Jeff Sims stood out among the Nebraska contingent at Big Ten Football Media Days in Indianapolis a week ago. He wore all black, hooked up by his friends at Gary Michaels, complete with a fresh set of Prada shoes. Sims conducted himself with confidence, smiled through questions and toughened through the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse.
He returned to Lincoln as a vocal leader and, in no uncertain terms, the next starting quarterback at Nebraska.
“I know being the starting quarterback at Nebraska, I’m representing the whole state,” Sims said in Indianapolis. “That’s something I don’t take with a grain of salt. I think it’s a real honor. I’m very blessed to be in that position. So I’m ready to take it head on and give everything I have to the state of Nebraska.”
The Jacksonville native arrived in Lincoln via Georgia Tech in December. He chose Nebraska after meeting with offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. They spoke the same language, Sims said. They just clicked. He first wanted to learn about his teammates. He started with last names. Sims would sometimes forget names and just substitute “bro” instead. Then he’d look at their lockers, where each player’s locker is designated by a screen with their face and name. Sims finally felt confident knowing everyone by the first week of spring ball.
Sims imagines himself a leader. It fits his personality, as well as his role at quarterback. You can’t lead someone if you don’t know them, Sims explained to dozens of reporters inside Lucas Oil Stadium. And he wants to be an effective leader.
“When I got here, my biggest thing was build relationships with my teammates and get to know guys and making sure they know where I come from so they respect me as a leader,” Sims said. “That’s something that helped me this offseason.”
He also trimmed body fat and added muscle this offseason. At the same time, the coaches issued him a challenge.
“We challenged Jeff in the summer to start to make this his team,” Satterfield said after Thursday’s practice, “and I think he’s done a nice job.”
Sims is confident in the playbook and trusting of coaches. He’s not focusing on ball security, something that’s an emphasis with this coaching staff, something he felt he thought too much about at Georgia Tech. Sims is also confident in this offense because it allows him to showcase his arm talent. He and the coaching staff have attested to the junior’s arm talent. People see him as just a runner. He can do that if needed, he said, but he’s excited to showcase the pure passer part of him that few have witnessed.
He developed his dual-threat capabilities from his idol, Michael Vick. That was the first player he loved watching play football. Sims knew he wanted to be a quarterback then at 6 years old. He transitioned from multi-positional athlete to focused quarterback in eight grade. That led him to the Elite 11 Finals and Power 5 football. Dual-threat potential went a step further this spring when Nebraska legend Eric Crouch attended a practice. The Huskers spent that day studying the triple option. Sims took some pointers and advice from the Heisman Trophy winner.
That was shortly before Nebraska’s second spring scrimmage. That time, head coach Matt Rhule walked into the huddle and drew up a play outside the red zone. The offense executed it perfectly and Sims delivered a touchdown. That scrimmage ended on a final-play touchdown strike to Marcus Washington, who went over the defensive back to make the catch. The offense sprinted out of the end zone and into the locker room. It was an early indication of the brewing chemistry between Sims and the receivers.
“I’ve got great chemistry with my receivers,” Sims explained in Indianapolis. “I know me and Billy (Kemp), we came in together and we’ve been tight since we got here. That’s my dog right there. We got throw every Saturday morning, go get routes in. But what I like is guys in the receiver room hit me up. They’ll say ‘Let’s go get work in.'”
Sims complimented local speedsters Malachi Coleman and Jaylen Lloyd for getting reps, learning the system and helping lead some of their fellow freshmen. The quarterback also shouted out Zavier Betts, who he’s grown closer with over time and delivered an absolute dime to in Thursday’s practice.
“Zavier has made some plays that make your jaw drop,” Sims said. “He only wants to get better and I feel he only can get better from here. Zavier is a great player, great dude and his greatest goal is to do what he can for his team.”
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Satterfield also likes to implement tight ends into the passing game. Sims previously said a tight end seam route, the one Nate Boerkircher hauled in for a big gain early in the spring game, helped him settle in. The quarterback credited Boerkircher, Thomas Fidone and Arik Gilbert for their athleticism and reliability.
So far, the quarterbacks coach and the quarterback are on the same page. Satterfield is passionate about the huddle. He believes it’s an important avenue for the quarterback to lead an offense and his quarterback, undoubtedly right now, is Sims.
“I think the thing I told the guys is I appreciate the work they did in the summer,” Satterfield said of the offense’s improvements this fall. “They made a huge jump in the summer as a unit in terms of knowing what to do, how we do it. The leadership is starting to step up at the top.”
Preseason camp continues today. Head coach Matt Rhule will answer questions following the team’s sixth practice.