Little by little, George Washington’s coaching staff has taken the wraps off quarterback Grant Wells.
When Wells was a freshman in 2015, he alternated every second or third series with senior Kaleb Mackey and saw enough playing time to throw for 778 yards and nine touchdowns.
Then last year, even when the athletically gifted Wells took nearly every snap from center, he was limited in his designed runs in order to keep him healthy and upright for the postseason.
So what’s in store this season now that Wells, a rising junior, has grown to 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds? Fans will start to find out when preseason practice opens around West Virginia on July 31.
“I hope we’re going to be able to run a little bit more with him,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. “But that’s a double-edged sword when you do things like that. You don’t want to get him banged up too much.
“We’re going to give him full range to run a little bit more, do a lot more than we have. We asked him to do a lot last year, I thought. We’ll just have him continue to grow and get better, and whatever works out best for what we think we can do. We want to spread it around a little bit and especially have guys to take some pressure off him. One of our biggest concerns is to protect our skill — not only him. We’ve got a good challenge to replace some really good linemen we had.’’
The Patriots lost four senior offensive linemen who last year helped pave an attack that averaged 30.3 points and 376 yards. Wells threw for 2,267 yards and 26 touchdowns — tied for fifth-highest in the state — and ran for 502 yards and nine scores.
Wells continued to flourish during the three-week summer practice period that recently ended, as GW went to seven different 7 on 7 competitions around the region and played 52 games of pass-happy football, going 45-7.
“We put them to the test,’’ Edwards said, “and he stood out everywhere we went. He really didn’t have a bad day. Now some days were better than others, and that’s a good thing. But it’s very unusual for someone that young [to not have an off day].
“This summer he also took on a big challenge to be more of a vocal leader, and has done well. He turned into a leader last year, but he’s going to have to be more of a leader. Talk a little bit more and take charge of what we’re doing and how we do it. He plays the position, but I think he understands that [leadership role] and knows there are things he has to work on.’’
Wells has already received a pair of Division I scholarship offers from Marshall and Charlotte, and Edwards suspects more will be coming. Wells is also a top-notch baseball talent as a shortstop and pitcher, and divides his time between those sports, but has still been contacted by several major college football programs.
Edwards said coaches from Arizona paid a visit to Wells, and coaches from Northwestern and Wake Forest watched him work out. Wells has also attended camps at Wake, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia Tech. He hopes to make up for a missed visit to Notre Dame.
“People sometimes get the cart before the horse worrying about offers,’’ Edwards said. “He plays the position where you don’t recruit a whole lot of those guys, so you want to recruit the right one and make sure you know it’s a guy who fits into what you’re doing.
“Sometimes I’ve got to sit back and adjust myself because he’s just a junior. I think he’s a multiple quarterback and an athletic quarterback, and the thing that stands out is he can really throw it. He’s got a strong arm with nice accuracy. And you’ve got to love his demeanor — he’s confident but not overconfident. And he doesn’t let things bother him. He keeps a nice cool head about himself. He’s not likely to turn one bad [play] into two, three bad because of one bad. Those are things college coaches who watch him work out have mentioned.’’
By the time he graduates from high school, Wells will carry a ton of knowledge. He’s already played in 23 games at the Class AAA level and has twice attempted more than 40 passes in a game. Last season alone, he threw 292 passes and ran 112 times, giving him 404 personal plays from scrimmage.
“He’s got good game experience under his belt,’’ Edwards said. “We’re a little bit ahead of the game there. It’s always good to have your quarterback coming back, I don’t care who it is — and especially one of his caliber.’’