MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even as freshman fullback Elijah Wellman tries to pump the brakes on these Owen Schmitt comparisons, his quarterback keeps cracking wise about the similarities.
“I told him if you get a touchdown you can open up a bar in town and live the rest of your life,” joked Clint Trickett.
Wellman compiled 18 touchdowns as a senior at Spring Valley High and nearly launched his college career by scoring in his first game at West Virginia.
Left uncovered by the Alabama defense at the goal line, Wellman couldn’t scoop a knee-high rollout throw. It was a fourth-quarter red-zone failure that became pivotal in the Mountaineers’ 33-23 loss.
“For a kid from this state who bleeds for this program, he took that hard that he didn’t catch that ball,” said West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider. “But that was a hard-ass catch for him, and he said ‘I still should’ve found a way to catch it.’
“You never know what the outcome of that play did for us. If we score it’s a different ballgame down there.”
Clint Trickett wasn’t about to let Wellman absorb blame for that incompletion, saying “If I throw even a semi-decent ball, he catches it easily. That was 100-percent my fault, no reflection on him.”
During a spring scrimmage, Wellman caught a touchdown from the slot receiver spot. And against Alabama in the first half, he made a 10-yard catch on third-and-2 that led to West Virginia’s lone offensive touchdown.
“He actually has really good ball skills,” Trickett said. “He’s a good kid and that’s why I wanted him to get that touchdown. I took it harder than him.”
A two-way all-state player at Spring Valley, Wellman was known for gaining tough yards as a running back and delivering bruising hits as a linebacker. That combo certainly feeds into the Schmitt profile, as does Wellman’s 240-pound frame.
Yet after playing only one game, Wellman called it premature to be referenced alongside one of the program’s most rugged icons.
“Owen, he’s legendary here at WVU. He’s always been one of the players I looked up to. Real hard-nosed and everyone loved him,” Wellman said. “But I haven’t played that many snaps to see where I am.”