West Virginia football saw a very different TJ Banks on the field against Iowa State than it did earlier in the season. Now, the Mountaineers will see a whole lot of him after the loss of starting tight end Mike O’Laughlin.
Banks got his second start of the season in WVU’s upset of the then-No. 22 Cyclones, as he contributed to the run game and caught three passes for 34 yards. He turned enough heads on his coaching staff to earn the team’s Blue Collar Offensive Player of the Week award.
“He had some runs after catches,” said WVU coach Neal Brown. “That was his most productive game, the best he’s played in his career here.”
Banks was thrown into the starting tight end role in the season opener as O’Laughlin was still nursing an injury from the preseason. It was clear that the junior wasn’t ready to start, as the coaching staff still lamented the absence of their regular starter.
Brown is clear that Banks’s struggles never had anything to do with effort, but rather technique and concentration. His performance against Iowa State, the coach says, was the first time he put it all together.
Now, Brown has a much different outlook on his depleted tight end situation than he did in September.
“If you would have asked me back in the Maryland game, I would have absolutely said [we would have struggled to run the ball without O’Laughlin,” Brown said. “Based on how TJ played last week, I would probably disagree….I feel a lot better.”
Brown says that Banks is now taking a more mature approach to the opportunity than he was at the beginning of the season.