By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The reports we all have gotten out of those who have really seen him play are that Dreamius Smith is a beast with the football in his hands, nearly 220 pounds of power who also has the ability to make a cut or two when called upon.
With that in mind you would think his nickname among his West Virginia University teammates would be, well, “Beast” or something of that ilk, but that is hardly the case.
So what do his teammates call him?
“Toto,” he answered, almost shyly.
Toto, as in that cute little Cairn terrier puppy Judy Garland carried with her through the Kansas tornado and into The Land of Oz.
“Everybody likes to call me ‘Toto’ because I’m from Kansas,” he said.
Indeed, he does come from Wichita by way of Kansas’ Butler Community College, and, yes, he actually had signed with Kansas before failing to pass the NCAA Clearinghouse due to test scores.
But wouldn’t “The Kansas Comet,” as they once called Gale Sayers, who ran as no running back before him or since, be better.
Best yet, considering the Kansas connection and the Toto reference, would be simply “The Wizard of Ahs.”
Of course, one might argue that with a name like Dreamius, there really is no need for a nickname at all.
Dreamius is difficult to improve upon.
Smith represents an important part of the offensive package that Dana Holgorsen wants in his offense. He believes in versatility, and while much of his offense is based on getting speedy backs one-on-one in space, he also wants an inside game to keep the linebackers honest.
You saw it with Shawne Alston, but he was so injury plagued that Holgorsen never really knew when he would be available.
Smith does not seem to be that type and, in fact, says that he can take a heavy workload if necessary.
“Whatever they have in store is fine,” he said when asked if he could handle 25 carries in a game. “Yes, I can take 25 carries, but whatever happens. I won’t be a selfish type of person. If we get a win, that’s what I want.”
It is highly unlikely Smith will be overworked running the ball very often as Holgorsen likes to throw the football a lot and has a lot of options to run it with the likes of Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie and Charles Sims at the running back position, each in possession of at least one 200-yard single-game effort on his collegiate resume.
More than likely, Smith will be asked to do as much blocking as running, especially if Holgorsen goes with as many two-back sets as you would think he would with the depth at the position.
“You are labeled as a running back, so every coach knows you can run the ball. They want to know what you can do when you don’t have the ball,” he said. “Coach (Ja’Juan) Seider wants to see that we are running downfield and making blocks and wants to see you going down there when someone else catches the ball to block for them.”
Smith has been working hard on his blocking, knowing that might be the key to get him more playing time.
“That’s just something that I wanted to pick up and improve on. My junior college coaches stressed that a lot, so I knew I had to bring that here and show that not only can I run the ball, but I can help out blocking, too. I’m still working on it, and it can always improve,” he said.
In the end, though, Dreamius Smith is here because of what he adds as a ball carrier.
“I would say my strengths are my vision and just lowering my shoulder to get those extra, tough yards. I can always break a long run, but I’d say my strength is fighting in between the tackles and getting those tough yards,” he said.
Getting into this position, though, took a bit longer than Smith would have liked, although he doesn’t begrudge it and believes it was necessary.
He had enrolled at Kansas in the summer a couple of years back but was stymied by his ACT score, so he went off to Butler CC, a traditional national power.
“Knowing the benefits of working hard and staying consistent on the practice field,” he said of what he learned. “In the long run it paid off. It was two good years I really needed. It helped me out here, and I never regretted going there.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.