The strange circumstances of the 2021 football season have left an opening for Liam Welch to lead a pack of hungry, well-rested Bulldogs to victory. And after five seasons of position battles for starting quarterback, Welch finally has an opportunity to take control.
Welch began his college career in 2016, where he spent three seasons under Samford legend Devlin Hodges. After Hodges’ departure in 2018, all signs pointed to Liam Welch, the dual-threat quarterback out of Augusta, Georgia. But then, Chris Oladokun transferred to Samford from UCF, and started eight of the twelve games in 2019.
The position battle between Welch and Oladokun has been flaming since the summer of 2019. This season, Oladokun earned the starting role for the season opener. Welch started the following game against Western Carolina, which ended with 411 all-purpose yards and five total touchdowns.
Though Oladokun and Welch have been relentlessly competing for the starting spot since 2019, the two have become close friends, motivating each other every week in practice.
“Chris and I are both very competitive people,” Welch said. “We compete with each other at a high level. This doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s one of my best friends on the team, and he’d tell you the same. We get along great and hangout outside of football all the time.”
Welch believes the chemistry and shared motivation between the two not only affects their own performances, but also the team’s performance as a whole.
“I honestly believe our relationship is a big reason our team is so close as a whole because he and I are never butting heads,” Welch said. “I want him to succeed as much as he wants me to and that’s the most important thing.”
Welch has played under head coach Chris Hatcher his entire career, but will be playing under a new offensive coordinator this season. Hatcher hired offensive coordinator Mitch Stewart after tenured offensive coordinator Russ Callaway departed for LSU during the offseason.
Even with the changes, Welch has been pleased with Stewart’s role with the team.
“It is important to gain that new perspective on the ways we do things,” Welch said. “Because that’s the only way we can grow together as a team and leaders among campus.”
Regardless of his position battle, Welch wants nothing more than the team to gel together and establish a balanced attack every game.
“So far this year, I think it’s imperative for our offense to have a healthy balance of running and passing because we have such dynamic running backs and wide receivers,” Welch said. “It all starts behind a powerful offensive line, and those guys couldn’t be playing better for us right now.”
Welch is also aware of the effects a solid defense can have on his offensive unit. Hatcher brought in Nick Benedetto to lead the defense this season, and after three games, Welch likes what he sees.
“We’re lucky to have coach Benedetto and the new defensive coaching staff who have been able to put our defense in a position to do really well,” Welch said. “Their success has been a key component to our offensive success because of the field position they’ve given us.”
Welch and the Bulldogs will take on Wofford, Saturday, March 13, in Birmingham at noon. It will be the second home game for Samford this season.