Monday, September 13, 2010

A running start: Freshman James Sims sensational in college debut

Kansas running back James Sims, center, avoids a tackle as he charges up-field against the Georgia Tech defense. Sims rushed for 101 yards in his collegiate debut Saturday, helping KU stun the Yellow Jackets, 28-25, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back James Sims, center, avoids a tackle as he charges up-field against the Georgia Tech defense. Sims rushed for 101 yards in his collegiate debut Saturday, helping KU stun the Yellow Jackets, 28-25, at Memorial Stadium.


Gale Sayers left Kansas University with 11 100-yard games on his resume.


James Sims was a popular attraction for fans after the Jayhawks’ victory Saturday.

Reader poll

Following KU's victory over No. 15 Georgia Tech, how many games do you think the Jayhawks will win this year?

  • 1 1% 19 votes
  • 2 1% 15 votes
  • 3 5% 64 votes
  • 4 17% 225 votes
  • 5 25% 325 votes
  • 6 27% 348 votes
  • 7 15% 194 votes
  • 8 or more 5% 74 votes

1264 total votes.

June Henley finished tied for second all-time with 13 100-yard days.

Tony Sands had a program-best 17 such outings before he was done, and John Riggins produced seven.

None of them achieved the feat in his first game as a Jayhawk, though.

Not the Kansas Comet. Not Riggo. Not Tuxedo Tony. Nope. Just Jukin’ James Sims, the fab freshman with the high-top fade.

Sims, 6-foot, 206 pounds from Irving, Texas, made history Saturday by rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown in KU’s 28-25 victory against No. 15 Georgia Tech. He became the first freshman to crack the century mark in his debut and, in doing so, breathed life into a rushing attack previously on life support.

“The first thing was, he took care of the football,” KU coach Turner Gill said. “And he ran with some energy. I think you saw that reflected (in) the rest of our football team.”

After his fourth carry of the first half, Sims went to the sideline to fix an equipment malfunction. When he arrived, there waiting for him — beyond all the high-fives and head slaps — was the player who, in 2009, became the first KU freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game since 2002 — sophomore Toben Opurum.

While Sims was waiting for his cleats to be repaired, Opurum put his arm around the freshman and offered some advice.

“Knowing the guys believe in me and know that I can get the job done means a lot to me,” Sims said. “It just makes me want to work even harder. Toben just said, ‘Keep working hard,’ just continue to do what I’m doing.”

Good advice.

From that point on, Sims was a monster. He had a 26-yard gain on one play, leapt over a defender on another — on a move reminiscent of his favorite NFL back, Reggie Bush — and, early in the third quarter, buzzed between the tackles three straight times en route to his first career touchdown, which gave Kansas a 21-17 lead.

“Obviously, he showed some athletic ability, too,” Gill said. “He wasn’t just a power runner.”

Deemed not quite ready to play in KU’s season-opening setback against North Dakota State, Sims either got ready in a hurry or was there all along.

Either way, after spending four quarters wondering if he’d get on the field against NDSU, Sims spent six days knowing he would play against Georgia Tech. Asked if he was better prepared for his first game because he knew he was going to get in, Sims said the knowledge helped.

“It did, but regardless of if I was going to play or not, I was still going to work hard,” he said.

Until Saturday, Sims was known by most as a promising back from Texas with a wild hair-do. Now, campus bookstores are taking orders for No. 29 jerseys, and the future of the KU running game looks very promising.

“(Saturday) just (gave me) more confidence in myself, knowing that I can get the job done against a team like that,” Sims said. “We’ll have a bright future. We’ll just build on this game, continue to work harder and get to the Big 12 championship.”

Webb to start

There will be no quarterback controversy this week. Red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb, 18-of-29 for 179 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, earned an encore.

“I can definitely say Jordan Webb’s going to be the starting quarterback,” Gill said of Friday’s game at Southern Miss.

