David Sims is a football player looking for a position.
He has spent the past two seasons playing quarterback at Georgia Tech. However, with Tevin Washington returning and Synjyn Days battling for the No. 1 spot, coach Paul Johnson decided that Sims should try B-back during the spring because he liked Sims’ athleticism and wants to get him on the field. Sims said he was already thinking about asking to move, so he didn’t mind the change. A quarterback at Calhoun County High School in St. Matthews, S.C., he was recruited as a running back by some schools because he rushed for a school-record 2,800 yards in his career.
He said he’s enjoying the change after two days of practicing in the rain in helmets and shorts.
“It’s still a little bit of a learning experience, getting in the stance and getting out,” he said.
Sims said he thinks he can bring a combination of Anthony Allen’s toughness and Jonathan Dwyer’s breakaway speed. They are the former B-backs who rushed more than 1,300 yards each of the past three seasons. Plus, Sims said he has a little bit of shiftiness.
Of course, he has to know where to go. He said he’s still learning what he and assistant coach Brian Bohannon call his “track.”
The team will practice in pads on Friday, which will also be the first time that Sims will experience that first hit on the handoff at the line of scrimmage.
“Friday should be fun,” he said.
Though Bohannon said it will take two weeks to get a feel for his grasp of the position, he hopes Sims is competing for a starting spot by the end of the spring. The team doesn’t have an established returner at B-back. Johnson described the returners — Preston Lyons, Richard Watson and Charles Perkins — as group of good players. However, none of them have a lot of experience. Lyons and Watson didn’t combine to rush for more than 100 yards last season.
Bohannon said he asks each of the backs each day to pick out one or two things they can improve on, so that they come back as a better football player. Sims mentioned working on the handoff, as well as holding the football high and tight against his chest, which helps reduce fumbles.
“We will see what goes on with that position,” Johnson said. “I am comfortable with it. We have more guys there than anywhere else. I am not worried about that position at all.”
Inside the inside linebackers
Across the middle of the field, at inside linebacker, another battle is brewing between several players trying to fill the position held last season by Brad Jefferson.
One of those players is Quayshawn Nealy, who will be a redshirt freshman when the 2011 season begins.
Julian Burnett, who led the team in tackles last season, will likely start at one inside ‘backer. Nealy is competing with Albert Rocker, Daniel Drummond and B.J. Machen at the other spot. They’re all around the same size (each are between 6-1 and 6-3, and are listed between 230-235 pounds). Nealy said he’s still learning the 3-4 scheme, but he has a much better understanding now than he did last year.
“The way coach Groh teaches the defense is meaningful and easy to understand,” he said. “At first, coming in as a freshman and coming from a 4-3 defense, I couldn’t really understand what’s going on. But now after the installation process I have a better grasp. Pretty much everything’s coming 1-2-3.”
As far as the competition at the position, Nealy said his advantage may be his speed.
“Once I get it, I’m like a bullet,” he said.
Saturday’s practice is the first one that will be open to the public. It will start at 9 a.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium. … Johnson said he was encouraged by the players’ attitude on Wednesday. “They were bouncing around and looking good,” he said. He said the coaches are watching the players’ fundamentals and assignment awareness during the drills in helmets and shorts. “We are doing the same type of practice we do in pads, just no contact,” he said.
– Doug Roberson, AJC