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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Catch him if you can: Despite challengers, Sims still KU’s No. 1 RB

Kansas running back James Sims (29) celebrates a touchdown in KU's last football game Saturday against West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va.

Kansas running back James Sims (29) celebrates a touchdown in KU's last football game Saturday against West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va.

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Tony Pierson, Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox are faster than James Sims. Bourbon and Cox weigh more than Sims. Darrian Miller and Pierson are even more slippery than Sims. So what is it about the senior from Irving, Texas, that enables him to keep his role as the Kansas University football team’s featured running back?

Others who have tried to knock him off the perch and could not took a stab at answering that question.

“Durability, for one,” Bourbon said. “He’s been here four years and never really had any problems.”

Pierson called Sims, “a good leader. Positive role model, and he’s just a confident player.”

Cox came closer, saying, “I would say he’s just a football player. He finds a way to get it done. He has good vision. He sees the whole field pretty well. He has so much game experience in the Big 12. I feel like it helps him a lot. It helps him see the holes a little bit better and get it done. He’s a good player.”

Sims himself did the best job of identifying what he does better than anyone else, and his understanding of that opens a window to the real answer: He understands the position, the nuances, knowledge and instincts necessary to play it more completely and efficiently than anyone else.

“Patience and pass protection,” Sims said. “Being able to pick up my block.”

Picking up his block against blitzing quarterback hunters and picking up his blockers when running combine to make him a key to both KU’s running and passing games.

“You have to have patience to read and see how the play is going to develop,” Sims said. “If you’re in a rush, then the play really doesn’t work, so it really doesn’t matter what the play is. Patience becomes the key with everything.”

It’s a learned skill, he said.

“It took some time,” Sims said. “I was always in a hurry to go and just get out and do everything. I’d say I got it down just this last year.”

Thanks to a great extent to running-backs coach Reggie Mitchell’s productive recruiting efforts, Sims faces a challenge for carries from different style backs every season. Each year, he gets slimmer, quicker and more productive. His work load grows (168 carries in 2010/182/218), his season-long run becomes longer (28 in 2010/56/64), his conditioning better (226 pounds as a sophomore, 200 pounds now).

Now that Miller is back after a year as a non-playing student in junior college, joining Pierson, Cox and Bourbon, Sims faces stiffer competition from within than ever. And Mitchell makes it sound as if Sims will be more difficult than ever to catch.

“During the offseason, he worked on his speed, so he’s faster,” Mitchell said. “He worked on his quickness. By him being in the offense for 18 months, he has a really good feel for how things are being blocked. He just looks really good right now.”

Sims attributed the speed improvement to workouts with strength-and-conditioning coach Scott Holsopple, who introduced Sims to new training methods, including yoga, according to the running back.

“He’s in really good shape, and he’s playing really well right now,” Mitchell said. “If you look at a picture from his freshman season to now, he’s totally different. Even from the end of last season to now, he looks better.”

An argument could be made that if the name of KU’s most valuable defensive player in 2012 was not second-team All-Big 12 middle linebacker Ben Heeney, then it was second-team All-Big 12 running back James Sims. By rushing for 1,013 yards in nine games on a career-best 4.6 yards per rush, Sims limited the amount of time KU’s speed-challenged defense spent on the field.

During a stretch of the Big 12 schedule that spanned from September into November, Sims had a school-record six consecutive 100-yard rushing games, four of them on the road.

If Sims leads the Jayhawks in rushing again, he will become KU’s second running back to do so four seasons in a row, joining Tony Sands (1988-91). Sims would need to rush for 1,360 yards to pass June Henley as KU’s career rushing leader. That would require an average of 113.3 yards in 12 games, compared to a 112.6-yard average in nine games last season.

A more balanced attack than last year’s run-heavy approach could keep that from happening. Sims, who hasn’t played in a game for the winning side since he rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns in KU’s 45-42 victory in Memorial Stadium against Northern Illinois on Sept. 10, 2011, welcomes what an improved passing game could bring.

