March 29, 2014
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Last year in March, Sean Welsh passed the time until high school graduation by playing rugby and lifting weights. This year he is competing for a starting spot at offensive guard for the University of Iowa football team.
Welsh is one of five Hawkeyes on the preseason two-deep offensive line looking to earn their first letter. A 6-foot-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman, Welsh is battling sophomore Ryan Ward at left guard. Junior Eric Simmons is listed as a backup at right guard, sophomore Cole Croston at right tackle, and redshirt freshman Boone Myers at left tackle.
"Our young guys are buying into the concept of earning the right to play through preparation and practice, and that's a good thing," UI offensive line coach Brian Ferentz said. "It means they should all have bright futures."
If there is a position that epitomizes Hawkeye football, it is offensive line. Senior left tackle Brandon Scherff is the latest in a long list of accomplished offensive linemen, joining the likes of Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga, and Riley Reiff.
"There is a standard that has been set here and it has been going on a long time," Ferentz said. "Our job is to always play to that standard."
Welsh grew up cheering for Ohio State from his home in Springboro, Ohio. But he said he wouldn't have signed a Letter of Intent there, even if the Buckeyes offered a scholarship.
"The reason I came to Iowa, and my biggest gauge picking schools, was the people," Welsh said. "Iowa, bar none, had the best people out of all the programs I visited. That's why I came here."
"The reason I came to Iowa, and my biggest gauge picking schools, was the people. Iowa, bar none, had the best people out of all the programs I visited. That's why I came here."
UI offensive guard
"I don't even pay attention. It's not something I want to put any stock in because it will just distract me," Welsh said. "It's nice and it's a good challenge to go against the first team defense. It's a good thing to sharpen my blade on."
Saying he "needs improvement everywhere," Welsh is working particularly hard on becoming better at pass protection. He has good role models on the line in Scherff, senior tackle Andrew Donnal, junior center Austin Blythe, and junior guard Jordan Walsh.
"I don't know if I could do it without those guys," Welsh said. "They have been such a great help since I have gotten into the program with everything, not just football. From being a person you look up to and someone that looks out for you and gives you advice on what to do in life and in football. They have been great."
The first time Ferentz walked into Springboro High School, he told Welsh's coach, Ryan Wilhite, that he wasn't going to recruit Welsh because 7 ½ hours of travel by car separated Springboro and Iowa City. Something told Ferentz to return, however, and he did. After watching Welsh work out...
"I thought, `Man, there is something about this guy,' Ferentz said.
Ferentz returned two weeks later and there was still something that attracted him.
"Finally I couldn't think of any good reason not to recruit him," Ferentz said. "He thinks right, acts right, trains right. He has a good opportunity to compete (for a starting job), but hopefully he has some stiff competition."