Wellman Looks To Make Most Of Final Go-Around
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Eli Wellman is still young, in an average age sense.
But as a collegiate football player, his fifth-year status puts him both in the senior and senior citizen category. His focus, always straight-forward and simplified, has chiseled both his personality and game to the point where the state native is among the most respected of West Virginia’s players.
“I’ve been here for a while and I’ve been working on a Big 12 Championship since I’ve been here and that’s what we’re trying to do this year,” Wellman said. “We believe in our guys and who is around us and our coaching staff. That’s our main goal.”
But does he feel as old as his roster age indicates?
“A little bit,” he said.
Wellman has watched the elevation of the program, the Mountaineers going 4-8 his redshirt freshman season, then building to 7-6, 8-5 and 10-3 seasons, maturing as Wellman did the same. The Huntington native has played in 38 career games, starting nine, and was used on 540 offensive snaps last year. His work ethic and toughness have forced him into an offense that rarely gave fullback a second look before Wellman’s arrival, yet now has him on the field for more than half of its plays – with the potential to see more.
“I think over the years that position has evolved a little bit,” new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “You’re going to move those guys all over the field, in and out of different sets to keep the defense a little off-guard. You look at Eli, who you see more as a fullback body type, but that kid is going to be attached, he’s going to be detached, he’s going to be split out, he’s going to be all over the place. That’s kind of what we’re asking with our tight ends.”
But there’s still something missing, a career obviously incomplete. Though last year’s team finished third in the Big 12 Conference, the best in Wellman’s tenure, there’s a creeping feeling that this season, his last, West Virginia has the potential to be Big 12 champions. There have been significant additions, including a new quarterback in Will Grier, and a newly-returned offensive coordinator in Jake Spavital. There are also depth issues at receiver and along the line, and another defensive reload on the other side of the ball.
“We have three or four good running backs that you can throw in there and make plays happen,” Wellman said. “That’s very important, and if someone goes down, you get another good guy to go in there and take over his role and run the ball to get first downs. (Virginia Tech) is a huge opportunity for us. You go out there and win, and hopefully we’re thinking win big because that’s what we’re trying to do. Go out there and showcase what we have and show the country that we’re ready to play and that it’s a big stage for us.”
With the opener being only a week from Sunday, Wellman is one of many Mountaineers that are eager to face somebody – anybody – but themselves.