Wednesday, March 18, 2009

KU’s D-Line coach motivated

Sims looking to fill gaps on defense


Tom Sims’ entrance into the coaching world came, quite by accident, during the fall of 1990.

While on injured reserve as a rookie defensive lineman with the Kansas City Chiefs, Sims regularly underwent treatment at a downtown medical center, and one day, on his way home, he drove past a community center near Southeast (Mo.) High School, where a group of eighth grade boys was sweating through an afternoon practice.

“I saw them one day, and then the next day on my way back, I just pulled in, talked to the coach and starting messing with them from there on,” said Sims, who spent the next couple years helping to coach the kids. “As a player, I thought coaches were crazy, to be honest. The hours that they put in and the commitment level it took to prepare for a football game. But they also had an opportunity to impact kids in a positive manner, and that’s not something that I took lightly.”

Nearly 20 years later, the rewards of coaching still hold a particularly strong grip on the Detroit native.

After spending the past four years in the same position at Illinois, Sims was recently hired to take over a Kansas University defensive line that — with the exception of 2008 all-Big 12 honorable mention selections Jake Laptad and Caleb Blakesley — will be one of the team’s few question marks heading into the 2009 season.

Last season, the Jayhawks ranked sixth in the Big 12 in sacks with 26, although they lose experienced ends Russell Brorsen and John Larson — as well as linebacker James Holt, who finished with a team-high 10 sacks, while being used as a pass rusher off the edge throughout the latter part of the season.

The list of possible replacements, however, appears lengthy. Tackles Jamal Greene and Richard Johnson each started at least seven games for the Jayhawks in ’08. Tackle Darius Parish and end Max Onyegbule should also compete for playing time, and highly-touted end transfer Quintin Woods, who initially signed with Michigan out of high school before signing with Bakersfield (Ca.) Community College, also provides an intriguing piece for coaches to consider during spring workouts.

Kansas coach Mark Mangino seemed to harp on the team’s defensive line a bit more than other areas during a press conference at the start of spring football, citing the need for improvement in all areas — from gap discipline to pass-rush techniques.

“I think we need to make some strides (there),” Mangino said. “... And Tom has already proven that he will make the necessary adjustments and teach the fundamentals that we would like to have in our defense — that we’re used to having up-front.”

Surely, Mangino is hoping that Sims’ tenure in Lawrence spans a bit longer than that of his last defensive line coach — Kerry Locklin lasted just over two weeks before departing for a job with the New York Jets — and as spring practice has progressed, that seems a likely scenario.

“I’m starting to get a feel for them, and they’re getting a feel for me,” Sims said. “With very few exceptions, I’ve been extremely impressed with the work ethic and the discipline. And with me getting here, every guy has a clean slate.”


John Mueller 10 years, 10 months ago


Here is hoping you are correct, but I respectfully disagree.

We didn't generate near enough pressure last season. Ole Miss and others made it crystal clear last year how you defend the Texas Tech offense.

You either knock the qb on his arse every other play or you leave him with the distinct impression that he will not survive the 2nd half with your defense on the field unless he throws it away as soon as it hits his hands.

If you'll recall, our defensive line last year certainly did not leave that impression on Graham Harrell. In fact, he may well have been a Heisman candidate when he got on the bus at Memorial Stadium after last years game.

With respect to new blood, hope springs eternal, but they are all "prospects" until proven otherwise.

I truly believe the defensive line is the single biggest area of improvement necessary for this team to compete for a Big 12 championship. Without a substantial improvement in this area, I'd rather skip the Big 12 championship.

John Mueller 10 years, 10 months ago

PS how cool is it to talk pigskin on the eve of the Big Dance. Sure is nice to have two teams that are relevant!

Dirk Medema 10 years, 10 months ago

springtxhawk - How cool indeed. I've started looking for FB articles before going to the BB page, partly because I realize the length of time it would take to read any that might by chance appear.

I would also agree with you and Max. While it is nice to have most of the key players returning and maturing another year, it isn't like that group was tearing up the world. When you are mediocre at pressuring the QB, and lose almost half your sacks (40% from a LB), it doesn't say a lot for the returnees.

The thing about the ends we lost is that they weren't going to hurt us with mistakes, but they weren't hurting the opponent with their performance either. In the pass happy world of the BigXII (& non-con #4?), that means the QB gets to take his time and pick apart your DB's.

The good news is that there were a lot of young guys on the team that were starting or playing significant minutes. Hopefully, they're improving and that much better off for having the game experience.

I'm excited to see the growth of the "experienced" guys, and hopefully even more from the new guys. I'm also excited to see what Coach does with the personnel across the board, and especially to fill the huge void at LB & OL.

Thanks for the tasty morsel LJW. Keep 'em coming.

Rock Chalk

scmitchem 10 years, 10 months ago

I hope that we put more heat on the QB than what we have done the last two years.

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