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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A welcome back: Jayhawks excited for James Sims’ return from suspension

Kansas running back James Sims smiles as he stretches with his teammates during practice on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Sims is expected to return against Northern Illinois after serving a three-game suspension.

Kansas running back James Sims smiles as he stretches with his teammates during practice on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Sims is expected to return against Northern Illinois after serving a three-game suspension.

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When the Kansas University coaching staff first started game-planning for this week’s Northern Illinois match-up, they did so with the knowledge that they would be getting one of their top offensive weapons back in suspended running back James Sims.

As it turns out, they’re getting something even better.

“James has really transformed the way he plays,” said junior offensive lineman Gavin Howard. “He’s a hundred times better than he was last year. I’m really excited for him to finally get this opportunity. He’s been waiting a long time, throughout the whole spring and fall, knowing he wasn’t gonna play the first three games. He’s really excited to go and I think he’ll play very well.”

While Sims’ return from a three-game suspension for an offseason DUI arrest has been one of the most talked about comebacks surrounding the program in some time, KU coach Charlie Weis said it was not a given that Sims would be thrown back into his role as the Jayhawks’ featured back. After all, while Sims was sitting in the stands watching his teammates play the first three games of the season, sophomore Tony Pierson and junior-college transfer Taylor Cox took good care of the position, rushing for 526 yards and four touchdowns and averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

“He’s seen those other two guys play pretty well, and he knows, for him to get snaps, he’s gonna have to earn ’em,” Weis said of Sims. “A lot of times, when a player leaves, it’s, ‘Well, they need me, they need me.’ Well, he’s sitting in the stands those games watching those guys run the ball pretty well then he’s starting to question, ‘I wonder if they need me.’”

Whether the Jayhawks need the team’s leading rusher in both 2010 and 2011 or not is a matter of opinion, but Weis has not been shy about expressing his joy in having Sims as an option.

“I don’t know if there’s another Big 12 team that could sit there and say they’ve got three better than those three,” said Weis on his weekly radio show of Cox, Pierson and Sims.

Although Sims has not played a snap during the first three weeks, his absence has not been a case of a forgotten player wasting away on the depth chart. Instead, Sims has worked with the scout team every day, fighting hard to give the KU defense a workout while also keeping himself in the best possible shape. That’s true on the field and in the film room.

“The only thing that we didn’t do is play him,” running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said. “He was always in the meetings, he knew what we were doing from a gameplan standpoint, week to week.”

Because of that, Weis believes Sims can and will be an asset for the KU offense whenever he gets into the game on Saturday.

“I expect him ready to go,” Weis said. “I really do. I don’t expect there to be any rust.”

As for Sims’ motivation, that’s not a concern either.

“I think he’s very hungry,” Weis said. “That excites me.”

Carnes returns, too

Sims is not the only Jayhawk expected back from suspension Saturday. Long snapper, Justin Carnes, who also was suspended three games to start the season, was listed on the latest depth chart as the starting snapper.

Before talking about the impact the junior might have, Weis praised one of the guys who filled in for him.

“I think Reilly Jeffers did above and beyond the call of duty,” Weis said. “Here’s a guy that never snapped in a high school game and this kid snaps for the first three games of the year. Not every snap was perfect, but our punting average was pretty good.”

Because of that, Carnes, like Sims, is going to have to prove he deserves his spot back.

“We’re not gonna just hand the job to Carnes,” Weis said. “I think Carnes is probably better than Reilly, but he’s gonna have to show in practice that he is or else we’ll keep snapping Reilly.”

Pick on pace; Smith questionable

Injured wide receiver Kale Pick appears to be a lot closer to playing, according to Weis’ assessment of the senior from Dodge City.

“I’d be very surprised if Kale didn’t play,” he said.

Weis said senior safety Lubbock Smith, who practiced Tuesday, remained a question mark for Saturday.

Spencer out for season

As for reserve offensive lineman Riley Spencer, Weis said the 6-foot-6, 305-pound junior from Hesston was finished for the season because of a knee injury that Spencer and the coaching staff decided would be better addressed now than after the season.

