Breaking away from the pass-first narrative, the Big 12 has been home to some outstanding running backs this season. A lot of teams are two-deep or more at the position.
Baylor's trio of running backs—Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin and Shock Linwood—makes up the best overall group in the conference in terms of yards and touchdowns.
However, Texas' Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron aren't far behind. Then, there's Oklahoma's duo of Brennan Clay and Damien Williams. And who could forget Kansas State's John Hubert?
But there's one running back new to the Big 12 who is living up to his preseason billing of Newcomer of the Year: West Virginia senior Charles Sims.
"I would challenge you to find anybody in the country who does more for their team at running back than Charles Sims," said Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen on Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference.
There certainly aren't too many players in the Big 12 who are more versatile and impactful. Sims, who transferred from Houston in the offseason, leads the Mountaineers in rushing with 847 yards—a number that is only second to Seastrunk's 888 yards—and eight touchdowns. He's also the team leader in receptions (41) and fourth on the team in receiving yards (342).
For an offense that has taken a major step back from a year ago, Sims is about the only consistent bright spot from week to week.
Not surprisingly, his two best games of the season have come in the past two weeks against TCU and Texas, two of the better defenses in the conference. Sims had 189 total yards and two touchdowns against the Frogs and 135 total yards and three touchdowns against the 'Horns.
Besides player turnover, WVU's scoring problems stem from an inconsistent offensive line. For Sims, there aren't too many times when he isn't evading defenders before he gets to the line of scrimmage.
But Sims has deceptive quickness for a player his size (he's listed on WVU's official site at 6' and 213 pounds), and he's hard to tackle in traffic.
Yes, the touchdown shown is against William & Mary, but as you can see, Sims appears to be bottled up two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Yet he finds a hole and goes from dancing to downhill running in an instant.
Against TCU in Week 10, Sims also shows patience and vision on this 31-yard touchdown run.
The Frogs only have six players in the box, so a run is the natural play call. But TCU does a good job of getting penetration right up the middle of WVU's offensive line. Sims is able to get away from that pressure and bounce it to the outside. With the help of a bad angle or two, Sims has the speed to break away for a long gain.
The other part of Sims' versatility comes in the passing game. It's not just catching balls out of the backfield and in the screen game, either; it's not uncommon for West Virginia to line him up as a receiver and use him as such.
Seastrunk gets the label as the most dangerous running back in the Big 12. With 8.7 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns, both of which lead the conference for running backs with at least 20 carries, you're not going to get any argument here. However, statistically speaking, Seastrunk is more limited than Sims since he's a run-only back. That's right, Seastrunk has zero receptions on the year.
That can't be pinned on Seastrunk, though. None of Baylor's running backs have a reception. They simply aren't involved in the passing game.
The above example from Sims' time in Houston shows the multiple ways he's used, from the screen game to inside running and everything in between. Sims is better known for his finesse, but he's capable of putting his helmet down and getting the tough yards, too.
Sims won't get a lot of national recognition because his numbers aren't the best and he plays on a 4-6 football team. But put Sims on Baylor's roster, and that would change considerably.
This year is perhaps the deepest and most talented pool of running backs the Big 12 has had in a while. Charles Sims deserves to be listed as one of the best.
The phrase "get X player the ball" can be overused, but with Sims, it's both accurate and necessary for WVU.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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