Charles Sims

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

RB Charles Sims (Sr.)

Charles Sims is the leading rusher for a very balanced Mountaineers offense. Sims has carried the ball 144 times this season for 754 yards and five touchdowns. His solid 5.2 yards per carry average puts West Virginia in a lot of good positions on offense when the passing game is taking too much time to get going. The senior tailback is a versatile playmaker who can also catch the ball out of the backfield, racking up 36 receptions for 300 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Sims is a bigger running back which helps him power through defenders when they try to wrap him up. The Longhorns defense has been vicious the last few weeks but Sims will be the guy they need to watch out for this week.

 

DB Darwin Cook (Sr.)

The Mountaineers defense is ranked No. 82 in the nation this season but Darwin Cook is not the reason for this. The senior safety leads the team in both tackles (65) and interceptions (four) this season, showing his versatility at the last level of the defense. Cook has a nose for the football and has emerged as a star for West Virginia’s defense. The Longhorns offense is on a roll but they can bet that Cook will be around the football often in this matchup so they must do everything possible to minimize his impact. The Texas receivers are feeling good about their performances the last few weeks but look for Cook to do his best to curb their success and make a huge play to put West Virginia in the driver’s seat.

 

WR Daikel Shorts (Fr.)

With receiver Ronald Carswell suspended indefinitely as of this week, the Mountaineers will look to leading receiver Daikel Shorts to carry much more of the offensive load. Shorts leads West Virginia this season with 37 catches for 430 yards and has caught two touchdowns. Just a freshman, Shorts has shown that he can be a reliable receiver every game out and his confidence has grown each week. He is a smaller receiver that will force the Longhorns to focus on tackling in this matchup. Likely the premier deep threat with Carswell out, Shorts will be targeted on both short yardage and long yardage throws. Texas will need to keep an eye on Shorts in this one. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

West Virginia bursted onto the Big 12 scene last year.

Behind a dazzling crop of seniors, the Mountaineers danced on the sidelines after having knocked off the No. 11 Longhorns. They watched as their ranking rocketed to No. 5.

They were confident Morgantown was going to be home to the Heisman winner and a Big 12 championship.

But when the Mountaineers take on the Longhorns this time around, the expectations won’t be as high and they won’t be dependent on hopeful first-round draft picks.

Geno Smith is no longer there.

Tavon Austin is no longer there.

Without the centerpieces of last year’s team, there were questions on offense. Through spring and the early season, those questions remained. A few months later, those questions are finally answered.

Two transfers came in and took over the offense—junior quarterback Clint Trickett and senior running back Charles Sims. And because both are transferring as graduate students, they were able to start immediately.

 

The quarterback

Like Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Kansas’ Jake Heaps, all of whom have faced Texas this year, Trickett transferred to the school he’s at right now.

But, unlike them, Trickett didn’t start at a junior college. He didn’t struggle at his first school. He was just unfortunate.

He was unfortunate to be behind two (maybe three) first-round picks. As a redshirt freshman, Trickett watched as Christian Ponder snuck his way into the first round. He spent the next two years learning how E.J Manuel played his way into being the top quarterback taken in the 2013 draft. And when current Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston soared past him on the depth chart, he decided he had enough.

So Trickett packed up and moved north to the team he grew up watching as his dad was their offensive line coach from 2001-2006.

“It’s official, I will finish my academic/athletic career at WVU,” Trickett tweeted in May. “This is a dream come true to be playin for the state I love.”  

He wasn’t immediately thrust into the starting role, though, beginning the season third on the depth chart. But after junior Paul Millard and freshman Ford Childress struggled in early-season losses, head coach Dana Holgerson turned to the transfer.

Trickett carried West Virginia to a shocking upset of then-Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State. And he hasn’t looked back as he has started every game for the Mountaineers since. But he is still a far cry from Geno and Holgorsen expresses his concern.

“He needs to sit in a room and study it, then go outside and work on that for a couple months,” Holgorsen said. “He’s going to need that downtime and offseason time in order to grasp what we are asking of him.”

 

The running back

Unlike Trickett, Sims didn’t transfer because a lack of playing time. At Houston, he started all three years. And at 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, he is a promising NFL prospect that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks as the sixth-best running back prospect for the upcoming NFL Draft.

But shockingly, at the end of his redshirt junior year, he announced he was moving on.

“I don’t know what my next step will be,” Sims said. “I may look to play one more year of college football or I may enter the NFL Supplemental Draft later this year.”

But why not stay at Houston? He didn’t give an answer besides it was time to move on.

After Houston restricted him from joining any team that played Houston, was in the AAC or was a Division I school in Texas, Sims opted to run for the coach that recruited him at Houston.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have his services for one year,” said Holgorsen, who was Houston’s offensive line coach when Sims was recruited. “He’s a tremendous football player..”