“We talked (Monday) and we decided to go ahead and have Riley’s knee fixed,” Weis said.

The recovery time is expected to be about six months, which, by taking care of it now, will give Spencer a chance to return by the time spring drills start in 2013.

Depth chart changes

In all, KU unveiled 10 significant depth chart changes on Tuesday, some based off of performance and others off of injury.

Included among the most notable changes are: junior Randall Dent starting at right guard, with Aslam Sterling backing him up; sophomore Andrew Turzilli taking over first-team reps at Z receiver for D.J. Beshears; junior Kevin Young starting at nose tackle, taking the place of junior Jordan Tavai, who is listed as the starting defensive tackle; Dexter Linton sliding into the first-team strong safety spot ahead the injured Smith; and freshman Tre’ Parmalee taking over kickoff return duties from Beshears.

“If you have other people that can do that job, see if somebody else can do it better,” Weis said. “If you just settle in and say, ‘He’s the guy,’ then, as a coach, you’re not doing your job. Part of our job is to find answers, no matter what they are.”

Road woes

Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill., will represent the Jayhawks’ first opportunity to snap a 13-game road losing streak that dates back to September of 2009.

Always one to use anything he can to motivate his players, Weis said the skid would be a point of emphasis during the next few days.

“They will hear it several times this week,” he said. “That’ll be one of my main messages. It’ll be my vintage New Jersey sarcasm.”

By Tuesday, several players said they had heard only a light mention of the streak. When told of Weis’ plans to hammer the point home, they could only muster one response.

“We’ll look forward to it,” quarterback Dayne Crist said.

Comments

Micky Baker 2 years, 2 months ago

Glad to see Parmalee getting a shot. Beshears didn't look comfortable last week. He could have a role on this team, but he's going to have to stop trying to be a hero and remember this a team sport.

Randy Bombardier 2 years, 2 months ago

Glad to see this. I think he could be a real asset.

Jim Erickson 2 years, 2 months ago

Good to see Sims back. I still think he is our best back, but I don't know if he will make a big difference as Pierson and Cox have played well.

Jim Erickson 2 years, 2 months ago

(Cairo_Jayhawk = Bangkok_Jayhawk... Got a work transfer :) )

Oseashawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Sawadeekap...stay safe in Egypt and i know you'll mis Bangkok.

Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

I definitely will miss Bangkok! Crazy but fun place.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 2 months ago

So much for the statement, "He's gone....Bangkok has him now.!!" ;)

nuleafjhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

“James has really transformed the way he plays,” said junior offensive lineman Gavin Howard. “He’s a hundred times better than he was last year."

Wow - that is good news indeed. I'm changing my former woeful outlook to bright and sunny, now that I know James will be getting THESE kinds of numbers:

  • Yards - 72,700
  • Yards per carry - 400
  • TD's - 900

Congratulations James! Maybe Crist should get suspended for three games also.

KGphoto 2 years, 2 months ago

LOL. I even had it copied and ready to paste. Your version is better though.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 2 months ago

  • [72,700] [3] / 5280 = FIVE MILES!!
  • Up and down the field four times per TD run!!
  • [900] [7] / 12 = 6300 / 12 = 525 points per game [assuming no missed extra points!!]

Tony Bandle 2 years, 2 months ago

Go call your brother, Johnny, sing a duet and cheer up!!

jhox 2 years, 2 months ago

I've been hoping to see Cox get even more carries. Sims will have to be dramatically improved to be as talented as Cox. I hope that turns out to be the case. I'd like to see the two of them used mostly between the tackles and then use Pierson on the edges and in the passing game.

Sam Brockert 2 years, 2 months ago

True, maybe not as talented as Cox, but even you have to admit that theywon't lose a WHOLE when they go to Sims in the rotation. They are probably one of the only teams that can say they can go from starter to third string running back and not lose a whole lot.

Doug Cramer 2 years, 2 months ago

Something is up with Beshears. He hasn't been himself all season.

NebraskaJayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

When you stink like we stunk last year, everyone tries to find positives. I agree with you that the average is more important than the overall yardage, but I guess some saw this as a positive to draw from somehow.

