The Houston Cougars opened camp Sunday and began practicing on Monday with the majority of their record setting offense gone from a year ago. The only returning player to play a considerable role in the scoring a year ago is running back Charles Sims.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2011 Sims stood out in a crowded backfield with the Cougars earning Conference USA Player of the Week honors once and a selection to the first team All Conference team for the season. As he moves into the 2012 season everyone knows the Cougars plan to give defenses a heavy dose of the speedy yet powerful back. The question is more about his role as the leader of the backs and who will take carries from him to keep him fresh.
"We would like to have as many as we can count on, so the key is trying to find as many as we can," said first year running backs coach Travis Bush after Tuesday's practice. "We would like to have at least three like last year that can go in and when any one of them are in there you don't drop off much. Charles is obviously head and shoulders above everyone else with his experience and the key with the younger guys is just their lack of game experience."
"We have nine running backs in camp right now and they are battling it out," added Bush. "There is some good competition already going on and some friendly battles but there will only be one or two in the ball game at one time. We put pads on tomorrow so we'll find out a lot more about these guys."
After head coach Tony Levine decided to sit Sims out of spring workouts to protect him from any possible injury, Sims admits that he is just ready to get back to what he knows.
"I am just really anxious to get back out on the field," the talented back told CougarsDen at Monday's media days. "I am ready to get back out there with my teammates and get some contact again."
Sims has a reputation amongst fans and media alike as a very soft spoken and shy young man who shows no signs of the violent nature of the game he is so good at between the sidelines. Despite that persona off the field Bush almost fittingly compares him to a popular superhero known for his dual personalities.
"I compare Charles a lot to Batman," Bush said of his feature back's split personality. "I say that because he is quiet and shy and smiles all of the time when his helmet is off but when he puts that helmet on he has swagger and he plays with passion and attitude and with a mentality that you want."
In the battle for who will help back-up Sims in the fall, redshirt freshman Kenneth Farrow seemed to separate himself from the pack some in the spring with an impressive showing throughout. Senior Braxton Welford has also shown some flashes of what he can do over the last couple season. After those three there is a tight pack with sophomore Randall Hollimon and a pair of highly touted new arrivals in freshmen Ryan Jackson and Jontrey Tillman.