The theme of this season for the Iowa Hawkeyes has been 'next man in'. They've been hit hard by the injury bug and just the most recent example of that was the play of offensive lineman Sean Welsh on Saturday. It was not only stepping up to the plate when someone goes down, it was about resiliency as a team and unselfish play from Welsh.
It's easy as an interior lineman to not be overly excited about moving to tackle. It's a lot easier to get exposed on the edge if you're someone that is more natural inside. He's going to obviously have more struggles as a tackle than he would as a guard. It would be a move that would see his individual play and accomplishments take a slide but it would lift the performance of the team.
Welsh committed to the move. With right tackle Ike Boettger not able to play against Northwestern, Welsh made the move from left guard to right tackle so James Daniels could start on the interior where he is also more comfortable. The unselfishness of Welsh allowed the Hawkeyes to rush for nearly 300 yards as a team.
It's all about 'team first' for Welsh and threst of the Iowa roster.
"It was just 'next man in'," Welsh said afterwards. "It's not a difficult concept. One guy goes down, another guy goes in and steps up. You just do your job."
That's easier said than done. He's out of position and playing in a spot that he hasn't played in a long, long time. He's not the only example of that. Linebacker Bo Bower has played some on the defensive line. Third and fourth string running backs Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell were pressed into immediate playing time. True freshman wideout Jerminic Smith has logged two starts. Former walk-on Cole Croston has started the last handful of games at left tackle.
How has it all come together for the Hawkeyes? Welsh shared his thoughts.
"For us, we just have confidence in each other," he explained. "We're playing great team ball. We have a good quarterback. We have a good set of backs. We have good receivers. We know everyone will do their job. I think that's the difference. We have faith in each other. We've practiced so much. We're prepared. The coaches have prepared us. It's a lot of practice and repetition after repetition. It all becomes natural. You just fall back on your fundamentals."
Moving to the outside as an interior guy is an extremely challenging task. Welsh was more than up to it, faring very well at right tackle. He entered the land of unknown when tackling the mission on Saturday.
"I was a little nervous about it being an interior guy," Welsh noted. "I didn't know exactly what to expect in a game. Just like coach told me, it's just like practice. You just go out there and do your job. (The learning curve) was quick. You have to be quicker and you have to adapt or you won't be able to do your job and they'll put someone else in there. You have to learn quick."
It was a fast learning process but Welsh seemed more than ready for the Northwestern pass rushers. He took comfort in knowing that there were still some aspects that would carry over from his left guard spot.
"We do a lot of the same things at a lot of the different positions on the offensive line," Welsh discussed. "There's not a whole lot of changes, just a few details here and there. There's only minor details that are more different."
"There's more space (to operate in) at right tackle," he added. "The guys you're typically going up against are quicker and shiftier, they have longer arms and are faster. There's more room for things to go wrong. You have to be disciplined. The only big difference is the kind of lineman you block. Those guys (on the edge) are more often than not good pass rushers. A lot of guys on the outside, that's what they specialize in. You're working more space than the interior."
The first game at right tackle went extremely well for Welsh. It is not known if he will remain at right tackle for the Maryland game in two weeks. With a bye week and more time to rest, the Hawkeyes could have Boone Myers and Ike Boettger ready to go against the Terrapins.