By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
If there was any message delivered to West Virginia University’s junior running back Dreamius Smith last Saturday it is this:
Being on the field is better than being on the bench.
And if you are going to be on the field, there’s no place better to be than the end zone.
The big running back out of Butler Community College in Kansas found the end zone for the first time at West Virginia from 75 yards out for the Mountaineers’ only score in a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma and had himself a nice celebration.
“It was a blessing to get in there my first time at West Virginia, and I just wanted to celebrate and let them know it was the first touchdown,” he admitted.
He’s hoping to get there for the first time at Mylan Puskar Stadium when the Mountaineers take on a badly overmatched 0-2 Georgia State team at noon Saturday as a 35-point favorite.
As it turned out, he did not have much more to celebrate on that day as there was another message delivered and it was this:
If you want to be on the field, you’d better block.
Amazingly, only once after his magnificent 75-yard jaunt to the end zone did he get the ball again.
Coach Dana Holgorsen understands there has been criticism of that, especially when his passing game wasn’t producing anything, forcing him to decide to look into making changes in it.
“I know a lot of people are upset with only three carries, and I want him to get the ball more, too,” Holgorsen said. “We are rotating guys to get fresh bodies out there. I rarely rotate them and call plays based on who is in the game. I just call plays, because I have confidence in all those guys carrying the ball.
“If Dreamius gets out there, and he whiffs three times like he did, he’s coming out of the game, and he knows that. His one run was spectacular, but you can’t turn around and miss a block and get the quarterback hit, and have a turnover. You have to do the little things, and blocking is more important than running people over.”
Smith certainly does understand the principle.
“I missed a kick block that caused a turnover, and I take all the responsibility for that,” he said. “Blocking is an area I am working to improve on. Once my blocking improves, the more carries I can get, it sounds like. It is a strong part of the game. Everyone needs to be able to block well and that is a part I am working on day in and day out in practice and during individual workouts.”
JuJuan Seider, Smith’s running back coach, is a little easier on him than he is on himself.
“One block, we probably put more emphasis on on that play than we should have. We could have stepped up in the pocket. It wasn’t that,” Seider said of his decreased playing time. “He cramped up in the third quarter. That’s why he wasn’t playing.”
Seider is seeing improvement on a daily basis in Smith.
“He’s getting better. He’s running with more power, more aggression. Now he’s starting to understand he has to block the same way. We keep making it a point of emphasis because what he’s got to do is continue to get better and improve as a player,” Seider said.
The touchdown run left no room for improvement.
“It was a zone play,” Smith said, describing the play as he saw it. “The guard pulled, I got right behind him. He did a great job of creating the hole. I stuck a foot in the ground, used my 220 pounds and got a touchdown.”
“I expect that out of him,” Seider said. “He played like that in the spring. It was good to get that first touchdown. He has to understand that he’s 220. I tell him don’t try to be 185. Be who you are. He’s starting to understand, and it’s good that he’s starting to trust what he can do.
“Ever since he’s been here he’s been labeled as a big guy, and they forget he can run. I told everyone he was probably our fastest running back in the spring, and now they finally got to see it. He outran some angles on some pretty fast guys. That was Oklahoma.”
“People who look at me from the outside don’t think I’m fast and can get around the edge, but I was determined to get in the end zone. Once I got past the first level it was just me one-on-one, and I just wanted to use my speed to score,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.