Steward sidelined

Gill said Sunday night that sophomore tight end A.J. Steward would miss this week’s game at Southern Miss because of a shoulder injury. Steward injured his right shoulder in Saturday’s victory and went to the locker room amid the celebration with his arm in a sling. Gill said he’d know more about the timetable for Steward’s return Tuesday.


waywardJay 9 years, 5 months ago

Welcome to 'hawk history. Hopefully this will not be your only page in the record books. Dare i say you might earn a little hardware in your time here ? While there's time for adjustable belt sanders, and cordless drills, and possibly a trophy that Your hero couldn't get legitmately, Enjoy your run(s).

gardenjay 9 years, 5 months ago

Hope Steward is OK, healthy. Toben will be a huge help once he's healthy. We sure could use another week to recover from this last game.....

KU 9 years, 5 months ago

Yes, this was a great start to James Sims' career as a Jayhawk. He has an elusiveness that we have been missing for several years.

Does it mean KU has "discovered" its running game? Consider the opponent: GT gave up 178 yards rushing to South Carolina State the week before at home. One SCSU running back rushed 18 times for 129 yards against GT.

KU rushed for about 140 yards on GT. GT experts are not happy with their defensive line play. Frankly, I think NDSU had a better defensive line than GT..Bottom line: until we get into conference play, it will be difficult to judge whether we really have any better rushing game than we had last year. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

KU 9 years, 5 months ago

And for further evidence that our running game may not be "solved" by the personnel changes, Northern Iowa ran for 262 yards and averaged 7.5 ypc against North Dakota State Saturday. KU ran for 96 yars and averaged 3.0 ypc against NDSU.

Not to open another can of worms, but we allowed NDSU 73 yards rushing and Northern Iowa held NDSU to (negative) -40 yards rushing.

KU is a work in progress. We go from concentrating on stopping the wishbone to stopping a high-powered spread passing game this week. It will be interesting to see what Torbush has up his sleeve for Southern Miss.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 5 months ago

Your point is well made, KU, but I don't think we should base too many comparisons for NDSU on that first game. Everything that could possibly go wrong for us did go wrong. For example, Biere, who never muffs a catch, dropped at least two passes. It was like we were cursed! I don't believe in saying "they didn't beat us, we beat ourselves" (the way GT did after we won Saturday), but in the case of that NDSU game I think it's true. We really made them look good. I doubt if they will have stats that look that good in another game all year.

63Jayhawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Matt, Just curious, how DID Gale Sayers do in his varsity debut? Freshmen could not play on the varsity when Sayers attended the University of Kansas, so he didn't have a shot at gaining 100 varsity yards as a freshman. I seem to recall that he gained 160 or 180 yards in his first freshman game. He would still get my vote as our greatest offensive football player of all time. He did so many things with the football on the offensive side.

I'm looking forward to Sims' continued success as a Jayhawk. Great game! Thanks for the article.

100 9 years, 5 months ago

Like Wilt Chamberlain in hoops, there is no doubt at all as to who the best football player to ever attend KU was....

Gale Sayers...

And, like Wilt, Gale's stats in the pro game are second to none.

He held all records, and still does, in his first few seasons before his unfortunate knee injury, the first of two.

With modern knee procedures we could have seen him as a Bear for a decade.

In short, there has never been a running back in the NFL like Gale Sayers. His ability to change direction with the football while still accelerating was truly like nothing seen before or since.

He could have a swarm around him (the Bears line wasn't all that good) and just EXPLODE and dart through eleven guys for a fifty yard TD. Yet he did it so gracefully & smooth you tended to overlook the fact that he outran the other fastest guys on the field by 10 yards.

He was like the best player on a computer game where the other players could only go half his speed. He was ThAt automatic.

His stats don't lie:

Best NFL running back ever.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 5 months ago

To this day, Sayers is the youngest player to ever be voted into the NFL Hall of Fame. 34 at the time he was admitted.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 5 months ago

One of the things that I love about Sayers is his continued love and involvement with KU. Proud to have him as a Hawk. Looking forward to Sims doing likewise under Gill's mentoring.

Rivethead 9 years, 5 months ago

Some of you owe Maxhawk a big apology.

Maxhawk has been telling us for a year that Sims could be special (I believe Maxhawk lives near the Dallas metro so he know the high school footbal in that area).

But all most of you wanted to talk about was Bourbon's 4 stars and his silly SPARQ test score. Hell there was a article this summer about the RBs and it only mentioned Sims in passing.

GridironHawk 9 years, 5 months ago

He also said starting Webb was a huge mistake so.....

