Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

Dreamius Smith (2), Rushel Shell (7) and Andrew Buie lock arms before facing Alabama.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It seems too early for a player’s season to be at a crossroads, yet these intersections happen where they happen. Just like transfers arrive at random intervals, creating ripples all along the roster.

This particular crossroads now faces Dreamius Smith, who barely registered a ripple in the season opener. He’s the guy who figured to be prominent in West Virginia’s ensemble of running backs. The guy who arrived in Morgantown last season as one of the land’s top-rated junior college recruits. The guy who made only three carries against Alabama.

“I think right now Dreamius is soul-searching,” said running backs coach JaJuan Seider. “Now, for the first time, I think he knows he dug himself a hole.”

This week’s latest recipient of Seider’s straight talk, Smith heard the evaluation behind his limited playing time: Rushel Shell churns harder and Wendell Smallwood has only gotten better since the end of last season when he was pushing Smith to be West Virginia’s No. 2 back.

“Rushel and Wendell, right now those are the two starters. Those are the guys,” Seider said. “If you can’t see that, you’re blind.”

Seider set the scene for Smith during the summer, letting him know it would be difficult to supplant the versatile Smallwood, who can shift seamlessly to inside receiver. And with regard to the Pitt transfer Shell, came a sterner warning:

“I told Dreamius if Rushel ever gets comfortable, you’re going to be trouble,” Seider said. “And Rushel did get comfortable, while Dreamius kind of coasted. I don’t know if he was trying to stay healthy during fall camp, but he never really turned it on.”

Shell turned it on early against Alabama, running mean, dragging tacklers and prompting Nick Saban to remark: “That guy is a good runner, and you’re going to know it before the end of this year is over.”

Smallwood caught six passes for 73 yards and came within a trip-tackle of taking one 95 yards. Smith was targeted once in the flat and let the pass slide through his hands.

“You make that catch in the flat—we’ve got a first down and, guess what, you’re still playing,” Seider said.

What puzzles Seider most is how Smith’s effectiveness tends to surge and wain. West Virginia had no more-thrilling individual effort in 2013 than the 75-yard run Smith reeled off at Oklahoma. Likewise, his two scores at Texas Tech showcased a back who looked NFL-ready.

“I told him I need you to be the Oklahoma back and the Texas Tech back, because if you do that, you’re going to play,” Seider said. “But if you’re going to play like you did at Kansas State, and not be sure of yourself or worry about not being the guy …”

Even as Smith has slipped to at least No. 3 on the depth chart, he remains a potentially valuable insurance policy should Shell and Smallwood be injured. After all, few running backs make it through a season without missing games, and even fewer avoid the sprains and stingers that can sideline them for several offensive series.

“We may not need you all the time, but we’re going to need you,” said Seider, who harps on Smith to run with more physicality. “Sometimes you’re going to be able to dance, but sometimes I need you to be 225 pounds, stick your foot in the ground and run somebody over.”

That’s what Shell has shown, and the coach suggests Smith mimic that style from the guy playing in front of him.

“Rushel has got that switch, where he thinks he’s the baddest person on the field, and a lot of times he’s right,” Seider said. “You’ve got to be able to take yourself to a zone. You’ve got to have a mentality where you’ve got to be tough. You can’t always be likable. When Dreamius plays pissed off, he plays pretty good, like how he ran the ball against Texas Tech.”

An FCS opponent such as Towson should afford Smith more touches, and a chance to turn on the bad-ass persona Seider is trying to coax.

“You can’t sit there and say, ‘Ah, coach is jerking me’ or ‘I’m the best back’ because the best guy is playing,” Seider said. “My job is to continue to motivate Dreamius and continue to coach him. He’s a big part of what we want to do going forward, and I’m going to need him. Now he needs to find himself.”

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  • Rob T.

