WVU football: Sims' time draws near
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Charles Sims has spoken to the media just once since transferring from the University of Houston to West Virginia in June. It was a little more than 11 minutes of Sims politely answering basic questions and strongly suggesting he's not one for the spotlight off the field.
"I'm just trying to enjoy myself," Sims said, the envelope pushed about as far as he was willing to push it.
He can't avoid the attention on the field and the Mountaineers don't want him to during his only season on campus.
The Conference USA Freshman of the Year with the Cougars in 2009, first-team all-conference in 2011 and second-team all-conference last season, Sims comes to WVU with 4,077 yards of offense and 37 touchdowns. He has averaged 7.7 yards per touch and scored once every 14 touches in his career.
Sims' debut in Saturday's season opener at home against William & Mary (noon kickoff) is, quite simply, the most anticipated at WVU since the similarly introverted Noel Devine's in 2007. Those who have seen Sims in action testify his act is not one to miss.
Running backs coach JaJuan Seider held the same job at Marshall the previous three years, which included a 44-41 win against Houston last season and a 63-28 loss in 2011. The 35-point Cougars win was Seider's first and most memorable look at Sims.
When his running backs came off the field, it was the coach who rushed through his critiques.
"You hurried up and got through talking to your players so you can go and watch them play, including him," Seider said.
Still surging from the 2009 season spent with WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen as its offensive coordinator, Houston finished the 2011 season ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring offense and total offense. Sims was a big reason why and he did his part early that day against Marshall.
The then-sophomore carried six times for 73 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He finished with 75 yards rushing and 40 yards on two receptions.
"In the offseason I always study guys to continue to learn and some of what I watched was Houston, so I watched him again and again," Seider said. "He's good. He's special."
Holgorsen was instrumental in recruiting Sims from the Cougars' backyard in 2009, a relationship that helped lead Sims to WVU years later. Holgorsen put Sims to work in 2009, when the first-year player caught 70 passes - which was only the fourth-highest total on the team - for 759 yards. He ran 132 times - second on the team - for a team-high 698 yards.
Sims was the only player in the country with 600 yards rushing and receiving that season.
He has been steady ever since. He has averaged 5.3, 7.0 and 6.2 yards per carry and 10.8, 11.3 and 10.1 yards receiving in his three seasons, his stardom stunted in 2010 when he was ruled academically ineligible and sat out the entire season.
"He's a good player, very well-rounded," Holgorsen said. "I remember him being very well-rounded with good ball skills, being good at setting up blocks. And I remember all of that at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds as opposed to being 6-1, 210 pounds, which he is now. He's got an abundance of ability."
Seider said Sims is likely the fastest player on the team. Holgorsen said Sims can play outside receiver. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said if WVU gave it a shot, Sims would be the team's best inside receiver. Special teams coordinator Joe DeForest said Sims can return kickoffs, which is something Sims has never done in his career.
He gives opponents plenty to think about, much like Tavon Austin did a year ago, but Sims puts his coaches in the same predicament.
"That makes it fun for us as coaches to have guys like that who can do different things," Holgorsen said. "You start scheming a little bit, like we did with Tavon. There aren't many guys who can do it, but guys who play several different spots are hard to come by.
"Not to compare him to Tavon at all, but having guys that you can put in different spots without having a year's worth of reps to get them doing what you want them to do, it makes it easier."
The size, the speed and the versatility all help Sims, but not as much as his experience. He knows the offense and he knows how to practice. Above all else, coaches and teammates praised Sims for his consistent practice performances.
"If I was one of those kids around him, I'd watch him go through every drill in practice and watch everything that he does and try to emulate him as closely as I could," Dawson said.
Sims doesn't need a lot of reps to figure out new blocking schemes with the offensive line or varying receiver routes at inside or outside receiver. He'll get better as the season goes along and give the Mountaineers a player they can use to create mismatches.
What WVU does on offense is basically the same every week, but the way the coaches choose to use players will change. They find places they can create and maximize an advantage and Sims is always going to be someone WVU tries to use.
"Once we get into week one, week two, week three and we start game-planning stuff, it's going to be a whole different deal," Dawson said. "It might not look much different, but obviously if this is a kid who needs the ball in his hands, then it's no different than what we did with Tavon and how we tried to manipulate ways to get him the ball."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.