Sims Transfer Could Transform West Virginia Offense
By Mike Casazza
Whether Charles Sims transfers to West Virginia so that he may play for the Mountaineers during the 2013 season won’t affect the balance of power in the Big 12, much the same way a move to Cal won’t adjust the expected order of events in the Pac-12.
Come to think of it, Sims, the fifth-year senior formerly of the University of Houston, might pick neither and instead opt for the NFL’s supplemental draft, as silly as that seems. Reportedly, Sims decided to leave the Cougars so he could play for a better program on a greater stage and enhance his NFL potential.
Nothing unusual about that these days.
Having already graduated, he’d be able to transfer and play right away and it seemed as though he was headed to Texas Tech and a reunion with coach Kliff Kingsbury, who’d been the Houston offensive coordinator in 2010-11. Houston, though, blocked Sims’ transfer to any school in the American Athletic Conference, of which the Cougars are now members, or any school in Texas.
Nothing unusual about that these days, either, but it’s wrong on so many levels, none greater than this: Sims already gave himself to the school in the classroom and on the field for four years. Even after doing everything he was told to do, he couldn’t do what he wanted to do.
Sims nevertheless seemed to possess two possibilities in West Virginia and Cal, schools that use a variation of the Air Raid offense Sims got to know at Houston and figured to familiarize himself with at Texas Tech. When you’re making a move in the fifth year in order to impress the NFL, it’s smart to keep as many things the same as you can.
But this isn’t about what transferring would say about Sims. What would a transfer to West Virginia say about the Mountaineers and their coach, Dana Holgorsen? It’s a passing offense, right? It makes stars out of receivers and quarterbacks, doesn’t it?
Before you answer, remember this is a coach who already brought in a third quarterback from Florida State following spring practice. This is a coach who signed nine junior college players for the 2013 recruiting class. And this is a coach who went 7-6 in 2012.
The pursuit of Sims, let alone the addition, shows that Holgorsen is looking for a quick fix, that he felt the Mountaineers should have been better than their record last season and that they should not be that low again. He saw a team that was neither tough nor savvy enough, that didn’t handle the success of the 2011 season and the Orange Bowl win and then lacked resolve during the first trip through the Big 12.
A young team last season is now older, but he’s put even more candles on the cake by adding veterans. Sims would bring a hunger with him, too.
This is not to say it’s a temporary solution to a sudden problem. This is a new way of doing things at a place that hasn’t taken a lot of junior college players and doesn’t have the longest or greatest track record with transfers. Those 7-6 seasons and blowout bowl losses can’t continue and wash away the lucrative luster of WVU’s new existence in the Big 12. So, sure, go out and get older players and college veterans.
The junior college recruits, from a punter to a running back, have two or three years left. Clint Trickett, who played quarterback for two seasons in three years at Florida State, has two seasons left. Sims, who played as a freshman for Holgorsen in 2009, would have one left. Their limited eligibility doesn’t matter because if they do their parts, the culture change will last longer than any of their careers.
Yet that only covers part of this as it relates to Holgorsen and his past, present and future. When the Mountaineers left spring practice in April, there was no question they had the most depth of talent at running back. They can’t change that. They can only capitalize on it.
WVU has its leading rushers from 2011 (Dustin Garrison) and 2012 (Andrew Buie) plus the best player from a junior college team that won a national title in 2011 and lost in the championship game in 2012 (Dreamius Smith). The 6-foot, 215-pound Sims was the Conference USA freshman of the year in 2009, when he was the only player in the country with 600 yards rushing and receiving. For his career, he has 2,370 yards, 29 touchdowns and 6.2 yards per carry on the ground plus 158 receptions for 1,707 yards and eight scores.
Sims would be an extra asset and take the team's strength and only make it stronger. Hard to fault that tactic. There would be four backs to complement one another playing for a coach who gets a little offended when it’s suggested his is only a passing offense. Holgorsen is also the coach who grew tired the last two seasons of failures in critical short yardage and goal line situations. West Virginia lacked the consistent ability to run the ball, keep its offense on the field and, more importantly, its defense off the field.
When Bill Bedenbaugh left to coach the offensive line at Oklahoma, Holgorsen went in a different direction, too. He didn’t hire someone from the Air Raid coaching tree, but Ron Crook, who spent the past two seasons at Stanford. The Cardinal and the Mountaineers couldn’t be more different when it comes to the run game, but he’s not at West Virginia by accident.
So combine the running game transformation with the question mark at quarterback this season and the intrigue that surrounds the future. Holgorsen signed a dual threat quarterback in the 2013 class, but Chavas Rawlins has already transferred. WVU will try again in the 2014 class, which already has a commitment from William Crest, easily considered one of the best dual threat quarterbacks out there. He's not Case Keenum or Brandon Weeden, but that he pledged to West Virginia is no accident.
Holgorsen is thinking.
Crest may not be Pat White or Johnny Manziel, either, but he can run and he’s not stationary like the three quarterbacks Holgorsen has right now. The running quarterback, or even the mobile one, is an important part of the evolution of the offense. Same goes for a powerful, productive running game that can make life easier for new quarterbacks and receivers.
The more the Air Raid succeeds and spreads, the more opponents study how to stop it. Sometimes the best way to stay ahead is to run away and teams can do that with more backs. A successful stint with Sims could send WVU on its way.