WVU football: Clay's role being remolded
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Cody Clay tried to remain coy about his future role in West Virginia's offense.
The 6-foot-2, 252-pound sophomore football player from Alum Creek caught just one pass for 9 yards in last Saturday's loss to Texas Tech, but he played a more prominent role as a tight end.
"Yeah, you might see more of that," Clay said with a smile. "You never know."
Clay is ninth on the team in receptions (seven) and ninth in receiving yards (56), but his role evolved during the Mountaineers' off week before the Texas Tech game. Now, with WVU (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12) set to play at Kansas State (2-4, 0-3) this Saturday (3:45 p.m., Fox Sports 1), the former George Washington High School star might be ready for a larger workload.
"We're going to keep trying to get him the ball," West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said of Clay. "I think it helps us in the run game because it adds another gap and our running backs feel comfortable with those sets, and we've been doing a good job of finding ways to get him the ball."
Last Saturday, Clay witnessed Texas Tech's Jace Amaro - who is listed on the roster as a tight end - finish with game highs in receptions (9) and yards (136), while catching two touchdowns. It was Amaro's fifth consecutive game with nine receptions.
"That was exciting for me to see that and to know what I've got to be for this team," Clay said. "It's something that's motivating me. I don't think he actually ever got into a tight end stance; he's more of an inside receiver."
Amaro, indeed, only puts his hand on the ground on occasion. In fact, the Mackey Award - given to the nation's top tight end - left Amaro off its 29-man midseason watch list because it doesn't perceive him as a tight end.
Clay, however, gave the Mountaineers a new offensive look as a traditional tight end, which aided the running game and provided quarterback Clint Trickett with a giant security blanket.
"I like him on the field with me, any time," Trickett said of whether or not Clay is lined up at tight end or wide. "I like him blocking, I like him catching. He can do some things and cause matchup problems."
Clay is listed as the starting H-back. There didn't seem to be a role for the tight end in Dana Holgorsen's offense, but that has changed.
"I'm actually really surprised at the amount of tight ends we've used," Clay said.
"Last year I was a fullback and now I'm doing more tight end stuff. It doesn't matter to me what my role is, but I like this."
WVU coaches apparently do, too.
"We're going to attach him (to the offensive line) a lot more and he'll do some physical things," Dawson said.
Clay caught one pass for 2 yards at Oklahoma when Paul Millard was the starting QB. He had two receptions for 18 yards when Ford Childress stepped in as the starter.
In Trickett's first game as a starter - a 30-21 win over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State - Clay set career-highs in catches (three) and receiving yards (27).
"Cody is that safety valve," Trickett said. "He's dependable, he is more athletic than people give him credit for, and he is a West Virginia kid."
And while a pass catcher like Texas Tech's Amaro does more work downfield, Clay anticipates his work will be done closer to the line of scrimmage.
"That's kind of what I did in high school, but I was the outside receiver," Clay said. "I was doing 10-yard curls and post routes when I needed to.
"I remember in 7-on-7, the first two plays of the game would be 10-yard curl to one side and a 10-yard curl to the other side ... those are the things I did in high school and it wouldn't surprise me if I ended up doing that here."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.