MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first-take impression of Charles Sims? He looks pretty good for a fourth-string running back.
Of course, Sims won’t be at the bottom of the depth chart for long. That’s merely a symbolic starting point for the University of Houston graduate transfer, whose arrives at West Virginia for his final season of college football sporting a mountain of expectations.
Expectations Dana Holgorsen is clearly trying to temper.
The coach kept his comments conspicuously brief Thursday evening when asked about the buzz Sims is creating among teammates and offensive coaches.
“It is all positive. He is a good kid and works hard.”
That was it—a miserly 12 words. Heck, Holgorsen sounded more excited discussing the kicker.
Brevity aside, Holgorsen knows what he has in Sims, same as anyone who watched the kid run, catch and score for three seasons in Conference USA. Now comes a step up to bigger, badder Big 12 competition, and Sims must prove himself anew even as outsiders presume he’ll become an instant hit. The media christened him Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, convinced Sims’ versatility and Holgorsen’s knack for exploiting matchups will synchronize nicely.
After a half-hour of watching Sims take reps in shorts, he certainly looks the part. Listed at 6-foot even, he’s noticeably taller than Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison and Dreamius Smith—the three running backs slotted above him on a depth chart that actually shows some depth.
“It is nice to look out there and see four or five guys that have the potential to all be starters,” said Holgorsen, noting WVU has been “living on the edge” the past two seasons, when injuries gave unwanted implications to the term empty backfield.
Now Holgorsen sees a chance to riddle defenses with multiple packages and fresh-legged runners, though for now he’ll relish the camp competition, and a depth chart that at any moment could turn bottoms up.
Freshman four-star receiver Shelton Gibson wore a red non-contact jersey and a brace on his right knee. He spent the media viewing session riding a stationery bike and walking loops around the field with redshirt freshman offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who’s recovering from a torn ACL.
Holgorsen said Gibson “tweaked his knee a couple of weeks ago and is progressing as well as possible.” Any absence of more than a week or so could derail Gibson’s hopes of cracking the starting lineup for the opener against William & Mary.
But the coach relayed encouraging news about Pankey, who at the time of his spring injury was projected to be sidelined until late September or October.
THREE STILL MISSING
Junior college linebacker Brandon Golson—one of three signees facing uncertainty leading up to camp—was on the field and wearing No. 32. But his spot on the MIA list was taken by another juco signee, outside linebacker D’Vante Henry, who Holgorsen said was “working through some personal issues.”
Two high school recruits, safety Isaac McDonald and linebacker Darrien Howard, are awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
“Nobody has been ruled out,” Holgorsen said.
WHAT KICKER COMPETITION?
After senior Tyler Bitancurt (11-of-19) ranked only eighth in Big 12 field-goal accuracy last season, Holgorsen proclaimed this year’s job belongs to a redshirt freshman.
“Josh Lambert is our kicker,” he said. “We feel comfortable with Josh. We feel good about Josh. He is our kicker. Don’t know if he is our kickoff guy—we’ll figure that one out. But he’s our kicker.”
Bitancurt was 5-of-11 from beyond 40 yards, but had three kicks blocked and missed from 50 (twice) and 55 yards. His season-long was a 52-yarder, and Lambert looks capable of matching that leg strength. He hit from 51 and 53 yards at Garland (Texas) High.