HUNTINGTON — Since arriving on Marshall’s campus in January 2019, Grant Wells has approached each day visualizing that he was the starting quarterback for the Thundering Herd.
That vision is now reality as Marshall head coach Doc Holliday confirmed Wells will be the Herd’s starting quarterback when the team takes the field against Eastern Kentucky at 1 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“I just think it’s his job,” Holliday said. “He’s settled into that position and he’s always had the skill set. We knew when we recruited him that he had the skill set to make all the throws and be extremely athletic.”
Wells’ first action as the starting quarterback for Marshall will come in front of a nationally televised audience on ESPN. However, the Herd’s new quarterback said it doesn’t change his mentality moving forward.
“Whether the game is on TV or not, we’re still going to prepare the same,” Wells said.
When Wells makes the start Saturday, the Charleston native and former George Washington High School standout will become the first in-state quarterback to start for the Herd since Mark Zban did so Sept. 16, 1995, against Georgia Southern — 25 years ago.
Wells’ arm strength has stood out during Marshall’s camp, and that is not limited to being in the pocket.
Some of Wells’ top throws have come on the move, which offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey said is one of his best attributes.
“He has shown throughout camp that there’s not a throw he can’t make,” Cramsey said. “He’s always got his feet set and he’s ready to throw, whether he’s on the move or not. He gets his body turned in position to make the throw he has to make.”
One example came during Friday’s practice during live periods when Wells got flushed to his left — opposite of his throwing arm — but still got squared up and delivered a ball over the middle to receiver Stone Scarcelle for a first-down gain.
The throw was proof that Wells isn’t afraid to let the pass go and give his receivers a chance to make a play.
From the first week of on-field practice this fall to now, Wells’ confidence and timing have both improved.
“You just watch him mature, and he gets better every day in practice,” Holliday said. “Our team has great confidence in him, and I’m just anxious to watch him go play.”
As Cramsey also explained, it isn’t just about the growth in confidence that Wells has in his own abilities. It is also about the trust his teammates have developed over the last several weeks of camp.
“When you’re a new quarterback in the system, you’re in the process of earning the trust of your teammates,” Cramsey said. “I think what he saw — and what I definitely saw — is this: The question marks of Grant Wells never taking a snap before from his teammates have disappeared from what they’ve seen in this last three, four weeks of camp.
“To me, that quarterback starts feeling when he’s got the confidence in him, and that’s what Grant has really seen over the last couple of weeks, and we’ve seen it in his play.”
Cramsey said that while Wells is learning every day in terms of reads and situations, there are few times in which there’s an open receiver and Wells misses that target.
“There’s very few times when I’m telling Grant, ‘You missed that throw,’ ” Cramsey said. “His accuracy is one of his strong points, and that comes from him being comfortable back there.”
While Wells has been named as starter, he said the preparation to be the starter doesn’t stop there.
“Certainly, we’re going to take all the time we need to go prepare for any game,” Wells said. “No matter if it was my first start or my last start, we’re going to take all the time we have. I feel good at this point, but we still have lots of preparing to do for a good team coming in here.”
Wells beat out fellow West Virginian Luke Zban, a Huntington High graduate, for the starting job. Zban is the son of Mark Zban, the aforementioned last state native to start at QB for the Herd.
While Wells will get the start, Cramsey said he is comfortable putting each of his top two quarterbacks in any game situation, given how they performed during the competition in camp.
“I have no issues whatsoever if he’s in the game for us,” Cramsey said of Zban. “I have confidence in Luke, and he’s been very impressive through this camp and really caught my eye by doing some things that I wasn’t sure he would be able to do. That’s a testament to who he is as a person, how he works, how he prepares.
“In this year, you’ve got to find ways to get him some experience and get some snaps under his belt, too, because this is 2020 and who knows what may happen.”
The announcement kicks off game-week festivities for the Herd, which wrapped up preseason preparations with a walkthrough of game logistics Saturday morning.