Spring ball is a time for competition and improvement, but it’s also a chance for players like Elijah Wellman to showcase a diverse skill set and earn a bigger role in West Virginia’s offense.
Wellman is looking to build on a strong 2015 season that saw his touches more than double from the previous year. As the year wore on, Wellman earned the trust of offensive coaches like Ja'Juan Seider and Dana Holgorsen, and as a result, his role increased.
Wellman garnered 14 carries last season, and broke through for his first rushing touchdown. He also grabbed five receptions for just 16 yards, but found the end zone twice. Especially in shor yardage and goal-line situations, Wellman has become a viable option.
This year, he’s trying to use spring ball to prove that his role should be expanded even further, and from the snippets of practice that have been open to the media, we’ve seen that might be the case heading into 2016 not just for Wellman, but for the tight ends and fullbacks all together.
“They’re moving us around a little bit and putting our hands on the ball a little bit more. I think that gives everyone a lot more confidence in some of the little things,” Wellman said.
“Once you’ve done all the things in practice and you’re moving around a little bit, then you get more confidence in the simple things you’ve been doing like blocking and simple assignments for a fullback. Those just seem like little things once you wrap your head around the whole process.”
For the guys that are used to paving the way for the ball carriers, putting their bodies on the line every play so someone else can grab the glory, the opportunity to touch the ball can be so rewarding that it makes the constant bashing and bruising seem not so bad after all.
“Oh yeah, absolutely. If you stick your nose in there and hit a few people, and then get to carry the ball or catch a pass out in the flat or something after, it’s kind of like a little reward.”
To some, spring practice might seem like an endless grind. After all, it will be more than four months before WVU takes the field against an opponent not wearing Gold and Blue. But for guys like Wellman, it’s a chance to show the fruits of their hard labor in the off-season.
“Grinding is the winter workouts and conditioning and all that. Once spring ball starts, everybody is rearing and ready to go put the pads on and everything else; super excited to go out there every day and compete against the defense and make plays,” he said.
While the product on the field from August through December may be the only thing people remember about a season, winning and losing is not just determined between the white lines. It happens in the weight room during winter workouts too.
Those months can be long and arduous if taken on with the wrong attitude, but WVU has a way of making weight lifting competitive by splitting players up into teams. It brings out the raw competitive nature of these athletes, and for Wellman, makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable.
“It’s a real serious thing,” he said. “You’re competing against your teammates, and the little teams that we had, that’s what keeps us going and working hard. You don’t realize how hard you’re working when you’re competing like that and enjoying it really.”