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
  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

  • WVU hoping to add two non-conference contests

    West Virginia is nearing the completion of deals to play football games against long-time rival Virginia Tech, now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, according to a source close to the negotiations.
    An announcement is expected shortly.

    July 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: MLB All-Star game biggest celebration of top athletes

    You will pardon me if I find something else to do when the Pro Bowl rolls around, or if I try to find a “Three Stooges” marathon when it’s time for the NHL All-Star game. As for the NBA All-Star game, I’d rather watch a replay of a four-year-old Uruguay-Ethiopia World Cup soccer match in which I knew the outcome.
     

    July 14, 2014

  • Howes learns to ‘never settle’ as WVU administrator

    You probably don’t know much about Terri Howes, even though she is a rather high-ranking executive in the West Virginia University athletic department.
    “I like it that way,” she said, sitting in a large office at the Coliseum, decorated with pictures and memorabilia, a jar of candy sitting by the door for visitors to dip into.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Rich Rod’s return not impossible

    As you may guess, in the wake of LeBron James’ decision to let bygones be millions and return to his rooters in Cleveland, more than once was I approached with someone wanting to know if this opened the door for a return to West Virginia University of their once-reviled coach Rich Rodriguez.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Trickett best option as a leader

    In the end, West Virginia University’s decision to place the mantle of starting quarterback upon veteran Clint Trickett was less about quarterback than it was about leadership.
    This is not to say that Trickett lacks the talent to succeed as quarterback in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system.

    July 6, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads