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Simms poised for breakout season



Photo via the DA Online

It’s no secret that the West Virginia offense has been receiving a lot of love this offseason, and rightfully so. Returning to Morgantown is star quarterback Will Grier, plus his two biggest weapons at receiver, David Sills V and Gary Jennings Jr.

But don’t forget about junior Marcus Simms.

With the attention that Sills and Jennings will draw, Simms has a real chance of bursting onto the scene in 2018. A wild stat that most may not realize: David Sills, who was a Biletnikoff Award finalist, was actually the team’s third-leading receiver, behind Jennings and Ka’Raun White. If Simms is the perceived third option in the wake of White’s departure, there’s a good chance we could see some monstrous numbers from him like we saw from Sills last season.

As a sophomore in 2017, Simms caught 35 balls for 663 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging a team-best 18.9 yards per catch. He is a serious home run threat, similar to former Mountaineer Shelton Gibson, though he could be much more sound in the intermediate game than Gibson was at this point in his career.

Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has harped on the idea of becoming a more methodical offense in 2018 instead of slinging it deep on every pass play, but when they do take their shots deep this year, expect Simms to be the main target. His quick first step helps him get behind the secondary, and he can go get the ball, so hell, throw it 20 yards behind the corner. He’ll go after it.

Simms is the most explosive option the Mountaineers have, both on offense and in the return game. Once Simms returned from his one-game suspension in September, he took over punt and kick return duties, giving Dana Holgorsen something he’s never really had during his tenure — a reliable, speedy returner who won’t muff punts. He had 17 punt returns for 99 yards (5.5 avg) and 31 kick returns for 816 yards (26.3 avg). Simms nearly took the opening kickoff to the house vs Delaware State, which was a season-long return of 80 yards. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that he’s going to take one or two a little further in 2018.

Simms may not be in the conversation for a spot as a Biletnikoff finalist yet, but he should certainly make his presence known this fall. If opposing defenses put too much attention on the Mountaineers’ top two targets, they could have a serious problem on their hands with Simms.

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