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With Sims in town, Smith fighting for spot

MORGANTOWN - WVU's preseason depth chart shows Andrew Buie No. 1 at the tailback position, followed by Dustin Garrison, Dreamius Smith and Charles Sims.

The prevailing school of thought, though, is that list will be flipped when the season starts. Sims has been ranked as the nation's No. 2 senior NFL running back prospect.

Smith is, by and large, considered No. 2 on the Mountaineer depth chart. But he's gone from being the talk of WVU's spring camp to a secondary story, almost an afterthought.

Publicly, though, Smith is handling it well.

WVU fans might remember that Smith, 5-foot-11, 217 pounds, transferred to Morgantown from Butler (Kan.) Community College. He'd been recruited out of high school by many schools, including Oklahoma State when now-WVU coach Dana Holgorsen was leaving, but signed with Kansas and then-coach Turner Gill.

After failing to qualify, Smith hit Butler and subsequently received offers from OSU, Kansas State, Kansas, Boise State and others before choosing WVU.

For a spring in Morgantown, Smith was the man. Now it's Sims. How swift the current moves in big-time college football, eh?

"We'll work something out between me and him, I guess," Smith said on Friday. "A big package or something like that. Regardless of who plays, we're looking for a good season."

Preseason practices have just begun, but Smith already has a handle on his competition, a 6-foot, 213-pound redshirt senior transfer from Houston.

"He's an explosive running back," Smith said. "Great running back. Has a great burst. Get the ball in his hands and you can see he can do things with it. Me and him will be back there, I guess. It's something to look forward to."

Smith feels he's improved, even since opening eyes in the spring.

"I read defenses better now than I did in the spring," he said. "I just don't get the ball and look for somewhere to run. I see where everyone is flowing, look for the open gap and go."

He brought power to the table WVU lacked at the position since the departure of Shawne Alston.

"I knew when I first got here I wanted to use my big style, then add my speed," Smith said. "I started that in winter workouts then transitioned into summer. I believe I can bring speed, power and vision."

The junior hopes his attributes can be used somewhere, even if Sim starts at tailback.

"If [Holgorsen] sees it in you, he'll get you the ball," Smith said. "You can transition to a receiver. Everyone will get a chance to play. We just need to learn the different positions so we know what we're doing."

Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson will certainly use the team's depth at the position.

"We have Dustin Garrison, who can get around the edge real fast," Smith said. "We're glad he got his confidence back like he had his freshman year. Of course, Charles Sims gets the ball and has a burst that, really, none of us has. He's a dynamic player. Then there's Andrew Buie, who can make anyone miss in the open field. He has moves.

"I can get those extra yards when it's fourth-and-short."

Dawson said in the spring "it's a good time to be a running back at West Virginia" with a new quarterback taking over.

"It's going to be competitive all camp, day in and day out," Smith said. "With every little thing we do, eyes will be on us. We just have to continue to work hard and compete."

Smith said he hasn't been asked to play another position, like slot receiver, in order to assure his place on the field.

"As of now, no," Smith said. "But if they ever ask, I'd be willing to do it. I did it back in junior college."

He added that in junior college, his "coach put it in my head: Nothing is going to be given to you. You have to go get it."

Apparently, even if that competition is the No. 2-rated senior NFL tailback prospect.

 "It's competition," Smith said. "I mean, I'm not ever going to judge a player just because he came in from another conference and, you know, he has a bunch of hype. Charles is a good player and a good person. We hang out a lot. He's done nothing but help this team out. That's what we're looking forward to."

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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