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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sims positioned to become valuable Bucs weapon

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— Without saying a word publicly, Jeff Tedford spoke loudly at rookie minicamp.

The new offensive coordinator of the Buccaneers was all smiles as third-round pick Charles Sims showed off his impressive hands for coaches and potential teammates.

The Bucs didn’t make Tedford available to the media last week, but he apparently had a loud voice in the draft room May 9, when Tampa Bay selected the 5-foot-11 running back with the 69th overall choice.

Sims, who caught 203 passes during his collegiate career at Houston and West Virginia, fits the profile of some other versatile backs who flourished under Tedford’s guidance.

“It’s all about being able to do different things and staying on the field,’’ said Sims, who transferred to the Mountaineers in 2013 rather than apply for the NFL draft. “The coaches are doing a good job of moving me around.’’

Tedford, who has never called a play at the pro level, enjoyed success as head coach at Cal with running back Marshawn Lynch emerging as a dual threat as a runner and receiver.

As offensive coordinator at Fresno State, Tedford helped running back Michael Pittman emerge as an all-around player. Five years later, Pittman helped the 2002 Bucs to a Super Bowl victory.

Sims, who turns 24 in September, played wide receiver and running back at Houston’s Westbury High, which also boasts Hall of Famer Michael Strahan among its alumni.

The Bucs appear stocked in the backfield with Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey, but Sims’ pass-catching skills made him difficult to pass up.

“He’s a very explosive athlete,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “It brings us a back who not only has 4.46 speed as a runner, and this guy is the top receiving back in the draft, we felt. I always feel like you can’t have enough backs.’’

Martin caught 49 passes in a stellar rookie season, including three receptions of 42 yards or more, as he finished No. 3 in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage. But last year, behind a woeful offensive line, Martin saw his yards per carry plunge from 4.6 to 3.6.

He also struggled as a receiver, catching only 12 passes in six games before being sidelined for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury. Martin’s longest reception last fall was only 13 yards.

“We felt like Charles would bring something else to the group — and I’m talking about a pass catcher out of the backfield,’’ new coach Lovie Smith said. “He has excellent hands, great quickness, different dimension, has a little bit more size and little bit more height than some of our guys. We’ll let it play out, but he’ll give us a little bit more in the passing game than what we’ve had.”

During his nine seasons on the Chicago sidelines, Smith leaned on versatile backs like Thomas Jones and the veteran player Sims now patterns himself after, Matt Forte.

“We have a loaded backfield ... and that’s good,’’ Sims said. “We can push each other and that’s a good thing. Right now, I’m concentrating on tailback and leaving the rest up to the coaches.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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