MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Marcus Simms sat out West Virginia’s 2017 season opener serving a one-game suspension imposed after separate DUI charges spanning two states. A year later, life appears to have stabilized for the team’s fastest receiver.
His DUI charge in Maryland was dismissed outright, and a plea deal in Monongalia County negated the second. Simms wound up admitting to one count of misdemeanor driving with a suspended license, after which he served 60 hours of community service and completed drug education counseling per the university’s student code.
With his focus wholly on football again, teammates expect Simms to evolve into a more mature, more reliable playmaker.
“I’ve always told him if he takes the opportunity and keeps working, he’s an electric player,” said quarterback Will Grier. “He has dynamic speed.”
Simms averaged 18.8 yards from scrimmage per touch last season, fourth-best in the Big 12. But with Gary Jennings and David Sills emerging as the primary targets, he caught only 35 passes.
After scoring three touchdowns in a two-game span against overmatched foes East Carolina and Delaware State, Simms generated only two touchdowns across the final nine games.
Grier has witnessed the burst off the snap and the straight-line speed that makes it seemingly impossible to overthrow Simms. Now comes the evolution to a complete receiver.
“He’s becoming more consistent in the sense that he understands he’s a good player and it’s time to step up,” Grier said. “He’s an older guy now and those mistakes and those mental errors aren’t as acceptable.”
“I think it’s more important for him to be a great receiver and not just a good one.”
As teammates demand Simms be accountable, so does his position coach. Tyron Carrier described the past year as “a headache and a pleasure watching Marcus grow up.”
Though head coach Dana Holgorsen still hasn’t cleared Simms to speak with reporters, Carrier claims to have seen a stark change in the player’s approach.
“When you get older, things just aren’t as important as they used to be — like the crazy stuff,” he said.
Despite cornerbacks who were cognizant of Simms’ speed, he hauled in a 68-yarder against Oklahoma State and caught a 40-yard touchdown at Baylor. Grier anticipates a more complete receiver this fall, one capable of leveraging the deep threats to capitalize on short and intermediate routes.
“He instills fear in people,” the quarterback said. “It’s not just running by people, but people also are softer on him.”
Jennings and Sills are defensive priorities after combining for 157 receptions and 2,176 yards last season. That could leave single coverage on Simms.
Said Carrier: “I want everybody to keep talking about David (Sills) and Gary (Jennings) so nobody pays attention to little ole Marcus over there, until he hits you over the top for about three or four touchdowns and everyone will be like, ‘Wow!’”