And his one year under Holgorsen was his best.

“I had him for the first year there in 2009,” Holgorsen said. “That was probably his best year statistically.”

And Texas head coach Mack Brown knows that Sims is the biggest threat on the Mountaineer offense.

“He’s a top pro prospect and a really good football player and that’s where it all starts for him,” Brown said.

Quarterbacks

Case McCoy completed almost 70 percent of his passes against Kansas, but threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. McCoy’s play has worsened over the last two games and freshman Tyrone Swoopes has yet to demonstrate he is a legitimate passing threat. Clint Trickett is 2-3 as a starter, starting with the upset over Oklahoma State (7-1). Though his numbers are not impressive, Trickett has saved his best games for his best opponents, so the Longhorns should look out.

Advantage: West Virginia

 

Running Backs

Malcolm Brown matched his touchdown total from last year by running for four touchdowns against Kansas. Brown has scored more than two-thirds of Texas’ points in the last two games. Johnathan Gray has remained effective, averaging four yards per carry in the past three games. Joe Bergeron’s role has decreased, but he has shown dedication in the special teams game. Charles Sims had a season-high 154 rushing yards in an overtime win over TCU, scoring two touchdowns. The Houston transfer is the Mountaineers’ biggest offensive weapon, and with 300 yards receiving on the year, he is also an effective pass-catcher. Dreamius Smith only had six yards against the Horned Frogs but has been an effective second-back, with 400 yards and four touchdowns on the season.

Advantage: West Virginia

 

Wide Receivers

West Virginia seemed short-handed at receiver after Ronald Carswell was suspended indefinitely by the program before the TCU game. But Daikiel Shorts stepped up with 98 yards on six catches in the win. Marcus Johnson has become the Longhorns’ most effective receiver, catching passes for 59, 65 and 31 yards in the last three games. Daje Johnson had a career-high seven catches against Kansas. Jaxon Shipley has been a consistent target averaging five catches a game, but has yet to score this season while Mike Davis has only caught four passes in the last three games.

Advantage: Texas

 

Offensive Line

West Virginia surrendered two sacks to the TCU defense last week, an average mark for the Mountaineers, who will face a Texas pass rush that has nine sacks in the last three games. The offensive line has helped West Virginia run for 145 yards per game in the last three weeks.

The Longhorns offensive line gave up their first sack in three weeks against Kansas, and have only given up 10 all season. Texas has rushed for 200 yards per game the past three weeks and faces a West Virginia team that has the No. 78 rush defense in the country. 

Advantage: Texas

 

Defensive Line:

West Virginia had two sacks against TCU, with Will Clarke forcing a fumble on one of them. That ended a five-week drought during which no Mountaineers defensive linemen notched a single sack. West Virginia has made 6.4 tackles for loss per game this year, No. 41 in the nation. A running back in high school, Chris Whaley has finally lived the dream of scoring in college, adding his second defensive touchdown of the season on a 40-yard fumble return against Kansas. Senior Jackson Jeffcoat’s four-game sack streak ended in the same game, but junior Cedric Reed had a career-high two sacks on the day. 

Advantage: Texas

 

Linebackers

No running back has rushed for 100 yards or more against the Longhorns in four weeks. Steve Edmond has stepped up, with 16 tackles in the last three games and an interception against TCU. The linebackers will face their toughest running game this week since facing Oklahoma. West Virginia forced two turnovers and a sack against senior Casey Pachall. Nick Kwiatkoski intercepted Pachall on the very first play, Brandon Golson earned his third sack of the season and Isaiah Bruce forced a fumble in the fourth quarter that put the Mountaineers back in the game. The group is playing at their best.

Advantage: West Virginia

 

Defensive Backs

Darwin Cook leads the Big 12 with four interceptions on the year. Cook also recovered a fumble against TCU that led to a 10-point Mountaineers lead in the fourth quarter. Ishmael Banks had his second interception in the fourth quarter against TCU, sparking 14 straight Mountaineers points. Despite the turnovers, the secondary gives up 276 yards passing per game (12th-worst in the country). Texas has the No. 16 pass defense and have not given up a passing touchdown in three straight games. Duke Thomas leads the secondary with two interceptions on the year. 

Advantage: Texas

 

Special Teams

Sophomore Daje Johnson has continued to be an explosive factor on the Texas kick return team, returning a kick 40 yards against Kansas last week. But the kick coverage team is now the third-worst in the NCAA in yards allowed, allowing 27.2 yards per kick return. West Virginia allows 22 yards per kick return and allows four yards per punt return. Freshman kicker Josh Lambert has transitioned well into the college game, knocking down a 50-yarder two weeks ago against Kansas State.

Advantage: West Virginia