Wellman Adds New Element to Holgorsen’s Offense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – You wouldn’t think Eli Wellman would convince Dana Holgorsen to change his offensive philosophy.
Holgorsen was coaching football around the time Wellman was born, and he’s known nothing but offensive success, growing up through the coaching ranks and developing a passing offense that set records everywhere he went.
Wellman, on the other hand, is just big ol’ kid from around Huntington, West Virginia, a country boy at heart who seems to be the antithesis of everything Holgorsen ever stood for on offense.
Yet you ask Holgorsen and he’ll admit that Wellman forced him into some important changes in his game.
“I never used a fullback ever at (Texas) Tech, no, Houston, no. I went to Oklahoma State and started using it a little bit, because I had one there that I liked,” the Mountaineer coach explained.
Then, after a year at Oklahoma State, Oliver Luck beckoned him to West Virginia to usher the school into a new era of Big 12 football, but he was inheriting a different kind of team.
“I came here and we had a few of those bodies laying around that we used a little bit,” Holgorsen said. “So, this is about year eight for us to do it.”
But his offense was built around the Geno Smith kind of quarterback, capable of throwing it 40 or 50 times … it was speed over muscle.
Then Eli entered his life.
He saw in Wellman a big kid who could run some and block and catch the football, a team player who was really the missing link in his offense.
He was the connection between a power game and a throwing game, the man who fit in both and was able to protect the passer and block for the runner.
“You’re adding that sixth gap, that sixth body to add gaps. But it’s not just the tight end body, it’s more of a move-around guy that you can do different things with and you can get incorporated in the pass game a good bit,” Holgorsen explained.
“His job is to block people. He’s like a sixth (offensive) lineman up there,” Holgorsen continued. “We rely on him a lot for inspiration and lead blocking and chopping people down and helping in pass protection.”
What makes it special is he thrives off it. You line most people up in the backfield and they are looking to run to glory.
“I don’t really care about scoring touchdowns. If I get one here and there, then that’s awesome. My job is to see those other guys get through the holes untouched and that’s good enough for me,” he said.
He accepts being designated as a sixth offensive lineman, but doesn’t believe it’s a totally accurate description.
“Sort of, but not really,” he said. “I’m out in passes a lot, but I understand what you’re saying. I block a lot, take on the defensive ends. I’d say a little bit of it.”
The pass protection aspect of the job is the most difficult.
“It’s not too hard to run and hit someone as hard as you can, but a big 290-pound d-lineman and you only have two yards to get at him and he’s making moves, it’s pretty hard,” he said.
Wellman, one of WVU’s two team captains this year, has become so important to the offense that Holgorsen has relieved him of many special team duties, where he was a terror, leaving him only as one of the up blockers on the kickoff return team.
“We’ve taken a few special teams reps off of him to enable us to be able to use him more on offense,” Holgorsen said.
On the kickoff return team, he did convert the big block that sprang Marcus Simms for his 80-yard kickoff return to open the Delaware State game.
“He kicked a guy out and Marcus hit it up in there. So, he was involved in that one. Just blocking people, it’s as simple as that,” Holgorsen said. “He plays with an attitude, it’s important to him, he’s great in the huddle. I’ve talked a lot about the presence of (redshirt junior quarterback) Will (Grier) and (junior receiver) David (Sills) in the huddle. Well, he’s no different; he gets in there and it’s why he’s our team captain.”
Wellman understands why they’ve cut back on his special teams work but says he’d gladly go back to it.
“I’d like to be out there as much as I can,” he admitted.
Normally, the guys wearing the other team’s uniforms would prefer to see him on the sideline.