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Tennessee Football abandons Mid-South for more Eastern ties with new RB coach De’Rail Sims

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Josh Heupel is abandoning the mid-south and focusing on the Carolinas and eastern Big Ten country with his most recent hire. Tennessee Football hired Cincinnati Bearcats running backs coach De’Rail Sims, who replaces Jerry Mack, for the same position.

Sims followed Scott Satterfield to Cincy last year after two seasons with the Louisville Cardinals. He has spent the past decade coaching with the East Carolina Pirates, James Madison Dukes, Western Carolina Catamounts and the Carson-Newman Eagles. Matt Zenitz of 247Sports reported the hire.

A native of Union, S.C., Sims attended Pikeville from 2006 to 2008. He coached at Millersville in 2010. His presence gives Tennessee Football ties to South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky.

Make no mistake, this is at the heart of the hire. Recruiting the Carolinas is crucial, and with the Clemson Tigers fading under Dabo Swinney, Shane Beamer on the hot seat with the South Carolina Gamecocks and North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown’s aura fading, that’s an even bigger area.

The Ohio-Louisville-Pennsylvania tie is a bit different, but coaching in and around that area will help the Vols steal some players from around there, especially with Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day potentially in trouble. Simply put, the hire gives Heupel lots of new connections.

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Under Sims’ leadership, Cincy had a 1,000-yard rusher in Corey Kiner and had over 200 yards on the ground in nine games this past year. He helped Louisville ranked second in the ACC and in the top 25 nationally in rushing in 2021 and 2022. While at JMU, he helped them win an FCS national title in 2016.

Taking all of that into account, Sims actually brings a good bit to the table with the actual coaching of running backs. However, there’s not a lot needed when it comes to that. The real purpose of a running backs coach is recruiting, and that’s what Sims brings to the table.

It’s pretty clear the Vols were willing to give up their Memphis ties for that. Mack, who left for the Jacksonville Jaguars, was a native of Memphis who had the bulk of his experience in Mississippi, Arkansas and West Tennessee.

There’s a lot of talent in those regions, and Mack also brought Texas ties, but it seems as if Heupel is taking his chances with some deeper Atlantic and Big Ten East ties. Will this pay off for Tennessee Football? Only time will tell.

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