BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech’s coordinated push to land Marshall transfer quarterback Grant Wells had him ready to pack his bags to get to Blacksburg the same day he hit the transfer portal.
Tech’s recruiting efforts to land Wells started with J.C. Price calling the quarterback the minute he hit the portal on Jan. 3 and he verbally committed four days later.
Wells fielded plenty of calls in that first 24 hours — some suitors included Notre Dame, Indiana and Arizona State — but Price’s call carried a lot of weight. Price was on Marshall’s staff during Wells’ first two seasons in Huntington.
“Coach Price was a big factor in this whole recruitment,” Wells told The Roanoke Times last week in a phone interview. “I have a very strong connection and admiration for coach Price. I know that this is his home. He talked about this place even while at Marshall.”
Price set up calls with head coach Brent Pry and quarterbacks coach Brad Glenn for Wells that night. Pry got Wells “fired up” while Glenn detailed what the team’s offensive approach would be.
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Wells, who has three years of eligibility left, found the structure of Tech’s new offensive staff intriguing. The Hokies are expected to officially announce Jaguars tight end coach Tyler Bowen as their new offensive coordinator this week and he is expected to call plays and coach tight ends.
That’s a departure from how former Tech coach Justin Fuente structured his staff with offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen calling plays and coaching quarterbacks. Marshall’s staff was set up the same way while Wells was there with offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey performing those same duties.
“This is the first time I will have a separate quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, so I had a lot of questions about that,” Wells said. “…I was excited to have somebody to go to after each play and not distract coach Bowen from calling the plays. That’s one thing that stood out the most.”
Wells said the coaching staff was “extremely open” with him about their plans at quarterback.
Those plans involved signing multiple transfer quarterbacks — the Hokies got a verbal commitment from South Carolina quarterback Jason Brown at the same exact moment as Wells — and having an open competition between all the quarterbacks during spring camp.
“They were not afraid to say they were going to sign another guy, but that was needed,” Wells said. “I could see that from a mile away that their quarterback room was thin. You can’t have a thin quarterback room going into any season.”
Wells’ familiarity with Tech helped the school land atop his list as well.
Fuente recruited Wells when he was coming out of George Washington High School in West Virginia, and his family’s ties to the area ran deep — his father is a Tech grad and his mother went to Radford. They were even part of the sold out crowd at Lane Stadium back in November 2015 for Frank Beamer’s final game in Blacksburg, a 30-27 loss to North Carolina.
“I definitely got the full experience,” Wells said, of the game.
It all added up to a quick decision for the quarterback, who is eager to get on campus once he clears the admission process. He will compete alongside Brown, Connor Blumrick, Tahj Bullock and incoming freshman signee Devin Farrell for the starting job this spring.
Although he has yet to face a power five opponent, he will have the most starting experience among the competitors. He went 14-9 in 23 games as a two-year starter at Marshall.
Wells was Conference USA’s freshman of the year in 2020 and was the first freshman quarterback in league history to earn all-conference first team honors. In 2021, he threw for 3,532 yards with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions to help Marshall finish the season with the country’s No. 18 ranked passing offense (out of 130 FBS teams).
That success planted the seeds for Wells’ departure.
Wells spent the weeks following Marshall’s 36-21 loss in the New Orleans Bowl to Louisiana-Lafayette thinking over his future and decided to follow the “gut feeling” he had.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Wells said. “When you look at everything, I was a two-year starter, I put up decent numbers. It took a lot for me to make this decision ultimately, but I had to stick with what I believe. I felt like I was ready to move on and challenge myself as much as I could.”
And Virginia Tech was waiting there with open arms.
“Virginia Tech has always been on my radar,” Wells said. “It was not a hard decision to ultimately pick Virginia Tech. I could tell they were excited. I certainly was too.”