The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

August 16, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: RB depth key in the long run

MORGANTOWN — For a coach whose offense has most deservedly been dubbed the Air Raid, considering that everywhere he goes passing records are shattered like so many cheap vases atop an unstable credenza in a 7.3 earthquake, Dana Holgorsen constructed a rather impressive stable of West Virginia University running backs.

There are, in fact, no fewer than three of them who have gained 200 yards in a collegiate game along with a big shot junior college transfer with the rather catchy name of Dreamius Smith and even a group of talented freshmen, so many that you were moved to ask offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson if, perhaps, he has too much of a good thing.

“I promise you, we don’t,” he answered, without so much a momentary hesitation. “Don’t worry about that.”

But Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie, transfer Charles Sims, Smith … on and on.

“We’re talented at running back, no doubt, but it’s not like they go out there and do everything perfect,” Dawson said, sounding very much like a coach trying to prepare his team for a long season.

But there was a point Dawson was about to make about the position of running back, a point which isn’t readily thought of.

“Running back is probably the most physical position on the field,” he said, probably meaning among the skill players on offense. “You need more numbers at running back than you do at any receiver position.”

Really?

“Running backs have to pick up blitzes; they have to get hit on every play; they run between the tackles and do things we never ask our receivers to do,” he said. “Our inside receivers, at times, they don’t even need shoulder pads out there, the way they play.”

Chalk that aside up to his general overall displeasure with his inside receivers.

The truth is we see running backs almost every year go down, be it to a knee injury as Garrison did two years ago, a toe injury as Amos Zereoue once did, a concussion or a shoulder injury. It is a far more common part of being a running back than winning a Heisman Trophy.

That is why Dawson says he’s hesitant to redshirt any of this group of running backs.

“It’s hard to redshirt a running back,” he said. “In our mind right now they will all play a significant role. It’s hard to redshirt a running back that’s capable because we know we’re probably going to need them all.”

Part of that is because of the aforementioned displeasure with his inside receivers but also because of the inexperience possessed by his three quarterbacks, leaving an uncertainty as to how effective the passing game will be.

Among the running backs, Sims has emerged as the most special.

“He’s the same person every day,” said Dawson. “He is probably the most consistent guy we have out there as far as coming out, keeping his mouth shut, giving maximum effort. He’s truly a good, good player and a good kid. If I was one of those young kids I’d watch him in every drill in practice and watch everything he does.”

Sims is not your normal transfer coming over and trying to fit in. He has had great success at Houston both running and catching passes and done so one year under Holgorsen, when he was offensive coordinator.

Perhaps the most intriguing is Smith, another newcomer out of Butler Community College in Kansas. He’s a big kid, 217 pounds and 6-1 or so, strong and fast. The word is that he is a good inside runner, but Dawson warns about thinking of him simply as a short yardage guy.

“If they do pigeon hole him (as a between-the-tackles guy) and he gets out in the open, he’ll outrun you in a hurry,” Dawson said.

The truth is that of the group, only Garrison doesn’t list running between the tackles as a strength but Dawson says that would not stop them from using him that way.

“Dustin doesn’t run between tackles like Dreamius, but you get him in open field and he’s pretty good, too. That’s our job on how to utilize people. You can move Dustin around to a lot of places, too,” Dawson said.

To date they have been scripting plays in practice without caring who is on the field. Next week they will begin getting into situational stuff.

“We’re not going to ask them to do different things. One may be a little better than another doing a certain thing, but we’re not going to limit them,” Dawson said. “We’re not going to pigeon hole them. If we do that it won’t take long for the other guys to know if he’s in the game he’s going to run this play or that play.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • WVU #6 SHORTS -TS.jpg WVU opens practice with different feel: VIDEOS AND PHOTOS

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen was happy with his team’s first practice of the 2014 season.
    Of course, he would note, “Everybody in the country has a good first day.”
    But somehow, this was different.
    Very different.

    August 1, 2014 9 Photos

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Social media adds another thing to watch for coaches

    As someone who has gotten himself in enough hot water with a misplaced Tweet, when West Virginia University quarterback Clint Trickett hit the send button on July 17 sending out to the cyberworld what should have remained there with him on the couch on which he was sitting, I could feel his pain.

    August 1, 2014

  • WVU basketball non-conference schedule released

    After playing challenging schedules along with the tough Big 12 road, West Virginia University has backed off some this season on its non-conference schedule that was released Thursday.
    West Virginia is coming off a 17-16 season in which it failed to reach the NCAA Tournament and lost to Georgetown in the first round of the NIT.

    August 1, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:
    “In a year of change, must the Steelers’ offense carry the defense this year?”
    Reading that turned on a light.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU takes first step today

    Perhaps the most used — and least factual — cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”
    Around these parts, however, tomorrow is what they are clinging to, while putting a new twist on the cliché, turning it to, “There’s no yesterday.”

    July 31, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads