Plethora of halfbacks at WVU

MORGANTOWN – Should West Virginia University and third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen turn around its fortunes following last year’s 7-6 campaign, it will do so with a lot of new faces dotting the Mountaineers’ lineup.

One position which could see the greatest impact is at running back where no less than three newcomers – Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and Wendall Smallwood – could see significant playing time.

“We’re just competing until the last day,” Smallwood said. “We’re going to work hard every day in and out and whatever happens, happens. I just know that each running back has the potential to play, and that’s what we’re all going to do.”

The cupboard wasn’t completely depleted following last season, however, as juniors Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison return and both will figure into the rotation – when one is finally announced by the coaching staff.

“The thing about running back is a lot of them are going to play,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.

“That is a position that, if you watch college football, you need a lot of running backs to withstand the season.

“It is a physical game, a physical position, and those guys take a beating. To have multiple of them that can play so you are not giving 90-percent of the reps to one guy will make you better.”

Good enough to replace the offensive production missing with the departure of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL?

“The offense does not change,” continued Dawson. “The thing that changes is the makeup of the team. The pieces change and the focus of the offense might change.

“An example may be if you are thin at running back, and there was a time last year that we went into games banged up and with one healthy guy, we would go empty a lot. We didn’t run any different plays, we just ran them out of different sets, because that is who was healthy.

“The focus is going to be different because of the personnel we have. If you have a lot of running backs that are capable then you want to get them the ball in every way possible and as much as possible. We are just trying to get the ball to the best players. The easiest way to get a running back the ball is to turn and hand it to him.”

One of those will be Sims, who has already drawn a lot of attention around the Big 12 after being selected as the conference’s preseason Newcomer of the Year.

And, why not? The former-University of Houston standout led the Cougars with 851 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns and finished with 37 receptions for 373 yards and three touchdowns, earning second team all-Conference USA honors.

“I feel comfortable coming here (WVU),” Sims said. “I sat down with my family and made the decision to come on a visit, and it just felt comfortable.”

Of course getting an opportunity to play under a coach that recruited him to Houston didn’t hurt.

“That played a big part in my decision, and I am familiar with the offense already,” continued the player. “I have basically been running this offense since my freshman year; it is just different terminology you have to learn.

“I just want to make plays and be put in position to do so. I just want to help the team, however, I can.”

Something Mountaineer fans are hoping all three will do when the season opens against visiting William & Mary on Saturday, Aug. 31.