Center Van Wells stepping up for CU Buffs, building rapport with Shedeur Sanders The Denver Post

As the starting quarterback of the Colorado Buffaloes, Shedeur Sanders has to be on the same page as the receivers he’s throwing to every day.

It’s also important for Sanders to be in tune with the man giving him the ball. With the Buffaloes’ season opener just two weeks away on Sept. 2 at TCU (10 a.m. MT, Fox), it appears he has a great rapport with center Van Wells.

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“Shedeur, he sees a lot,” Wells said after CU practice on Friday. “He sees the whole field, and it’s good being a center because I can see a lot of stuff, too. We talk about the best way we can slot the protection or pick up blitzes or anything like that. So, it’s good knowing that he has that football IQ and that leadership, so we can slow down and talk about it right there on the field and get everything right.”

One of only 10 scholarship players back from last year’s CU team – and one of only three that were full-time starters – Wells has made a good impression on Sanders, new offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle and his team.

Wells, nicknamed “Bam,” has been running with the first-team offense throughout camp, and a big reason for that is his connection with Sanders.

“Bam is definitely holding his own and Shedeur loves him at center, so he’ll do very good this year,” said right tackle Savion Washington, a transfer from Kent State. “Shedeur and Van communicate very well. … Shedeur and Van are able to see the field differently than I can I feel like.”

While Sanders has a high football IQ and is used to calling protections from his time at Jackson State, O’Boyle said the Buffs’ system takes some of that burden off the quarterback. Wells’ experience and knowledge has been vital in that regard.

“They work well together,” O’Boyle said. “They communicate a lot and I know Shedeur, with the system that he came in with, had a lot of say in protections and some things like that. It’s a little bit different. The offensive line takes a little bit more of the protection amongst themselves (in this offense). A lot of stuff is built in.

“Just the communication there, that we’re going to be OK up front; we’re gonna make the right calls and the right checks, takes a little bit off Shedeur. The system’s working well and Bam’s doing a great job. He’s having a real good fall camp.”

Wells had a good fall camp in 2022, as well, impressing the previous coaching staff from the get-go. He became just the 13th true freshman in CU history to start a game on the offensive line. He wound up starting eight games (six at center, two at guard), tied for the second-most by a true freshman lineman in CU history (Brian Daniels had nine in 2003).

“It was good for me,” Wells said of the experience he gained, despite CU’s dismal 1-11 record. “I got to play in this conference already, I got to see what was out there. Last year, honestly, I think I was just playing on talent. But now this year, I get to play off experience and actually knowing more about the game.”

Most of the people Wells played with and for in 2022 are gone, as new head coach Deion Sanders has overhauled the roster. But, Wells is surrounded by linemen who have college experience.

Left guard Jack Bailey and Washington were both starters at Kent State last year. Left tackle Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan started with Wells at CU. And, at right guard, the Buffs have rotated between Jack Wilty, who was all-conference at Iowa Central Community College last year, and Landon Bebee, who was second-team all-conference three times at Missouri State.

“It’s good because you have people on the line who know what they’re doing, know the game, know how it’s going to be,” Wells said. “Knowing I’ve got two guards right here on the same level mentally as me, it makes everything so much easier.”

For Wells, a lot of the game is easier this year, not only because of his own experience, but because of the plethora of changes within the program.

“It’s good because, again, we won one game and I didn’t like that at all,” he said. “I had never felt anything like that, but I felt like it was an experience that I needed to have. It only got me better.”

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