Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- Coming off a five-game season in which UMHB claimed its 16th ASC title, there were few question marks when it came to the offense. The offensive line had matured, the wide receivers unit was incredibly deep, Kyle King had established himself at quarterback, and two reliable running backs had been found, with a third to be added in the fall.
In fact, the only starter on the offense from the ASC Championship game who was not returning was All-American center Steven Sellers. Sellers, a three-year starter for the Cru, and two-time ASC Offensive Lineman of the Year, had graduated and left a major hole behind.
But UMHB found a player who could follow Sellers at the center position, exhibiting his same kind of consistency and leadership. That player is Jeffery Sims Jr.
But while Sims Jr. may have been new to the starting center job when the season began, he was a familiar face on the Crusader offensive line. A two-year starter, he was the only upperclassman (besides Sellers) to start on the line during the spring, playing a role in helping the young group to develop. And before that, he had taken snaps at center as Sellers’ backup during the 2018 season.
“My freshman year I was Steve’s backup at center when [UMHB] won the national championship,” Sims Jr. said Wednesday. “So moving to [back to] center was actually a great transition because guard was my second position. Them trusting me to be that next guy and fill his shoes, it was a great feeling.”
Sims Jr. has fared well in his first five collegiate starts at center, guiding an offensive line that has paved the way for UMHB’s running game to tally 262.8 rush yards per game. Additionally, just four sacks have been allowed.
That success might be a direct result of facing the conference’s leading defense in sacks each day in practice. UMHB has totaled 14 sacks this season for a loss of 83 yards.
“We go against the best in the conference, in the nation, everyday,” Sims Jr. said. “So going against them and then going to games is almost like child’s play sometimes.”
Another element the offensive line has to contend with is the dual-threat nature of King. Not knowing what might happen can create a challenge when it comes to blocking, but as Sims Jr. noted, King “is always going to make something happen.”
“You have to adapt,” Sims Jr. said. “With Kyle, you just block your best. He always makes something happen, even when a play breaks down. He just makes the best play possible that he can for the team.”
With King and the offensive line in sync, UMHB currently leads the ASC in offensive efficiency (196.2). Having a solid offense is going to be critical entering the second half of the season, especially in late-season matchups against Howard Payne and Belhaven. The positive for the Cru is that three of its final five contests, including the contests against HPU and Belhaven, will be played at home.
“Having that home field advantage is a great thing,” Sims Jr. said. “We’re trying to win those last five games. Having the home crowd behind you, hearing the noise, looking up and seeing the fans, it’s a great feeling. I love it. I think it’s a great thing for us.”