Aug. 27, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Last season at this time, Zach Wellman was a pretty much a nowhere man on Marshall’s football team.
In the week’s run-up to the sixth Friends of Coal Bowl last September, Wellman spent his practices impersonating a West Virginia University linebacker. But where was he on the Marshall depth chart?
“I don’t think I made the depth chart,” Wellman said, smiling, last Saturday just after the Thundering Herd finished three weeks of preseason camp and turned attention toward the noon Saturday opener at No. 11 WVU. “I was just on the scout team, a Mike (middle) linebacker.”
Now, as Coach Doc Holliday’s third season is about to begin, Wellman – a Herd walk-on -- is getting first team reps at a position at which he’s flying solo.
The redshirt sophomore from Huntington is the Herd’s fullback, and he figures to be one of the in-state players who could get onto Mountaineer Field early when Marshall faces short-yardage situations against WVU.
You know how coaches love to go to bowl games not only because it pads resumes, but also allows a team another 15 practices prior to the postseason?
The Herd workouts prior to the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl victory over FIU last December gave Wellman his opportunity. It also was during those drills that starting strongside linebacker Raheem Waiters was converted from the secondary.
“It’s been a good move for me,” said Wellman, who was a 2009 Class AAA All-State first team linebacker at Spring Valley High. “I’ve gotten much more of an opportunity at fullback. It’s kind of worked out well.
“I moved over during the bowl practices last year. At first we just kind of played around with it a bit.
In the spring, we did more and more of it (short-yardage plays with Wellman at fullback) and then this camp kind of made it a set package.
“I liked the move, definitely. As a walk-on you don’t really have much leeway on playing time, and any way you can get onto the playing field you’re going to have to take it and you should take it.
“So, that’s what I did, and I’m enjoying it.”
Wellman’s backups are backup linebackers Cortez Carter and Devon Johnson, and they’re switching sides only to give Marshall some personnel depth. It’s not like he’s never been in the position before. As a Spring Valley senior fullback, Wellman ran for 625 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Blocking is what I key on now,” Wellman said. “It’s pretty much about keeping your head up and track where you blockers are. Playing fullback is more physical than mental. It’s about hitting people. There’s not much mental to it, demanding pounding.”
Wellman is ready for the contact. As Holliday says of the Herd’s new fullback: "He's an extremely tough guy who loves football. It’s important to him.”
The 6-foot Wellman is listed on the Herd roster at 237 pounds, but he’s gone past that. His strength is a strength, too (505 pounds in the squat, 325 in the bench press).
“I’m at 245 pounds now,” Wellman said. “I would like it to be a leaner 245, but I’ll take what I got. I worked pretty hard to get to 245. I came in here at 220 (in 2010), but I’ve got two years of working out with Coach Joe (Miday, MU’s head strength and conditioning coach), so I know it’s a good 245.”
And now that the season is nigh, Wellman seems to be itching for that first third-and-1 situation the Herd has.
“We’re in the game mode now,” he said. “Back in the spring, we were just trying out a lot of stuff, see what worked, testing people. Now, it’s get ready to go play.”
“Play” is what Wellman came to Marshall to do.