Andy Tweedy 2 years, 2 months ago

I didn't think Sims' return would make much difference because the running game has been pretty good. But after seeing Pierson catching the ball downfield, I have decided I was stupid and wrong. It seems to me that Sims presence could really help the passing game as well. If the passing game comes around, the offense could be pretty good.

Ron Prichard 2 years, 2 months ago

Isn't he still banged up? Seems like the story of his football life.

Randy Bombardier 2 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, I don't get that as he had the highest average carry last year. Maybe he doesn't look good in practice. He looked good in the games last year. Hate to see that talent wasted. We have the backs to be doing the triple option. Course that's not the style of Weiss. I hate to see such talent wasted.

Manginosspeedo 2 years, 2 months ago

Drink too much of it and drive and Weiss will suspend you from the team for 3 games.

KGphoto 2 years, 2 months ago

Definitely still recovering. Weis has plays for him when he's healthy, as evident in the play he was injured on.

KGphoto 2 years, 2 months ago

“If you have other people that can do that job, see if somebody else can do it better,” Weis said. “If you just settle in and say, ‘He’s the guy,’ then, as a coach, you’re not doing your job. Part of our job is to find answers, no matter what they are.”

That's worth the price of premium seating, right there.

I think Beshears had better brush up on his CB skills, because I don't see him getting back in there with the emergence of two 6'4" receivers, to go with Patterson, Pick, Mundine and Ragone. Right or wrong Crist likes him some tall WRs. Patterson is getting his but he's been overthrown about 10 times too. Beshears is tumbling and I think he's demoralized. Too bad.

"“I don’t know if there’s another Big 12 team that could sit there and say they’ve got three better than those three,” said Weis on his weekly radio show of Cox, Pierson and Sims."

Love it! Even though Tejas will have something to say about it, I wouldn't trade these guys for anybody. Now with Pierson getting into the receiving mix, it really is a lethal trio. Snap, Crackle and Pop!!

vd 2 years, 2 months ago

5.8 ypc is excellent, considering there haven't been many long runs (30+) in that mix. The carries for negative yds. have been held to a minimum.

Cox has looked good, but Simms is better. We won't get a side by side until they compete against the same defenses.

Looks like those JC lineman aren't as good as everyone hyped them to be.

bville_hawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Besides his running ability, one of Sims' strong points was always catching the ball. I don't recall if we have thrown any passes to Cox so can't compare the 2 on their pass catching ability.

Micky Baker 2 years, 2 months ago

Sims also has the presence of mind to be able to bounce off tacklers and keep his legs churning, and that sometimes means 6 to 10 more yards gained on the same play Pierson gets stopped for 6 yards(size).

Pierson has room to grow, a lot. I mean in size. Add about 20 lbs. by this time next year and he'll be on a couple of watch lists for best running back.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 2 months ago

Well, at least we'll lead the Big 12 in single syllable last names on the player roster plus the coaching staff.[33]

jhawkrulz 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm still worried about our coaching staff on special teams. Our FGs, kickoffs, kickoff returns, and punt returns have been at best...poor. Our punting has been solid and our coverage on such has been acceptable. I guess that was the focus from last year. I'd like to see that whole area improve overall.

KGphoto 2 years, 2 months ago

I guess we knocked out Waymon James for the season. I'll have to go back and see what happened. Anybody already know?

http://espn.go.com/dallas/ncf/story/_/id/8399902/tcu-loses-top-rusher-waymon-james-rest-season

Randy Bombardier 2 years, 2 months ago

I agree with the talent. We definitely have it in a number of areas. The Oline and Dline are probably the best in a long time as far as sheer ability. Running backs, best ever. QB situation is good. Crist is a little rusty but receivers appear to be the biggest problem. I do not see that it is a talent issue so much as experience and execution. Yeah, perhaps the coaching wasn't the greatest (play calling) but if our execution had been there, you are right we could be 3-0.

danmoore 2 years, 2 months ago

No more suspensions! Depth chart is thin enough through injuries.

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