By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
If all that mattered in evaluating a running back were simply production, Charles Sims wouldn’t be considered one of the better running backs in the country.
No, he probably wouldn’t be looked upon quite the way his coach at West Virginia University, Dana Holgorsen, describes him heading into the 7 p.m. game Saturday with Texas at Milan Puskar Stadium, but that does not detract from the fact that he is among the more versatile and productive running backs playing the college game today.
“Charles is a special player; we all know that,” Holgorsen said after Sims rushed for 153 yards and scored a touchdown rushing and receiving in an important victory over TCU last week. “I’ve been saying that since the day he arrived here. He’s a special player in the run game and a special player in the pass game.
“No other backs in the country do as much as he does. We’re talking about running the ball, being a receiver out of the backfield and lining up as a receiver and making plays down the field.”
But Sims offers two things more than just his on-field production.
First, he offers … a moment of quiet.
In a world filled with noise from the cheering of 60,000 through the band playing, the Mountaineers’ gun being first, players shouting out signals and the endless blabber that flows forth over the airwaves, Sims is a player who says very little and, when he does speak, it is not far above a whisper.
“Charles is such a great kid, but he does not talk. He is petrified of a presentation he has to make,” Holgorsen pointed out.
Secondly and, more seriously and more importantly, he offers a quiet leadership that is invaluable from a respected senior to a young, rebuilding team such as WVU is.
“Wendell Smallwood does everything Charles does,” Holgorsen said the other day, referring to WVU’s freshman running back. “His attitude is so good. The way he approaches every day in the weight room, film room and practice field. He plays with as much effort as he possibly can, and that is rubbing off on everyone on the team. Even defensive guys point it out. He is a special player and kid, and I am glad he is here.”
It was Holgorsen who brought Sims to Morgantown. Aware he was losing most of his offensive firepower and really didn’t have a lot on hand to help fill in, Holgorsen reached back into his past and thought of Sims.
Sims had been a freshman at Houston the year Holgorsen served as offensive coordinator there and had given him a lot of strong, versatile play until injured. Having gotten a degree at Houston with eligibility left, Sims could transfer to WVU without sitting out the normally required year to use up his final season of eligibility.
“It was obvious the kid does everything right, and Dana knew his work ethic and had a good idea of what we were getting,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson pointed out. .
And just what they were getting was this on the field:
• He is pushing toward 1,000 rushing yards with 754 to lead WVU and has caught 36 passes, second by one to freshman receiver Daikiel Shorts, for 300 yards.
• He possesses seven touchdowns, as many as any two other players on the team have combined.
But this is not a championship team, and Sims’ legacy may be found in the example he sets for the younger players.
“The way he goes about his everyday life and everyday practice is the way everyone should do it,” Dawson said. “It’s amazing how that kid just keeps his mouth shut, does what he’s told and does it with everything he’s got.
“If you get a lot of guys doing that, you’re probably going to be a success. If those younger kids don’t sit there and watch him and try to emulate everything he does, then that’s their fault.”
They do, at least for certain receiver Daikiel Shorts does.
“I’ve learned how to prepare and go full speed all the time and fight through injuries and nicks from him,” Shorts said.
The lessons aren’t given, but they are there for the taking.
“He doesn’t pull you aside and talk to you. In fact, he didn’t talk a lot at first but he’s more comfortable with the team now,” Shorts said. “Charles is cool. He’s a cool dude.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.