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Tennessee coach De’Rail Sims noticed Vols from afar

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One of Tennessee’s newest coaches reminded the assembled media and fans following De’Rail Sims’ hiring as one advantage head coach Josh Heupel has when targeting coaches to join his staff: his offense has been noticed and is highly regarded.

Sims didn’t join Tennessee’s staff just because Heupel’s offense likes to throw the ball around the field or that the Vols’ offense under Heupel is steeped in a power running game. No, Sims became a Vol because of the combination of the two.

“My perception of the offense was it was always dynamic and it was always physical in terms of the run game,” Sims said during a Monday press conference. “When you sit there and you look at all the different parts that kind of go along with it and the mechanics that make up this offense. It was always one of those ones that I felt like gave the defense issues from a lot of different areas. 

“I know a lot of people just look at it from the tempo standpoint, but it’s a lot of things that goes into it that makes it hard for the defense to have to defend. So it was one of those ones that I wanted to learn and get used to and get comfortable with as well.”

That’s an encouraging beginning to Sims’ tenure at UT, considering the Vols do take pride in running the football with power. Sims, who was hired to replace Jerry Mack, the running backs coach who left for the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars, has traveled an interesting path to make a big jump to coaching at Tennessee. He coached at Carson Newman, Western Carolina, James Madison, East Carolina and Louisville before the Vols nabbed him from Cincinnati.

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“I think when I started coaching you always want to have your feet where you’re planted at that point in time, but you always have your end goals in terms of the aspirations that you want to get to,” Sims said. “And of course being able to get to the SEC was always a dream and a goal of mine. And I just worked hard every single day to be able to reach the goal.”

Consider that goal accomplished. Now, Sims has to get used to an offense he’s only seen from afar after a history of working in various types of systems. However, Sims said his attention to detail will make him valuable even if he doesn’t know the Vols’ scheme just yet.

“Make sure we’re doing a really good job of just doing our job, no matter what offense we’re playing in,” Sims said. “We always just got to make sure we do what’s required of us to be able to go out there and execute and get our job done.”

Sims’ first job is making sure his players believe in him.

“Number one, having them understand me as a person,” Sims said. “What I’m about. Kind of telling them my story and my background. And then being able to get to know them, not as a football player but as a person. 

“Getting to know them from the inside out and understand what’s the trials and tribulations that they had to go through as young men, what’s their family dynamic and background. And then what drives them and pushes them. Because I tell them all the time, I’m not getting on you as a person when we out there between those white lines. I’m getting on you as a player. 

“As a player, you’re never going to be right. We always got to coach you hard. But as a person, I got to love you. And I got to love you as a player as well, but I got to get on your tail as well.”

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