Dreamius Smith Poised to Lead WVU’s Crowded Backfield
Matt Hauswirth, MORGANTOWN -
If you are talking percentages, junior college football players are rarely awarded a chance to play at a Division-I program, let alone star for one.
However someone forgot to tell that to Dreamius Smith.
“No, not really,” Smith answered when asked if he thought the level of difficulty from JUCO to D-I was tougher than he had anticipated. “Before I had to just catch on to schemes and a lot of stuff was moving faster on defense. I had to read defenses better when in the backfield before the pre-snap of the play – just getting more looks. That was just my biggest thing when transitioning from JUCO.”
Smith tallied 464 yards on 103 carries, resulting in 4.8 yards per carry last year. That was good enough for second on the team, only behind current Tampa Bay Buccaneer tailback and former Mountaineer, Charles Sims.
But it was his style of running – the quick feet coupled with a bull-dozing mentality. That is why Dreamius Smith is being labeled as WVU’s go-to-guy in a running back rotation which is widely regarded as possibly the best in the Big XII Conference.
“Nobody has been late for workouts. Nobody has been missing academics; nothing,” Smith said. “[They’re] judging off all that. They’re not going to just judge on the field. They’re going to judge in classrooms. But we’re all in there coaching each other. We all love each other in there. We’re all going to back each other up and support each other.”
So aside from Smith, who are the West Virginia running backs this year?
Actually, there are quite a few. Nonetheless, it’s not about quantity, rather it’s about quality – and the Mountaineers feature quality backs up and down the depth chart.
Wendell Smallwood is a tailback that saw plenty of playing time in 2013 as a true freshman. The sophomore from Wilmington, Delaware was used on the ground and in the air, proving to be a versatile asset (39 carries, 221 yards, 5.7 yards per carry – 11 catches, 132 yards, 12 yards per catch).
Andrew Buie was the leading ball carrier in 2012 when Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey dominated the headlines. Buie redshirted last season, but returns in 2014. His elusiveness and experience will provide a solid change-of-pace running back at Dana Holgorsen’s exposal.
Dustin Garrison is another running back that saw lots of playing time during the 2011 season as a true freshman. Garrison was the recipient of a medical hardship last year, only playing in three games due to injury. But when Garrison was healthy in 2011, he proved to be beneficial for the offense (led WVU with 742 rushing yards). He’s back and healthy this season.
And finally there is Rushel Shell.
Shell enters the upcoming season as easily the most interesting tailback on West Virginia’s depth chart. Not only did he play his freshman year for the rival Pittsburgh Panthers, but what followed soon after that was a long process of indecisiveness.
Shell decided to transfer from Pitt to UCLA after his freshman season in 2012, but had changed his mind and never enrolled at UCLA. After reaching out to Panthers Head Coach Paul Chryst about the possibility of returning to the SteelCity, Chryst turned it down, which opened up Shell’s recruiting process once again.
In the end it came down to West Virginia and Kentucky. Shell decided on the Mountaineers – the same school that recruited him just as hard as anyone else out of HopewellHigh School in Pittsburgh. The former four-star recruit had offers from just about everywhere after rushing for a Pennsylvania high school football career state record of 9,078 yards.
Digesting the information surrounding all five running backs may take some time, but it ultimately translates to happiness for Holgorsen and the rest of the Mountaineer coaching staff, especially WVU Running Backs Coach JaJuan Seider.
“We knew [the guys] in that room were pretty good,” Seider said. “Those guys went and performed, so naturally when you go and perform well, guys will naturally gravitate to you. The running back room was pretty good so everyone gravitated to them because they’re looking for them to make a play when everyone is down.
With that said, Dreamius Smith, the guy from junior college with little to no hype, will be looked upon to lead a talented and deep corps of running backs.
“We've got talent,” he said. “We’re going to use the talent. The coaches see the talent and they’re going to play the talent. You guys see as good as we see. It’s a pretty talented backfield back there and we’re going to use every weapon that we can.”
As the average football fan is well aware of, a talented running back rotation opens up the passing game, which in turn leads to better play out of the quarterback position.
Clint Trickett could use a nice bounce back campaign as the man under center, which is why the running back unit is so crucial to his success.
For Smith, he welcomes the pressure that comes with playing in the Big XII Conference – not bad for a young man who arrived in Morgantown with no pressure at all.