Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Jeff Sims Highlights Otherwise Messy Day For Nebraska Offense

April 22, 2023

In a generally poor game for quarterback play, Jeff Sims stood out.

The Georgia Tech transfer and presumed top challenger to Casey Thompson for the starting spot showed his talent early in Saturday’s Spring Game. He led three of the four offensive scoring drives in the game, and every drive longer than 30 yards featured him at quarterback. He made big plays on each of those possessions as well.

“Jeff is really cool and calm out there,” head coach Matt Rhule said postgame. “I like his demeanor and feel. He’s played a lot of football, so I thought he looked pretty good.”

Sims completed nine of his 13 pass attempts for 139 yards, along with rushing for a seven-yard touchdown. His other five rush attempts went for a net of zero yards, but he showed impressive scrambling capabilities throughout the contest. The other four quarterbacks to play in the game combined to complete 17 of 41 passes for 120 yards and two interceptions. They also lost three fumbles. Sims didn’t turn the ball over at all, despite having trouble corralling a couple snaps.

The quarterback’s first drive, the opening possession of the game, hit an early snag. After a first down, Sims was dropped for a loss of three, and a false start put the offense in 2nd-and-18. Instead of the drive stalling there, he fired a dart to tight end Nate Boerkircher for a 38-yard gain to set up the eventual field goal.

“That’s been my favorite play throughout the whole spring and coach knew that, so he called that play to kind of get me in a rhythm,” Sims said of that pass. “Once I seen Nate, I said, ‘Big body, big target, put it on him and let him roll.'”

A mishandled snap on third down helped end that drive, but Sims continued to thrive. He completed passes of 24 and 15 yards to Billy Kemp IV on the next White team possession to set up another field goal, then sat for the rest of the quarter while Heinrich Haarberg took over under center. When he came back, the Red team had just lost a fumble for the third drive in a row, setting up Sims just 31 yards from the endzone.

After a few Anthony Grant runs and recovering his own fumble, the junior completed another 15-yard pass and followed it up with a seven-yard touchdown run, breaking through two tacklers on the way to the endzone.

He made a number of plays with his legs in the first half. On one of those scoring drives, a pass rusher had a free lane to a sack until Sims spun away. In another instance, Sims dropped in a pass to Marcus Washington while rolling to his right for a good gain. Sims averaged over 11 rush attempts per game at Georgia Tech, but Rhule emphasized that his mobility just comes as an addition to his arm talent.

“He’s a passer. He’s a passer who runs 4.4, he’s not a runner who throws. He’s a passer,” the head coach said. “I think he did some things with his legs, extending plays, you know, dead to rights on the one he spun out, so that’s really what we’re looking for from him. We weren’t able to get the big, explosive play that we wanted, but he hit the glance to Marcus [Washington], which was really good.”

While the defense did limit the offense from any huge runs or throws, the biggest plays came from Sims. He accounted for five of the six passing plays of 15 yards or more in the scrimmage, including the 38-yard strike to Boerkircher.

Sims only played two drives after halftime, one a 45-yard charge that ended in a turnover on downs and the other a three-and-out which featured two of his four incompletions. As indicated by the stats, he was the best quarterback to take the field.

There’s still a lot of time remaining before next year’s quarterback is decided, and today’s game was a practice. But Sims has drawn praise throughout the spring, and it lined up with what was put on the field Saturday. He’ll look to build on that ahead of the fall.

“I’m a perfectionist, so obviously I had a couple plays I did that could’ve been better. I left some stuff out there on the field,” Sims said. “It’s all about just going back and attacking the summer and working on what I need to work on and getting better for the season.”

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