By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sean Welsh is one of the most established offensive linemen on the University of Iowa football team, but his position for the 2016 season is still a question mark.
And it doesn’t bother him one bit.
“Football is football,” said Welsh, a junior from Springboro, Ohio. “(The coaches) are going to put me wherever, and I am here to play wherever they put me.”
Welsh was listed as the starting center during spring football after logging 21 starts — both at guard and tackle — and playing in 27 games since redshirting in 2013. His potential earned him a spot on the Rimington Trophy Watch List — an award given to the nation’s top center — despite never logging game action in the middle of the offensive line.
He is also a preseason second-team All-American by AthlonSports.com.
“The first thing I thought when I heard the news is somebody must have messed up,” said Welsh of being included on the Rimington Trophy Watch List. “It’s an honor and is exciting, but we have a lot of football to play.
“Whenever I read into that stuff it gets in my head, so I try to block it out. My mom is always sending me stuff and is proud, but it doesn’t help me perform any better.”
Wherever Welsh lines up in 2016, he’ll be an anchor on a Hawkeye offensive line that returns four starters. The group paved the way for an Iowa rushing attack that amassed 2,544 total yards and scored 35 rushing touchdowns in 2015.
On the heels of an historic season, where the Hawkeyes reeled off 12 straight regular season wins to claim the Big Ten West Division title and earn a berth in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game, Welsh says the team’s mentality has intensified.
“Our No. 1 goal was to win a Big Ten Championship and we didn’t do that,” he said. “We have to take what we did and move it another step further. What that means is taking what we did last year and adding a little more to it — a little extra film study, work, or running… wherever you can make ends.”
It started in the spring and carried over into summer, where the Hawkeyes are training four days a week with a focus on fundamentals.
“We focus on different kind of blocks and are working on our lateral movement,” said Welsh. “We do the same drills every day; it’s all focused on getting the muscle memory down for what we do.”
The muscle memory for Welsh is a move inside to a more difficult, more cerebral position at center.
“I have had to learn to play the position,” he said. “I am used to putting weight on my hand (as opposed to maintaining balance and snapping the football), especially in the run game.
“At center, you have to think more and you’re responsible for a lot more. You have to line everybody up and make sure the IDs are right. I have a little more experience moving around. It’s not hard for me, per se, so I don’t mind (the uncertainty).”
The Hawkeyes open the 2016 season at home against Miami of Ohio on Sept. 3 inside Kinnick Stadium. Tickets are available for purchase by contacting the UI Athletic Ticket Office at (800) IA-HAWKS, or online at hawkeyesports.com.
Single-game tickets for all 2016 Iowa football games go on sale Thursday.