It turns out choosing to play at West Virginia University in the Big 12 Conference was the right choice after all for Charles Sims.
The former Houston transfer parlayed a 1,000-yard rushing season against Big 12 competition into a third-round selection in this year’s NFL draft. Sims, the fifth running back taken, was the fifth pick in the third round (69th overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sims was the Big 12 newcomer of the year in 2014 after rushing for 1,095 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns during his only season playing for the Mountaineers. He also led West Virginia with 45 receptions for 401 yards and three touchdowns.
The Houston resident’s best game was also the best game ever against a Gary Patterson-coached defense when he ran for 154 yards and a touchdown in West Virginia’s 30-27 overtime victory at TCU. Sims finished his career with 149 yards rushing on a season-high 24 attempts in a triple-overtime, 52-44 loss to Iowa State.
Including his three seasons at Houston, Sims rushed for 3,465 yards and 40 touchdowns while catching 203 passes for 2,108 yards and 11 scores.
Sims joins a Buccaneer roster that does not return a rusher who gained more than 532 yards in 2013 - that being third-year back Bobby Rainey from Western Kentucky. Boise State's Doug Martin, a 2012 first rounder, was injured for most of 2013.
Meanwhile, defensive end Will Clarke went 19 picks later to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 24th selection in the third round (88th overall).
Clarke’s draft stock shot up after a pair of strong all-star game performances, particularly at the Senior Bowl where he was able to parlay that into an invitation to the NFL Combine. The 6-foot-6-inch, 271-pound defensive end is a versatile athlete who can play either standing up or with his hand down on the ground.
Clarke started all 12 games for West Virginia last year at defensive tackle when he led the team with six sacks and 17 tackles for losses, which ranked 15th nationally. He earned second team all-Big 12 honors from both the coaches and the Associated Press.
In four seasons at West Virginia, the Pittsburgh resident was in on 111 tackles, nine sacks and 28 ½ tackles for losses. Clarke is the eighth player from West Virginia drafted by Cincinnati since 1987, while Sims becomes the fourth Mountaineer player taken by Tampa Bay since 2003.
Both become the seventh and eighth Dana Holgorsen-coached West Virginia players to be selected in the NFL draft, and the fifth and sixth to be taken in the top three rounds.
Clarke’s selection also snapped a string of four straight offensive players from West Virginia to be drafted since last year.
The NFL draft concludes on Saturday with rounds 4 through 7 in New York City.