest news and updates on the Mountaineers!