It has been talked about all offseason. The West Virginia running backs would be the strength of the offense, especially since there was not much experience coming back at quarterback and wide receiver. During the spring, there were four players getting reps in the backfield with Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison, Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood. In June, Charles Sims tossed his hat into the ring, giving the Mountaineers five viable options at running back.
When Holgorsen arrived in Morgantown in 2011, Noel Devine needed to be replaced as the starting running back. During the spring while Bill Stewart was still the head coach and Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator, Daquan Hargrett, Trey Johnson and newcomer Vernard Roberts were the WVU ball carriers (Shawne Alston sat out due to injury). By the end of the 2011 regular season, all three had left the program.
Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, who came the summer before the 2011 season, ended up being the featured backs for West Virginia and both returned for the 2012 season, along with Shawne Alston. Even so, Garrison was recovering from a torn ACL and sprained MCL suffered 8 months earlier in the Orange Bowl and Alston suffered from a nagging thigh bruise that he could not get over, leaving Andrew Buie to be the only reliable back.
The coaching staff eventually decided to give Tavon Austin a shot at running back towards the end of the season and it paid huge dividends, but putting Austin in the backfield also took away a receiving threat. Depth was a huge concern at running back in 2012 for the Mountaineers.
Fast forward to the present and there is a large contrast to how the Mountaineer offense is perceived from the last two years.
Buie and Garrison return, and they also added one of the top JUCO running backs in Dreamius Smith. Smith is notably larger than any of the other running backs and he also runs like it. He is considered the bruiser of the group, but also has breakaway speed.
Wendell Smallwood, a freshman from Wilmington, DE, was able enroll in the spring and learn the offense.
The last of the group is University of Houston transfer Charles Sims, who played under Dana Holgorsen his freshman year in 2009. During that 2009 season, Sims was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year. After a redshirt season in 2010, Sims led the team in rushing in both 2011 and 2012. With one year of eligibility remaining, Sims decided to play another season with Holgorsen at WVU instead of entering the NFL Supplemental Draft.
When asked about Sims' impact so far, Holgorsen said, "It's all positive. He's a good kid, works hard."
This gives the Mountaineers five running backs they could possibly depend on to get touches in 2013.
"We've been living on the edge here the last two years with not very many [running backs], so it's nice to look out there and see four or five guys who have the potential to all be starters," Holgorsen said.
"It makes the competitiveness good, and if there's a lot of competitiveness within a room it's going to make everyone in the room better, and that's what I see right now.
With so many options, it would not be a surprise to see a few get looks in the slot, specifically Sims. He had 158 catches and 1,707 receiving yards in his career at Houston.
One more interesting note is that three of them have rushed for over 200 yards in a game before. Sims (207 on just 10 carries against Tulane in 2011), Dustin Garrison (291 against Bowling Green in 2011) and Andrew Buie (207 against Texas in 2012).