MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Those pro-style and West Coast offenses turn tight ends into pass-catching weapons. But these spread attacks in the Big 12 …

“Not so much,” said Cody Clay.

He was grinning, WVU’s junior tight end, and recalled idolizing Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. Sure, those guys were transformative talents capable of prospering in any system, but even a more conventional tight end like Anthony Becht caught 83 passes at West Virginia.

Through Clay’s first two seasons in Morgantown, he has caught 11.

With the departure of Texas Tech’s 106-catch machine Jace Amaro—who was initially excluded from the Mackey Award list because he lined up at wideout so frequently—this year’s Big 12 tight ends appear to have an anonymity problem.

Quick quiz: Who was the preseason pick for All-Big 12 tight end?

“I’ve never even heard of him,” Clay admitted sheepishly Tuesday. “I don’t even know his name.”

It was Iowa State’s E.J. Bibbs, whose 39 catches in 2013 seemed gluttonous compared to the league’s third most-targeted tight end, Jimmay Mundine, who had 20 receptions for Kansas.

The rest of the league’s uptempo offenses essentially ignored tight ends. Baylor threw 35 touchdowns, but none found Jordan Najvar, who had just 10 catches. Oklahoma State’s tandem of Blake Jackson and Jeremy Seaton grabbed six passes each, John Harris at Texas settled for five receptions, while Oklahoma’s true tight ends caught three passes combined. (Wonder if the Sooners will manage to overlook 6-foot-6 Blake Bell this season?)

With spread offenses skewing toward four-receiver sets most tight ends are playing fewer snaps. In the case of the 6-4, 250-pound Clay, he spends more time working at slot receiver and fullback. But when a young fan asks what position he plays, Clay stays true to his tight end roots.

“If I tell them I’m a receiver, they’d go ‘Oh you’re pretty fat for that.’ Or if I tell them I’m a fullback they’re like, ‘You’re pretty tall for that.’ So I’d go with tight end. I just look like one,” he said.

While hailed by coaches and teammates as the locker room’s most selfless player, Clay still allows himself to imagine playing a larger downfield role in the Air Raid. So what’s the over/under on his catches on 2014?

“I’d like to see at least 25, but you never know.”

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia tight end Cody Clay dove for a touchdown over TCU linebacker Paul Dawson.


Because Clay works at multiple positions, he has detailed interaction with various parts of the offense. Through a summer’s worth of 7-on-7s and six days of preseason camp, he sees progress. It springs from quarterback Clint Trickett being situated as the leader and other returnees growing confident in their roles.

“I’m in a lot of different meeting rooms, so I’m seeing what’s going on and I know when somebody else is doing a good job,” he said. “The offensive stuff—what we’ve got going on—I’m pretty impressed with it.

“Clint’s playing pretty well and everybody’s doing their part. We’re trying to get some continuity among the first team, and everybody can depend on each other.”

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  • Duane White

    As long as he's gotten better at blocking I hope he gets lots of snaps. He does great at making the catch when given chance. But he sucked at blocking for the run game quite often. Not always but it was noticeable.

  • Dave

    Cody is a great player. He does a lot of the un-noticed dirty work for the team which is a critical part to winning. Keep up the good work Cody.

  • any major dude

    Hopefully they will use Cody to catch a pass every now and then, although I like him at fullback for those smashmouth plays that I'm hoping for.

  • Mister Man

    Get after it, Cody!!

  • Hailey

    Just catch the ball when it's thrown your more drops please!!

    • joe

      lets put you out there with someone trying to remove your head form your body with a bone jarring hit.Lets see you hold on to the damn ball Hailey.Its easier said than done.

      • Jay

        Posts such as this one are patently ridiculous. Hailey isn't on scholarship to catch footballs, nor am I. However, alumni and fans are entitled to opinions. Cody Clay is on scholarship to perform well on the football field at a high FBS level. Catch the damn ball. Spare me your "let's see you do it" dribble. I do my job very well. That's what's expected of me. In that same vein, this team and these student athletes need to have greatness expected of them. No more excuses.

        That said, Cody Clay is a tremendous football player. I have every confidence he's worked to get even better in 2014.

        Go Mountaineers!