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October 8, 2010

Urban eager to make return

MORGANTOWN — We will never really know how much West Virginia University missed tight end Tyler Urban, its blocking tight end, at Louisiana State, but when one considers that the Mountaineers rushed for only 58 yards he might think that another block here or there might have made a difference.

And if you think it was difficult on his teammates to be playing for the third straight week without him, think how difficult it was on him.

Urban, of course, is a raw-boned 6-foot, 5-inch, 244-pound brawler out of North Huntington, Pa., who had never missed a football game until coming out of the opener with an injury.

More of a blocker than pass catcher, although he did grab 10 passes last year and has caught three for touchdowns in his career, Urban already had one catch in the opener when he latched onto a second pass from quarterback Geno Smith and tried to get as much yardage as he could after it.

“I caught the ball and someone jumped on my back and my knee was driven into the ground,” is the way he described it during interviews this week before his expected return against UNLV on Saturday. “I tried to get up and it just gave out. I tried again and it happened again, so I just crawled off to the sideline.”

He isn’t sure what exactly happened, but there was enough damage to a ligament that he’s spent the last three games in street clothes.

They avoided surgery, but the rehab, as always, was hard work and long hours. The normal procedure is to show up at the Puskar Center for treatment and rehab early, spend some time in class, return for more treatment and rehab, do what you can in practice like walking the sidelines or riding a bike or working on weights, then more treatment.

“It was a lot of work. I’m still going two or three times a day. It’s been for weeks now, so it’s part of my schedule now. It got to where if I stood on my feet too long, my leg would swell up. I had to discipline myself to go to school, come here and do my work and go home,” he said.

As tough as the rehab was, and it’s no fun to be a football player without being able to play football, game day was worse.

“It was definitely tough, especially the first game at Marshall. I was still carrying a hope I could play against them, but they kept moving the time I could play back and back. It was depressing, definitely depressing,” he admitted.

With Urban out, adjustments had to be made. Will Johnson, who is more a pass-catching tight end than a blocker, got more time to play and made a lot of important contributions, none bigger than catching the tying touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to go in the Marshall game.

Urban admits that would not have been the play had he been in the game at the time.

“That was all Will,” Urban said.

Playing Johnson allowed the Mountaineers to play a little less of a power game, but against LSU, a team that was big and fast and tough, Urban’s size and blocking skills probably would have been a huge asset to have.

“(The offense) runs differently when Will is in there,” Urban said. “We’re two different types of players. We do different things when each of us is in there.”

Urban has tried to help as much as he could while out.

“I wasn’t dressed, so I focused on the signals and what he was doing,” Urban said. “If he had a question or I saw something I could help him with, I’d tell him.”

The extra blocking that Urban can provide could become crucial this week against a weaker defensive front than normal that UNLV brings in and if starting running Noel Devine is slowed or can’t play due to a bone bruise under his big toe.

If the Mountaineers need Ryan Clarke, normally the fullback, to run the ball, having Urban in the game would help erase any loss in blocking that comes about.

“I’m definitely excited, if I get a chance to play,” Urban said. “I want to go out there and hit somebody.

“In the LSU game I got one snap, just before the half when we were taking a knee, but I made sure I hit somebody.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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