IOWA CITY, Iowa - When he looks left, he sees an Outland Trophy favorite. To his right stands a guy on Rimington Trophy watch list. Sean Welsh is well positioned.
Iowa's redshirt freshman entered camp this week No. 1 on the depth chart at left guard. All-American candidate Brandon Scherff, a senior, lined up at left tackle. Junior Austin Blythe returned to the center spot he held down in 2013.
"I'm just thankful to have those guys next to me. I've got two tremendous players right next to me. I just consider it such a blessing to be able to play next to them and learn from them. The amount of things that I've learned from them is not only football. It's social. It's academic. I've learned so much from those guys," Welsh said.
Welsh arrived at Iowa last season from Springsboro (Ohio) High as Scout.com's 40th-ranked guard in the '12 recruiting class. He's emerged from a pack of players for the lone open spot on the offensive line. The rest of the projected starters have significant reps under their belts and all are upperclassmen.
"It's an honor," Welsh said. "It was a shock. I couldn't believe it coming from a couple of years ago I was playing high school football that I'd be in this position today but I'd say I put the work into it."
Despite is current place in the two-deep, Welsh understands his hold on the spot is tenuous. Classmate Boone Myers is highly regarded by the coaches as is Mitch Keppy, the current backup at right guard. There are others that would love to be in his shoes.
"It's an everyday process. You're judged on your actions every day and whether you perform every day. The important thing to remember is not to get too overzealous and just approach every day the same way. They always say the depth chart is fluid and changes can be made. You just haves to keep the mindset that things can always change," Welsh said.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, Welsh likely will be among the smaller guards in the Big Ten. He'll rely on technique while he builds strength. He has a strong relationship with line Coach Brian Ferentz, who recruited him out of Ohio when Iowa was going though a 4-8 season.
"When I committed, I made a decision to trust in the coaching staff. They stood out to me more than any other coaching staff," said Welsh, who also reported scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (FL) and West Virginia. "The program itself stood out more than any other program. We went on a couple of recruiting visits, my dad and I. Every program, nowadays, has all the bells and whistles. They have all the show. The important thing that I saw here were the people that made up the program. You could see that there was a certain integrity and a certain standard around here. That's something I wanted to be a part of."
Welsh has a chance to start for four years at Iowa, not a common occurrence at a position steeped in successful tradition. Scherff and Blythe will not be four-year first-teamers, although the latter may have been had he not been injured as a freshman.
Big Ten expansion will limit Welsh to only one regular-season meeting against childhood favorite Ohio State. It would come during his senior year on Nov. 4, 2017, in Iowa City. Of course, there's always a chance to see the Buckeyes in a conference championship game.
"We used to be a Buckeye house. Once I came here, (his parents) just converted completely. I think my father sent out an email that there was a fire sale of all Buckeye gear. I don't think we actually did it but they love Hawkeye football and everything to do with it," Welsh said.