Rivethead 9 years, 5 months ago

What's that got to do with his call on Sims.

Give credit where credit is due. So his call on Webb was wrong? Call him out on that, but some of y'all were down right drunk on Bourbon and didn't even want to listen to reason when it came to Sims.

GridironHawk 9 years, 5 months ago

I agree it has nothing to do with the Sims prediction but I can make a lot of predictions and eventually one will come true. My disappoint was with his negativity with last week's posts after one game of Gill coaching and thus I probably took an unnecessary shot on him here. I'm sure he was probably just blowing off some frustration after a disappointing loss but I was very disappointed with a lot of last weeks posts and his were some of them (though there were many others that were much more negative).

KGphoto 9 years, 5 months ago

First of all, nobody was bashing Sims. I was completely stoked that we landed him. But all of the scouts had him at 3 stars, and BB at 4 stars. So maybe they aren't always right, but they aren't always wrong either. And there was nothing silly about BBs incredible test scores.

Secondly, I don't remember anybody saying anything worthy of an apology. Maxhawk picked Sims, most of the rest of us picked Bourbon. I'm not apologizing for picking one over the other. If somebody told me Sims was going to be our starter from day one, I would've been elated. I love the kid. I love the scouting reports and videos. You're acting like everybody was hating on him.

Thirdly, it's only one game. Bourbon hasn't even had his chance yet, and Gill hasn't exactly proven he can select the best players just by seeing them practice. How do you know BB wouldn't have exploited a couple of those gaping holes and taken it to the house with his superior speed? Let's just save the apologies until the season plays out a little.

KU_FanSince75 9 years, 5 months ago

Sims ran over people and, that is a pleasant surprise! Hope the good performances continue Friday night at Southern Mississippi. Rock Chalk!

duanep5ku 9 years, 5 months ago

KU, I agree with what you said one game does not mean much yet but it's also worth noting that James Sims did not play in the 1st game against NDS. So who knows what he might have done against them. I know he has pretty good speed,so as long as the line can get him a hole. I think James will get better and contribute a lot to our rushing game. PS, So if your still a Mark M fan and James turns out to be a good player for Kansas thank the ex couch because this is his 3 star recruit but if you are not A Mark Mangino fan and he does bad then you will blame the ex coach for this too. Go Kansas

hawknca 9 years, 5 months ago

I think the running game would be even better with toben and sims both in the backfield

Rivethead 9 years, 5 months ago

One of the best things about Sims on Saturday was the energy he brought to the field with him. After every carry he'd jump up and pump his fists int he air and sprint back to the huddle with that "give me the %@%$ rock cause they can't stop me" attitude.

That attitude was contagious.

And many times attitude is half the battle.

OCJHAWK 9 years, 5 months ago

McAnderson was the same. Love to see it.

gardenjay 9 years, 5 months ago

Our defense is a huge part of our game. I'm willing to bet Toben is there for intelligent reasons to keep it that way. He is an awesome athlete and needs to be on the field, but I was sad to hear about his ankle. Recover - reload - what an awesome season ahead, rc

troutsee 9 years, 5 months ago

Here is my take. It's pretty obvious that Gill is going for all positions and that is good and we will be better for it.

Second, good running backs see the line of scrimmage and can run to the hole and not to where the play was designed to go. Sims seems to have that gift.

Third, i thought that Pick would be the guy. However, after watching Webb in two games, he seems to have confidence, pocket presence, and most of rhythm and on time with the ball.. Also, he zips the ball.

Fourth, using Pick in a "wild jayhawk" look and having him throw some of the time would give other teams fits.

Finally, I was very optimistic before the season started, predicting 8-4 but after our dismal performance against NDSU I did not think we would win another game. Shows you what I know. Hope springs eternal. Here we go.

100 9 years, 5 months ago

Helmet stickers, top five play on sportscenter, biggest win in 26 years & now this...;jsessionid=F49A7696BA1EF0FA3BAF646743FCE07D?contentguid=8uit4hOD

It might be noted the "KU caller" was later found out to have an area code on his caller id not in Kansas, but in central Missouri...


KU_FanSince75 9 years, 5 months ago

Wow! In central Missouri---why does that not surprise me?

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