Gold & Blue Lunch: Wellman drives West Virginia’s smack-attack

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Elijah Wellman, bearded to the point where he could platoon with the Mountaineer mascot, lives by the simplest of football philosophies.

“To go in there and smack some guys.”

Good thing, then, Wellman is a blocking back—and panning out to be a good one as the West Virginia offense turns decidedly downhill.

Before the season, the offensive buzz surrounded a versatile two-back set featuring Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell. Now, in a more straightforward approach, it’s more likely to be one of those tailbacks paired with Wellman, the battering ram who has helped Smallwood climb to No. 14 nationally in rushing and helped Shell convert short-yardage runs.

“They’ll tell you, they wouldn’t be where they are without Eli,” said running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider, who saw Smallwood and Shell turn giddy after Wellman produced his first career rushing touchdown against Texas. “When he came to the sideline after that touchdown, they were waiting for him. It was great to see how much they appreciate Eli.”

That appreciation extends to head coach Dana Holgorsen, who orchestrated previous offenses that couldn’t execute in must-run situations. Wellman’s development since signing out of Huntington’s Spring Valley High has paralleled the uptick in toughness for WVU’s ground game. It also allowed 6-foot-4, 265-pound Cody Clay to shift out of the backfield and into more natural usage at tight end.

Even after Smallwood ripped Texas for a career-high 165 yards and Skyler Howard accounted for three touchdowns, Holgorsen and the staff chose Wellman as the offensive player of the week.

“He’s a West Virginia kid. To him, it means a lot to be a Mountaineer,” Holgorsen said. “He grew up wearing the blue and gold. He has that kind of mentality. He’s blue-collar. He’s a hard worker. He’s tough, and he will do what you have to do in order to make it work. He’s becoming very valuable to what we’re doing offensively.”

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