Sims On The Move Again

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas junior Desmond Sims just can't seem to stay in one place.

The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder has been asked to line up at five different positions in three seasons. He arrived as a receiver in 2002, then shifted to strong safety and got playing time at all three linebacker spots (wolf, middle and strongside) in his career.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Sims is adapting to new surroundings this spring.

The Lilbourn, Mo., native was moved to the trenches by new defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, who is looking for speed and quickness in his 4-3 scheme. Sims entered spring practice as Arkansas' first-team left defensive end and has been one of position coach Tracy Rocker's bright spots during the first seven days of spring drills.

"When we decided to make another change, I told him, 'Yes, you have every right to be upset. That's your right. You should be,'" Rocker said. "But when I got here (in 2003), I always felt like he was a defensive end and could help us there."

Sims began proving that with an impressive performance during Saturday's scrimmage in Razorback Stadium. He batted down quarterback Robert Johnson' pass to end the first possession, sacked redshirt freshman Alex Mortensen a little later and finished his two-tackle day as one of the defense's highlights.

The scrimmage gives the Hogs confidence they've found the right spot for Sims, who earned three starts at inside linebacker as a redshirt freshman in 2003. He was eighth on the team in tackles (37) last season and has 69 stops in 24 career games.

"I'm still learning everything (at defensive end)," Sims said. "I'm getting adjusted to putting my hand down in the dirt and getting the fundamentals and stuff. I used to be off the ball, but now I'm right on it and I'm a lot closer to everything.

"I'm just learning a lot and I'm just trying to soak up everything."

One of several players Herring shifted in the off-season, Sims was informed he'd be moving to defensive end after Christmas break. He was initially hesitant, but warmed to the idea after being convinced it was a natural fit.

It also helped Sims to know he's not alone. Marcus Harrison (defensive end to tackle), Zach Snider (linebacker to defensive end) and D'Nerian Wrighter (safety to linebacker) also shifted to new positions and are undergoing similar transitions.

"Those moves were to shore up and at least give us a foundation or a start for our package in the right direction," Herring said. "Those players are critical moves for us. How well Sims, Snider, Marcus Harrison, any of those guys, how well and how fast they come is going to be important."

Herring said Sims needs to add weight to his linebacker-like frame this summer before he can battle offensive linemen on a daily basis. But there's been nothing slim about his effort.

"The one intangible right now that he has over everybody is that he doesn't loaf," Herring said. "He plays fast and seems to be enjoying the transition. If there's one intangible that sticks out, if you watch him on film, he's playing faster than everybody else.

"If he's giving an effort and he's got some ability, we'll find a place for him."

Arkansas had similar success with Jeb Huckeba, who moved from inside linebacker to defensive end after his sophomore season. Huckeba became Arkansas' most productive defensive player, finishing with 6 1/2 sacks and 13 tackles for losses last season.

Rocker said Huckeba's move was a bit different because Sims has bounced to so many positions in three years.

"It's going to take time," Rocker said. "I told him he's going to have good days and bad days. The one thing I'm proud about is that he has approached it with a very open mind and has no hang ups about it. He's hungry for it and that's real good.

"He's on the field saying, 'I'm going to get better today.' He wants to be special."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories