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WVU might hit ground running

| Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Charles Sims, who transfered to WVU from Houston, is expected to give the Mountaineers' running game a lift.
Charles Sims, who transfered to WVU from Houston, is expected to give the Mountaineers' running game a lift.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia begins its biggest journey into the unknown since Rich Rodriguez took over as coach more than a decade ago when the Mountaineers entertain William & Mary in a noon game at Milan Puskar Stadium.

WVU is coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, its first in the Big 12, and does so without quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, all of whom were taken in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.

“We have to figure out what we do well and what our team is all about,” said coach Dana Holgorsen, entering his third season.

The Mountaineers' situation is so unsettled that they have not yet named a regular quarterback, with Holgorsen saying neither Florida State transfer Clint Trickett nor Paul Millard, Smith's backup the past two seasons, have outplayed the other to earn the job.

“Who's going to start? I don't know,” Holgorsen said. “They will both play. At this point, they've done nothing to warrant not playing quarterback here. It's going to take some game reps and putting these guys in situations where they have to respond to really know what we're working with.”

WVU has three new players in the middle of the offensive line and a new group of receivers. Last year's leading rusher, Andrew Buie, just withdrew from school.

Yet Holgorsen is confident his offense will work, in part because running back Charles Sims, a transfer from Houston.

“He will probably be the best running back at WVU since Steve Slaton,” running backs coach JuJuan Seider said. “He's in that mold. He may even have a better feel than Steve.”

Sims is a triple threat who can run, catch passes and return kicks.

“He could go and be our best receiver right now. His ball skills are that good,” Seider said.

Sims — recruited by Holgorsen when he was Houston's offensive coordinator — earned Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors that season, catching 70 passes and running for 698 yards.

WVU is experienced defensively, but players gained most of their experience being part of the worst defense in program history.

“We knew how bad we were and how bad we let people down,” senior linebacker Doug Rigg said. “It's sticking in your brain, ‘Hey, we can't let this happen.' ”

Keith Patterson, who coached the linebackers last season, takes over as defensive coordinator and changes to a 3-4 scheme.

Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.

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