MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - At the end of a preseason camp that most thought would sort out who would start at running back at West Virginia, it would seem the many practices did not find a way to separate Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith as much as they found a way to combine the two.
"They've had packages with me and Charles in the backfield and they motion me out and keep him in the backfield or motion him out and keep me in the backfield," Smith said, "and every time we do that, it seems a big play happens."
It happened twice last week in a brief part of practice open to the media.
Sims, the transfer from the University of Houston, was paired with Smith, the transfer from Butler Community College. One time, Sims motioned from the left of the quarterback to the right side of the line of scrimmage. Sims, lined up right of the quarterback, took the handoff and slashed left.
Later, Smith started on the quarterback's left and motioned left and was an extra blocker when Sims, to the quarterback's right, ran to the left with the handoff.
"Everybody that we consider athletes - people who are great with the ball in their hands - we're going to sit there and scheme up ways to get those guys the ball within our offense and we're going to make sure they get used every way possible," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.
So if the Mountaineers are short on inside receivers, they can use two true running backs to put their best five skill players on the field. WVU still seeks balance on offense, and may need running backs more than normal because of the new starter at quarterback, but that doesn't necessarily limit them to running the ball more.
Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, who was Sims' offensive coordinator in 2009 at Houston, said Sims can play outside receiver, but Dawson said Sims could be the team's best inside receiver. Smith said he's motioned out to inside receiver to handle screen passes.
More and more, the coaches find ways to make use of those two, as well as juniors Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison and freshman Wendell Smallwood.
"I've heard this is the greatest depth at running back we've had in years," Smith said. "We're taking advantage of it. If one person can't go, we've got four more. One's going to hop in and take over with what he can do."
Smith's reality is not the perception he had when the Mountaineers started pitching their program to him at Butler.
There was a time when Smith thought WVU was a passing team and not the right place for a running back who averaged 7.6 yards and scored 26 touchdowns across 220 carries in two years in junior college.