There is nothing like familir faces to make you feel at home.
When he took his official visit to the campus of Newberry College earlier this year, Welton Cauthen said he could have easily been back in Camden. The Camden High senior defensive end saw people he knew on his arrival and did not feel overwhelmed by the school and its buildings themselves.
When it came time for the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder to make his choice as to where he would continue his academic and football-playing pursuits, Cauthen went with his heart and signed a National Letter of Intent with Newberry College.
"I liked everything about Newberry," he said. "It is a very nice campus. I knew a lot of people there from the various schools, from camps I went to and growing up playing Little League ball with some people. It has that ‘at home’ feeling.
"It’s a smaller school, kind of like Camden, so it should be an easy transition and a good choice for me."
Cauthen is one a three players from the Bulldogs’ 5-6 2014 squad to sign with the Wolves along with former teammates Tyrel Smith and D.J. Wilson. They will join former teammate and 2014 CHS graduate, Alexx Cooke, who will be a sophomore wide receiver at Newberry next fall.
Cauthen is coming off a tough senior season in which injuries curtailed his playing time to the point in which he had 17 tackles to show for his effort. He still managed to be second on the team with three quarterback sacks. During an injury free 2013 season, Cauthen rang up 40 tackles while leading Jimmy Neal’s troops with 18 quarterback pressures. He had a pair of sacks while registering seven stops behind the line of scrimmage as a junior.
Needing someone to come in and play defensive end last season, Cauthen was moved from outside linebacker which, along with the injuries, led to a decline in his numbers. Neal said a healthy Cauthen will be a plus for Todd Knight’s charges at Newberry.
"We kind of had him out of position last year because of our needs and where he needed to play for us," said the Bulldog head coach of Cauthen’s being moved along line of scrimmage. "I really think that Welton can be an excellent outside linebacker who, sometimes, comes off the edge and sometimes can drop off in the passing lines which he did very well as a sophomore.
"If he gets a little bigger, he can get down and play an end position and be a nine-technique kind of a guy who Newberry line up over the tight end."
In his conversations with Newberry and with assistant coach Steven Flynn, who handled the recruitment of the trio of Bulldogs, Cauthen said the Wolves will first look at him as an end. But a return to linebacker is not out of the question.
"Most likely," he said, "I will be a defensive end and I will probably play some outside linebacker and various special teams. I would like to play outside linebacker but defensive end works just fine for me."
Scheme-wise, Newberry has operated out of a 3-4 defensive set. In 2012, Cauthen played as an outside linebacker as a sophomore at Camden so, he said, learning the 3-4 will not be a major change for him.
While Cauthen has always been a player whose speed and quickness have worked in allowing him to get to the ball carrier and make plays on his arrival, the one area which he needs to develop at the next level is becoming stronger. And with a 6-foot-4 inch frame, Neal said Cauthen has a body which can handle additional weight.
"Welton’s biggest asset is his speed," Neal said. "What he needs to do in college is put on weight and get stronger. He has unlimited potential and has great athletic ability. Hopefully, with his speed and being as rangy as he is, he will bulk up in the off-season. I can really see him getting better and better at Newberry."
Saying that Cauthen is "a great guy who is very well thought of in school" and who does the right things, Neal said the one change Cauthen and all freshmen must get use to is the speed and physicality of not only the college games, but practice as well.
"Everybody realizes the difference between high school and college," Neal said,"is the intensity level is there all the time and your concentration level has to be there every rep in practice. I think that is something he can work on and become better at doing."
Cauthen started playing football at the age of seven, at the urging of his father. From there, he developed a love for the game. As he got older, he started dreaming about playing football in high school and then, in college.
"That’s been my number one goal to play football and go to school but the first thing has always been being a student-athlete," he said. "My grades always come first and football second."
Calling signing day "probably the biggest day of my life," Cauthen said going to college is the first step to being independent and having to make his own decisions while being away from home. "To this point," he said, "everything is doing what your parents tell you to do. Now, it’s your own decision and, you go on from there."
Saying that his primary focus will be on his schoolwork, Cauthen said he plans to continue working hard and staying dedicated to the principles which have carried him this far in life. And once at Newberry, he said he will have the advantage of having friends alongside him to help him with his academic and athletic journey.
"It made it an easier choice to have people there who I know, including last year like Alexx (Cooke) who is already there," he said of the college experience at Newberry. "College is building life-long bonds with people and having people already there makes it easier."