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Mike Casazza: One way or another, Sims will help Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN - Charles Sims is a press release away from officially joining West Virginia University's football team and the natural and reasonable reaction to that news is the Mountaineers will run the ball more and better than people previously predicted.

On one level, it makes sense. WVU was already blessed with a junior college transfer who was explosive and punishing the last two seasons, plus the team's leading rushers from 2011 and 2012. Sims, a fifth-year senior transfer from the University of Houston who can play right away, is really good. Like, NFL good.

So, sure, more handoffs would seem to be in the offing.

I just beg to differ. Add a running back like Sims and you shore up the passing game. This has nothing to do with his talent as a receiver, meritorious as that may be. It has to do with an offense's identity and its needs.

WVU football Coach Dana Holgorsen has made comments or answered questions that would support the idea he's going to run the ball a lot in 2013. And at the end of spring football, that sounded about right. As near as onlookers could tell, the strength of the offense had been the running backs while the concerns rested with the pass-catch possibilities.

Since then, so many things have changed that you ought to at least alter your perception of the offense. Holgorsen brought a quarterback, Clint Trickett, in from Florida State to play as soon as he proves ready.

Receiver Ronald Carswell arrived from junior college and Jacky Marcellus and Shelton Gibson arrived from high school. Receiver Mario Alford is supposed to me the most college-ready of the group and he has not yet made his way here from junior college. Ivan McCartney returned from a self-ascribed sabbatical and he's actually the most veteran player at his position.

Don't think of those names as additions. Think of them as upgrades. They add depth in numbers, but also in talent and a few of them are going to take spots that belonged to someone else in that disconcerting spring. And don't think for a second the coaches weren't aware of that the whole time.

Sims is going to help the passing game, too. Say all the nice things you want about juniors Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie and widen your eyes as you recite Dreamius Smith's stats and wonder what he can do for the Mountaineers. But be honest, too, and ask yourself if you truly felt safe tilting Holgorsen's proven passing offense toward those three. Were you really comfortable making that transition with an offensive line that will have two new guards, a new center and a new coach?

Or would you rather walk down Holgorsen's well-worn path and take a chance at creating stars who can pass or catch all while giving the running back duties to someone skilled enough to be in the NFL right now, but to also make that offensive line much better?

This is very simple: Sims can give Holgorsen the desired results in fewer opportunities than Smith, Garrison or Buie. Holgorsen loves having extra snaps he can spread however he chooses.

Smith ran for a ton of yards and a lot of touchdowns the last two seasons and averaged 7.6 yards per carry. Certainly WVU could use that, but you can't simply assume he'll be as prolific at this level as he was in junior college.

Garrison led the Mountaineers with 742 yards in 2011, but 291 came in one game. In the seven games after that, he totaled 385 yards, never with more than 87 in a game or 16 on a carry. He battled himself and a rehabilitated knee to 207 yards last season. Buie led the team with 851 yards last season, but 207 came against Texas. He had 416 in the eight games after that, never with more than 100 in a game of 18 on a carry, and again battled body blows that slowed him on the way to 172 yards as a freshman.

Sims is different, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound one-man platoon who can use his size inside and his speed outside and run routes and catch passes. He also knows the offense having played for Holgorsen at Houston in 2009. That season saw Sims catch 70 passes for 759 yards and rush 132 times for 698 yards. He missed 2010 with an injury, but in 2011 and 2012 totaled 1,672 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing and averaged 6.6 yards per carry while finding time to fit in 88 receptions for 948 yards and seven touchdowns and 10.8 yards per catch.

He'll line up at receiver, motion out of the backfield or catch passes on the go in the flat, but that's not how he'll help in the pass game. His presence and the threat he poses as a running back will help everyone else pass and catch better. He has the credentials Smith, Garrison and Buie lack. Defensive coordinators have to give Sims respect, which is precisely what Holgorsen needs to liberate his passing offense.  

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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