Gary Wellman has been cleared by the NCAA to play football this season at USC, the school announced Thursday.
The former All-Southern Section running back from Westlake High had been held out of fall practice while awaiting verification that he had met the NCAA’s new academic standards for incoming freshmen, which require a core curriculum of high school courses that includes two years in a natural or physical science.
Wellman completed only 1 1/2 years in such courses, but USC, after reviewing Wellman’s high school transcripts, asked the NCAA to allow a health class to fulfill the requirement.
USC received verbal clearance from the NCAA last week and Wellman began practicing with the Trojans. He’ll be in uniform Saturday when USC opens its season against Illinois at the Coliseum.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” Wellman said Thursday. “I was waiting. I still had some hope. But I was ready to go and sit out the year. I was making plans to stay in shape and stuff like that, and then this came up.
“It feels great. It’s a big relief off my shoulders. It’s good to be playing.”
Wellman missed about three weeks of practice.
“I’m pretty far behind,” he said, “but I’ve been working with the coaches, trying to learn the system, so it’s starting to come around for me.”
Wellman has been switched to flanker at USC, but the 5-9, 170-pound freshman doesn’t believe he’ll have any trouble adjusting to the new position. In Westlake’s Delaware wing-T, he was frequently used as a wing back.
“Running patterns is not that foreign to me,” he said. “I pretty much know what I’m doing.”