“It’s opened up a lot, as far as just not coming into a game just knowing we’re going to run the ball 50 times,” he said. “Knowing that we’re going to run and pass, that will keep defenses on their heels, which is going to be a positive for us as a whole and put points on the board.”

Sims has rushed for nine touchdowns in each of his three seasons at KU, but never has had enough company in getting to the end zone. He sounds confident that is about to change.

Comments

actorman 12 months ago

Excellent article. It's been great watching him play for three years (at least as much as I've been able to from California), and I look forward to another year.

I also look forward to at least one receiver joining him in the end zone this season.

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Shawn Baker 12 months ago

Does anyone know if you can watch the game on direct tv

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Micky Baker 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I think it's Channel 792 but you have to pay $24.99 to watch it on Directv

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nuleafjhawk 12 months ago

I've never been any kind of mathematical genius, but even I don't understand why it says there are 10 comments on this article, when all I see is two (now three).

Are there hidden comments somewhere that I have to unlock by answering some crazy Google question about my great Aunt Matilda's personal hygiene habits?

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Easy_Jayhawk 12 months ago

Does anyone know if you can watch the game on directv? I know it's on the jayhawk network, just don't know if I get it

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hawkdiek 11 months, 4 weeks ago

K-State grad keeps count on the comments.

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daverinoku 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Guys, help me out. I don't have a DVR.

Is there any way I can record the game online?

Or will there be re-broadcasts in KC / Overland Park?

(can't watch the game live due to prior engagement made by my wife - doah!)

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BayPark 11 months, 4 weeks ago

It should be available for replay on ESPN3.

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Jim Jackson 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I believe the game is free if you have cable, try logging into espn3.com; it will guide you from there

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Micky Baker 11 months, 4 weeks ago

You might be directed to your cable provider to log in there, or if it is already supported by ESPN3.com you can call ESPN customer service and they'll get it going, but I'd check it right now to make sure it works.

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KGphoto 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I don’t remember Sims ever being 226 pounds. I remember 210. That’s when He decided to slim down, and he actually got down to 190-195 last year before getting back up to 200.

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texashawk10 11 months, 4 weeks ago

He was pretty chunky as a freshman and didn't have great stamina

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KGphoto 11 months, 3 weeks ago

He was 205 coming out of high school. He never hit 226.

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daverinoku 11 months, 4 weeks ago

On the other hand, a balanced attack may HELP James exceed 100 per game. With opposing defense guessing, he may break more big runs and rack up yards more quickly than 4 per carry.

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Jim Jackson 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Game is on ESPN3; logins will vary based on your cable provider; I believe.

Rock Chalk, lets beat these guys by 42 tonight

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texashawk10 11 months, 4 weeks ago

James Sims reminds a lot of Emmit Smith. Not necessarily the best physical attributes, ie. not the fastest, strongest, quickest, etc., but like Smith, Sims has great vision, is pretty good at avoiding the big hits that shorten careers, and just understands the game. I don't know if Sims will get drafted because of how much the RB position has been devalued over the past few years in the NFL with most teams going to 2 or 3 man rotations at RB, but he will be playing on Sundays for somebody.

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jayhwkroks 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Anyone know of any live streams of the game tonight? I know they show up once in a while. Rock Chalk!!!!!

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Mark Lindrud 11 months, 4 weeks ago

If you can't get espn3 try first row sports online. it's free

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Steve Brown 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Surewest cable in OP,Ks. doesn't have ESPN III so I tried the apple TV and that would have worked if I had been on Verizon, Comcast, Cox, Time Waner, etc. not Surewest.

I called cable and paid $14.95 for ESPN III for the day. They activated the channel in 2 minutes.

Enjoy.

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Steve Brown 11 months, 4 weeks ago

So I paid for EIII to get the channel yet won't see the game, how interesting.

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John Boyle 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I think Miller looked better than Sims. If it hadn't been for the two runs for losses in his last two possession when the defense knew what was coming and totally sold out on the run his numbers would have been better than Sims. But I do like the fact that we can go with any number of guys at tailback and still be effective.

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