    She'll is the man!!!!
    However no NFL team goes the season with 1 back so Dreamius stay with the wolverine! You will be in the league if you just play to your potential!
    As for the season...... We need DH! If for no other reason to recruit in the greater TX area! We are in the BIG 12/Texas/Kansas league

    • Rob T.

      Spell check?

  • Mister Man

    Mr. Smith will be fine. He'll get it together.

  • Harpers Ferry

    I know I originally said WVU would be upset in this game, but I reconsider. WVU fans won't be happy with the performance, but WVU's depth will ultimately win out. 34-28 WVU. WVU pulls it out late in the 3rd quarter, Towson scored late TD.

    • Blue & Gold

      You are crazy, this game will not be close. 52-17.

  • Jim

    Dreamius, You ARE a great back. Go out on the field (practice / real) and be the 200+ pound bad ass-psycho-pit bull-mule-race horse you need to be.

  • ThatGuyOverThere

    That is a good way to motivate...tell the guys the truth and what you expect out of them...he didn't put in 100% of the work he shoudl have in camp, so he isn't going to get 100% of the playing time until he puts forth the effort...great coaching strageity.

  • 'Eer Nation

    The 'Eers will rise again!

  • Mountaineer Fanatic

    I enjoy playing College Football Challenge, however, Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood are not there for us to pick. Sense Smith has never shown much I sure would not pick him. Why are our top RBs not on the list?

  • Pat

    Way to go Coach. Keeping them honest! I had a feeling Shell was going to win the starting job. Hopefully they keep it a weekly competition to keep all the backs motivated and on top of their game. Loving this year. Optimistic that Mountaineer football is BACK!

  • squad

    noting coach Seider, if Shell gets cooking, I'm not sure you can start Dreamius over him ever. But there certainly is a place for the guy that ran like he did last year. he just has to have in his head to take advantage of the time he gets. Watching Shell at Pitt when he was a frosh, you see that he was a bad ass that ran with attitude. If the projection curve stays on course, Shell will be a PLAYER, not reserve back in the NFL. You can tell right away that he's the guy you want with you in an alley with you.. he's a Russell Martin type.. his play and energy level show a cat who is fighting for his life with every carry. Russell Shell is going to be a star. Mark it down.

  • wind direction

    The problem with Smith is that he is a 220 pound back that runs like he is 140 pounds. He needs to visit the wizard and get some courage.

  • Pete

    Look like Tarzan, run like Jane.
    WVU needs Smith to screw his head on right and run like Tarzan too.

  • Protechcpa

    I have always been in awe of Rushel Shell, just could not say it out loud because he went to the dreaded Pitt. When he transferred, I was beside myself. So great to have him on board. I wanted Smith to be great since I first heard of him, but the OK run is the only thing that stands out for me and that a great player does not make. I hope he gets his head straight and competes for the job because we may need him this year. At this point he appears to be a non factor. Another Ivan McCartney?

  • Tazbo

    I thought that the game last week went according to plan. I cant believe that with ALL the miss queues (dropped balls, snaps, missed tackles, etc..) we still were in position to win. WOW what a difference a year makes. I am excited about this squad if we can settle down, maintain focus, play with heart and discipline I believe we could see Alabama again this year. don't laugh it could happen. BELIEVE.

  • any major dude

    I always felt that the reason that Smith got 700+ yards last year was because it was pretty much him and Simms. I felt he was just ok. Now that there are options, it's not surprising that he has been dropped in the pecking order.

    In August, he said even if he's not the go-to guy this year, he can at least block and catch a few passes- whatever they needed him to do. I think Coach Snyder is saying these things to motivate him. I don't think he will be buried, and will at worst provide depth behind the other guys.


    I was wondering about Smith during the Alabama game and was asking, "What happened to him?". Now I know.

    Gotta like Coach Seider's blunt honesty. It's great not to hear the typical "Coachspeak" you get from others.

    WVU definitely needs Smith to step up but I always thought Shell would be the #1 RB just not this soon. Smallwood is, by far, our most versatile and explosive RB.