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Grant Wells, What is the Tale of the Tape on the Quarterback's Career at Marshall?

By Rob Trimber | August 08
Grant Wells 2
Coach Pry and QB Grant Wells at Virginia Tech's spring game.

First Impressions:

When you turn on a Grant Wells highlight tape from his 2021 season with Marshall, you will see a Quarterback standing at 6’2”, with the type of arm strength that Hokie fans have not seen for a while. Wells also possesses a quick release that makes him very accurate, especially on short to medium timing throws. Grant Wells is not going to miss the “layups”. He is also a pretty good runner and accurate while on the run. Wells had 7 rushing touchdowns last season, including 3 against North Texas. Marshall used him on many designed QB runs and option plays in the red zone. They also liked to move Wells on roll out passes to utilize his accuracy while on the run. One skill that compliments his roll out ability is his skill with play-action fakes. There is a notable play against ECU in a goal-to-go situation where Wells pulled a Peyton Manning by executing a play-action fake on a boot-leg and ran to the corner for a touchdown. This play can be seen below.

The Interceptions:

Grant Wells 2021 Statistics

Completions: 280

Attempts: 419

Yards: 3,532

Completion %: 66.8

Touchdowns: 16

Interceptions: 12

That interception number is quite unfavorable. But statistics can be misleading when the entire picture is not taken into account. If you look at his attempts, you will see that he was asked to throw a lot at Marshall. In fact, Grant Wells had the 11th highest passing attempts total in the nation last year. All but 2 QBs ahead of him on the list threw at least 9 pics, most threw 11 or more. The 2 exceptions are Kenny Pickett and Bryce Young. This is reflected in his stat lines. In games where he threw 35 passes or more (7 games) he threw a total of 8 interceptions. In games where he threw less than 35 passes (6 games) he had a total of 4 interceptions. This indicates that if the Hokies establish a ground game, then they can limit the amount of throws that Wells makes in a game. Thus, keeping the turnovers down. One counterpoint to this though, is that Marshall had RB Rasheen Ali, who accounted for 1,400 yards on 250 carries and 23 touchdown runs last season. Even though Marshall had a workhorse running back, they still did not rank in the top 50 in rushing offense, which led to more throws for Wells. If this is any indication, then this bodes well for the Hokie offense as they had a top 50 rushing attack coming in at 42nd. This will provide the Hokie’s with a more balanced attack that can, hopefully, limit passing attempts. To reassure all you Hokie fans, Coach Pry has stated that he wants the Hokies to establish the run on offense. With this in mind, it is reasonable to believe that Virginia Tech’s run game should be as good or even better than last season.

Now, a QB with a good arm can also be very bold. Another part of Wells’ interception story is that he likes to take chances downfield. This works for some great deep touchdowns that you will see flash on his highlight tape. However, this also gets Wells into interception trouble as he will sometimes force throws into tight windows. The tape does not lie on this. Of his 16 touchdown passes last season, 11 of them traveled 15 or more yards through the air. Only 5 traveled under 15 air yards, 3 of them coming in the red zone. The same statistics are similar when it came to interception air yards as well. Of his 12 interceptions, 9 of them traveled over 15 air yards, and 3 of them traveled under 15 air yards. All of this is to show that Wells is more than willing to take shots down the field. This will come with its ups and downs, but considering that Virginia Tech's offense has been predictable over the last couple seasons, downfield throws will help change that.

Game Film:

Because Virginia Tech is playing ODU week 1, it seems appropriate to review Marshall's game against the Monarchs last October. This game is very telling of Grant Wells' character because he battled against tons of pressure (sacked 3 times) and he threw two interceptions (both downfield throws). One of them can be seen here.

Wells took a hit as he launched a downfield shot that got picked off. This is one example of him struggling under pressure and taking a risk that he should not have. However, Wells would later throw a bomb for a game tying touchdown pass with under a minute to go as seen below.

In overtime, Wells capped off his clutch performance with a game winning touchdown strike of 22 yards. On this play, Wells shows off his accuracy I was talking about earlier while on the run.

Another game worthy of highlighting is Marshall's game against UAB last November. UAB had the best defense (at least statistically) that Grant Wells faced last year. He was sacked twice and was hurried and hit on throws all game long. This was reflected in his completion percentage, 54%, which was his worst of the season. The reason that this game is worth talking about is that Grant Wells is going from a group of five program to a power five school that loves its football. Will he be able to handle it? His performance in this game is promising. UAB's defense was the closest thing that he will have faced to a power five defense. Despite all the difficulties he faced in this game, he never quit. And he was even able to throw this dart for a deep touchdown.

That touchdown finished a well executed two minute drill before the end of the half. If you want to watch the full drive, then rewind that video to the 8:30 mark. He would later throw another touchdown on a screen pass. Unfortunately, Wells ended up throwing an interception on the would be game tying drive late. Although Marshall lost that game, Wells' gutsy performance is encouraging. That game is a microcosm of who Grant Wells is as a QB. There will be ups and downs, but he will not give up and your team will always have a chance to win at the end. Against ODU, he pulled it out. Against UAB, he failed. But, as I said before, if Virginia Tech can form an offense around him that plays to his strengths, then there is no reason that they cannot put up some points this season. When you turn the TV on to watch some Virginia Tech football on September 2nd, you are going to see another dimension to the quarterback position that Tech has not had for a bit. I suspect that most Hokie fans will be able to tolerate a few extra interceptions if it also means we are scoring more points. How does that saying go? "Aim small, miss small". Virginia Tech has been aiming small over the last few seasons. Now they can aim big.

Go Hokies.

All images via Roanoke Times. All statistics via