Football, Sports, WVU Sports

‘Open by Birth’: Tight end Kole Taylor looking to make an impact for WVU

MORGANTOWN — Thus far in Kole Taylor’s three-year college career, his most notable moment on the football field came when Florida’s Marco Wilson was penalized for throwing his cleat in a wild 2020 game in Gainsville.

The famous, or infamous for the Gators, cleat heave resulted in a 15-yard penalty that set up LSU’s game-winning field goal with 23 seconds left to knock off then-No. 6 Florida at home, 37-34.

As viral as that moment became, there was much more focus on the shoe-thrower, Wilson, than the shoe-throwee, Taylor. A freshman tight end at LSU at the time, Taylor played two more seasons for the Tigers without ever being given the chance to become more than just the guy who had his shoe thrown. 

In three seasons, Taylor played in 32 games with the Tigers with seven starts but made just 17 receptions in that time for 159 yards and a lone touchdown. That is, in part, why Taylor jumped into the transfer portal this offseason and ultimately landed at WVU.

“I think the biggest thing I was looking for was somewhere I was going to be wanted and utilized in the offense,” Taylor said after last month’s Gold-Blue spring game. “To get to the next level, I need to get the ball in my hand and show I have that ability.”

A player looking to make an impact and a team looking to revitalize its tight end production seem like a match made in heaven, and so Taylor now finds himself in Morgantown as the Mountaineers are desperate to get more production out of the position.

“I knew if I came here and showed that I can make plays, I would kind of force them into getting me the ball,” Taylor said. “They kind of wanted to re-vamp the offense and I was a piece they wanted to do that.”

Mountaineer tight ends only recorded 153 yards on 16 catches last season, and only Treylan Davis’ five catches for 51 yards return to the team for 2023. Taylor nearly matched that in just the Gold-Blue spring game, catching three passes for 36 yards.

Listed at 6’7” and 243 pounds, Taylor’s physical gifts as a pass-catcher are apparent from just one look.

“I call it ‘open by birth,’” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “He’s got a distinct advantage over the linebacker and safeties he’s playing against and a lot of times it’s by four or five inches.

“That’s why we brought him here,” Brown continued. “We thought he’d be an able blocker, we’d able to put him in positions where he can help us in the run game but then to give us a vertical threat downfield to throw the ball to and can make a play after the catch.”

“I was blessed with height and length,” Taylor said. “I get a mismatch on a lot of DBs and safeties. I’m taller than a lot of them and so naturally I have the ability to go up over top and make a lot of catches that aren’t in their range.”

The other thing Taylor brings to the Mountaineers is experience. Taylor and wide receiver transfer Devin Carter (NC State) are by far the most experienced skill players on WVU’s roster.

“I think he brings experience,” tight ends coach Blaine Stweart said. “He’s played in major college football, he’s played in atmospheres that we’re going to play in this fall. I think he brings a mindset of professionalism.”

That experience will be put to good use right away in 2023, as WVU opens its season with a road game in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium — capacity 106,000.

“We played in front of 100,000 (fans) in pretty much every game (in the SEC), so I’ve been in that atmosphere,” Taylor said. “It’s a fun atmosphere, you just can’t let it get to you. You’re going to get booed and you’re going to get clapped at, you just have to focus and lock in every single play.”

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