By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
In many ways, the most stunning preseason award nomination in the country was put forth when West Virginia’s new dual-threat running back Charles Sims was nominated to the Maxwell Award watch list on Monday.
West Virginia had no linebackers nominated for the Bednarik Award watch list.
Sims is a recent transfer from the University of Houston following his graduation, which freed him to transfer and play immediately without sitting out a season.
A running back by trade, Sims gained 851 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last season while also gaining more than 600 receiving yards with three touchdowns.
Sims accomplished that while missing three full games and halves of three others in Conference-USA play last year.
Sims was an all-C-USA second team pick following the injury-marred season after having been a first team pick the previous year when he rushed for 821 yards on just 110 carries and caught 51 passes for 575 yards while scoring 13 TDs.
He’s expected to take up some of the slack left this year by the departure of Tavon Austin as a pass catcher and rusher.
The choice is an interesting one in that while Sims has a strong record at Houston and did play a year under Holgorsen when he was offensive coordinator, his role on this offense is not yet known, especially with no quarterback having been named and no starting running backs.
There were only five other Big 12 players named to the watch list:
• David Ash, QB, Texas
• Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma
• John Hubert, RB, Kansas State
• Casey Pachall, QB, TCU
• Larche Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, the returning Conference-USA MVP, also is on the watch list.
A year ago he led FBS in completions per game (33.83), passing yards per game (350.08), was third in touchdown passes (37) and fifth in both total offense (352.67 yards per game) and completion percentage (69.5).
Each statistic topped C-USA.
The watch list incorporates a broad spectrum of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs and conferences from coast to coast. Returning Maxwell Award semifinalists from 2012 include Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, USC WR Marqise Lee, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, Alabama QB AJ McCarron, Ohio State QB Braxton Miller and Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas.
The list also showcases six defensive players, and for the first time in award history three offensive linemen, Michigan OT Taylor Lewan, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews and Stanford OG David Yankey. Defending national champion Alabama is the most represented program, with RB T.J. Yeldon, WR Amari Cooper and LB C.J. Mosley joining McCarron.
Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced Oct. 29, while the three finalists for each award will be unveiled Nov. 25. The winners of the 2013 Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show held Dec. 12. The formal presentations of these awards will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala hosted by Harrah’s Entertainment Atlantic City on March 7, 2014.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.