IOWA CITY Iowa, — Far away from the practice field, sitting in a chair with a pencil in hand, Sean Welsh made some of his most important strides.
Inside the Iowa football complex, with film of his latest practice session running, Welsh went back-and-forth over his reps, figuring out what he needed to work on. It was here, in these sessions, where his first steps toward becoming an All-American truly started.
“It’s like writing notes,” Welsh said. “It’s like recall. When you write stuff down, if you aren’t paying attention, you will remember it better than just listening to it. That is the same thing with film. It really cements it in your head so the next time you are out there and you are in that situation you can fix it.”
Film doesn’t lie
Welsh started parts of the last three seasons. He earned second-team All-America accolades at offensive guard from USA Today following his redshirt junior year in 2016. He is arguably the best player on the reigning Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line unit.
But when he arrived, Welsh was a 3-star prospect from Ohio struggling to find his way during preseason camp.
It was a little like being thrown into the deep end of a pool and being told to swim. He needed to adapt to the pace, style and physicality of college football while dumping his old high school habits for the technique the Hawkeyes preached.
It wasn’t always easy, at least not until the video came on.
“It’s more in remembering things,” Welsh said. “You’ll screw up on the field. You’ll think this is what I did. This is what made me screw up and you’ll forget about it. Then you’ll watch the film and it clicks.”
Film became one of Welsh’s best learning tools. He dissected his play and saw why Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz kept telling him to keep his backside elbow in and step into the groin of a defensive lineman. Welsh still uses film to refine his technique as he enters his senior season.
“It’s the same stuff,” Welsh said. “It doesn’t change. The process never changes, and that’s what you learn as you get older. It’s simple to understand, but it’s hard to do.”
That’s why Welsh and the rest of the offensive line prefer group sessions. Several linemen will cram together to watch film, older players passing on tips to younger players while everyone takes notes on opponents or how to fine-tune their fundamentals.
“You have to learn how to watch film,” offensive tackle Ike Boettger said. “There isn’t a quick fix for it, but once you get it you can really improve.”
Film room to the field
It didn’t take Welsh long to start putting things together. He started nine games as a redshirt freshman in 2014. He made 26 starts over the last two seasons, earning honorable mention all-conference honors as a sophomore before receiving national recognition as a junior.
Watching film is good, but it doesn’t do much if a player can’t translate what he learns onto the field.
“It’s really important to be able to watch yourself and be objective and really look at what you need to improve,” Welsh said. “You can’t just stop there. You have to know I have to think about this when we start 9-on-7 (drills.)”
Practice time and hours spent drilling fundamentals are a requirement for success. So is learning the playbook and spending plenty of time in the weight room.
Film is just as important. Just ask Welsh.
“I wouldn’t have gotten this far without it,” Welsh said.