In coach Dana Holgorsen’s “air raid” offense, there are variations of multiple different offensive sets in which the ball finds its way quickly into the hands of playmakers. Rushing the football may be the West Virginia football team’s most consistent and best option.
WVU is now flush with talented running backs. Andrew Buie, last year’s leader in rushing and rushing touchdowns has decided to redshirt. Buie’s decision was a smart one. Football can sometimes boil down to a numbers game and Buie would have been the fifth running back on the roster. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and with Buie’s talent its better for him to keep a year of eligibility and enter a year where he knows that he will get the majority of the carries.
This year it will be Charles Sims, the University of Houston transfer, who will be the featured back. Holgorsen spoke about the depth at running back at a press conference on Tuesday.
“We have bodies that can give us snaps back there, and I feel very good about it. I haven’t been able to sit here the last two years and say I feel good about it. I have always had about two or three, and now I feel like we have that depth, and I’m excited.”
The depth includes Dustin Garrison, Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood. These running backs should improve a rushing attack that was middle of the pack in a national comparison. WVU finished 47th in the nation in total rushing yards with 2,229 and 57th in the nation in total rushing touchdowns with 21.
Taking a look at the preseason top three teams, rushing the football is a constant in all three offenses. Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon all finished top 20 in total rushing yards and total rushing touchdowns.
Running the football is important for WVU because it will help balance the offense. With the heavy amounts of passing it was easier for teams to load the field with defensive backs to cover all the receivers. Establishing the run will take the pressure off the quarterback along with setting up the play-action passing game. Last year’s offense didn’t have a running back that rushed for more than 900 yards and the number two leading rusher (Tavon Ausin) wasn’t even a running back.
Each of the top three teams had a featured back with at least 1,200 yards rushing and all three had running back depth that allowed them to rotate their players to keep them fresh. A powerful one-two punch that Mountaineer fans can look forward to in the backfield is Sims and Smith.
Sims is coming from UH and has had a great camp. NFL.com analyst Gill Brandt considered Sims to be the top senior running back in college football. His career numbers at UH are 1,672 yards rushing/20 rushing touchdowns along with 88 catches for 948 yards/ 7 touchdowns. Smith is an interesting player that could bloom in Holgorsen’s offense. Smith is the No.2 junior college running back and had offers from Boise State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. During his two years at Butler Community College, Smith accumulated 1,674 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns.
With lack of experience at the quarterback position, look for coach Holgorsen to lean on his running backs to keep his high powered offense on the field as well as put up points.