UofL football notebook: De'Rail Sims hired as running backs coach


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Yes, we are deep into college basketball season, but it's been quite an active offseason for Louisville's football program since we last checked in with the Cardinals following their season-ending win over Wake Forest back in mid-December.

The most recent news came Thursday when it was learned that De'Rail Sims will become UofL's new running backs coach, replacing Norval McKenzie, who joined the Vanderbilt staff earlier this month after serving two years with the Cards. Vandy is McKenzie's alma mater.

Bruce Feldman of The Athletic was the first to report Sims' hiring. It hasn't been officially announced by UofL, but Cardinal Authority confirmed his addition to the staff.

Sims, 35, a former player at Pikeville College, has been the running backs coach at East Carolina for the past three seasons. Prior to that he was at James Madison for three years and also spent three seasons at Western Carolina. He is a native of Union, S.C.

Sims will take over a running back corps that lost Javian Hawkins to the NFL, but returns Hassan Hall and Jalen Mitchel, while adding four-star recruit Trevion Cooley. With Satterfield's emphasis on a solid running attack UofL has rushed for more than 200 yards per game each of his two season at the helm.

Satterfield has one more assistant staff spot to fill, quarterbacks coach, before spring practice begins on Feb. 8. Frank Ponce was hired this month as the offensive coordinator at Appalachian State, where he served as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Satterfield from 2013-18.

Satterfield apparently came close to losing another assistant because offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford was reportedly one of three strong candidates for the head coaching position at Marshall. But Marshall hired Alabama associate head coach/running backs coach Charles Huff.


Louisville has 13 new players on campus for spring practice (actually it will still be winter), including two from Georgia Southern, one on offense and the other on defense.

Shai Werts, a grad transfer, is expected to primarily play receiver for the Cards, but he is a former quarterback who ran for 3,083 career yards at Georgia Southern. Kenderick Duncan Jr. could move immediately in to a starting role at safety after recording 146 tackles and six interceptions in three years with the Eagles. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

The other transfer is former Virginia Tech offensive lineman and Kentucky native Bryan Hudson (6-4, 310), a 2019 second team Freshman All-American who played in 19 games, including 12 as a starter. Hudson was a guard and center for the Hokies, who finished second in the ACC and 11th nationally in rushing last season with 240.1 yards per game.

Hudson, from Georgetown, Ky., helped Scott County High School to back-to-back 11-win seasons and was a four-time Class 3A state chapion in the shot put and a three-time state champ in the discus. Before signing with Virginia Tech he had offers from Alabama, Florida, UK, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee, among others. He will have three years of eligibility.

"We are excited about having those guys on campus," Satterfield said of the 13 newcomers. "We told all those guys to come in and you're competing for a spot to play. They know we open up in Atlanta (vs. Georgia Tech) and they want to be on that plane."


Pro-style quarterback Tyler Jensen (6-6, 225) has joined UofL's program as a preferred walk-on, but in a twist he is going to school on an academic scholarship. A three-star prospect, he had a virtual visit with Satterfield, then scheduled a trip to Louisville to make a self-guided tour of the city, campus and facilities.

"I just felt like this was the place I wanted to call home for the next four years," Jensen told Cardinal Authority's Michael McCammon.

Due to the pandemic, Jensen's 2020 football season at Lincoln High was canceled. As a junior he threw for more than 2,000 yards and 16 TDS. He committed to Northern Colorado last August, but changed his mind in December.

California is considering approving a spring football season, but Jensen said, "I felt like it was best to forgo my senior season and go to college in the spring and be ready to compete."


Satterfield has awarded a scholarship to former walk-on kicker James Turner, who announced the news via his Twitter account by saying, "Today was one of the best days of my life and honestly still doesn't seem real."

In his first season with the Cards, the Saline, Mich., product connected on 13-of-15 field goal attempts for 86.7 percent, the third-best for a single season in UofL history, and all 40 of his conversion kicks. His 79 points led UofL and his field goal accuracy was second-best in the ACC.

Turner was 5-for-5 on field goals from 40-49 yards, with his longest 50 yards. He was a semifinalist fo the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker, an honor that went to Miami's Jose Borregales, the ACC leader.


Redshirt senior running back Maurice Burkley said he will take advantage of the extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA to fall and winter athletes due to the pandemic and return to UofL for the 2021 season.

Going into last season Burkley, who joined the program as a walk-on in 2016, had rushed only eight times for 43 yards during his career. But he gained 180 yards in 33 carries for a 5.5 average last year.

Burkley is the fifth Louisville senior to take advantage of the extra year, joining linebacker C.J. Avery, defensive end Tabarious Peterson, offensive guard Robbie Bell and center Cole Bentley.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.


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