- Jc Shurburtt
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The Tidewater tradition continues with Phillip Sims.
The Under Armour All-American quarterback for Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Va., is just the latest talented signal caller to come out of the coastal area of the commonwealth, following in the footsteps of players like Michael Vick, Ronald Curry, Aaron Brooks, Bryan Randall and more recently Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel.
"There is something about this area," Sims said. "We know how to play the quarterback position. I think it's a tribute to the coaches around here in that they know how to coach the position."
Sims won't be the first Tidewater quarterback to play in the game as Manuel, who is now at Florida State, played in the inaugural one.
"It's a good situation for me," he said. "Great quarterbacks from this area may not always be highly-ranked, but they will come out and play hard on a national stage against top competition."
The coach who has guided Sims to 7,776 yards passing, 84 touchdowns and a Group AAA, Division 6 state championships in nearly three complete seasons of football is Richard Morgan, who also serves as his team's offensive coordinator. Morgan employs an extremely diverse and multiple offensive scheme and handed the keys to Sims four games into the 2006 season, when the 6-foot-1, 209-pounder was a freshman.
"The first play I called was a 40-yard pass," Morgan said. "I wanted to make sure that the other team didn't catch on that I was putting a freshman in there. Of course, the pass was incomplete, but I wanted to make a statement that he was there to play."
Sims went on to finish the season with 1,529 passing yards and 16 touchdowns and followed that with a sophomore campaign in which he threw for more than 3,041 yards and 30 touchdowns. Last season, Sims threw for 3,195 yards and 38 touchdowns, placing him 1,388 yards away from becoming the all-time leader in the state of Virginia for passing yardage. He's also 29 touchdown passes away from being the record holder in that department as well.
"He's the best quarterback that I've seen since I've been here," Morgan said. "I am not one of these coaches that tries to pump up his own kids. I am just being honest. I wasn't around to see Michael Vick, Ronald Curry or Aaron Brooks, but (Sims) is the best I've seen since I have been here."
Beyond his outstanding arm and athleticism, there are other things that impress about Sims. His overall knowledge of the game, dedication to the mental side of playing the position and leadership all are big factors in him being as highly-regarded as he is.
That's been important in Morgan's offense, which features everything from a five-wide spread to a two-back, double tight end power running formation. They run zone-read, they run plays from the I-formation using play action with three and five-step drops. There are plays where receivers run read routes, where they adjust the route based on the defense.
Sims knows all of it like the back of his hand.
"I just study the defense we are going to face every week," Sims said. "But even then, we are not really sure what they are going to do. We are one of the best teams around, so they may try something different when they get on the field. I have to be able to read it because the blitzes will come fast.
"(Morgan) puts the play in, but on each play, it's designed to do something different so they can't just stop one thing."
The ability to do that in a game comes from a knack for picking things up quickly.
"(Sims) picks up concepts very quick," Morgan said. "He calls all of his own protections and changes plays at the line of scrimmage. He's got every one of his teammate's numbers in his cell phone and he's the guy calling them up and getting them together to work out and run through plays.
"I ask a lot of the kids, but I get them to buy into it by telling them that once they get this down, there aren't many teams that will be able to stop us. For a player like Phillip, it also gets them ready for any system they may be asked to run in college."
The system helped get some hardware in the trophy case last fall as Sims led Oscar Smith to a state championship, the first in any sport for Oscar Smith. In the state championship game, a 54-24 victory over Osbourn in the rain and snow at Virginia Tech, Sims threw for 334 yards and six touchdowns.
"It was a thrill and something we've all been working on," Sims said. "Teams here had been able to get to a certain point, but never got past it. We were able to do it."
And with the deep tradition of his area, his advanced intangibles and outstanding physical ability, Sims should be able to keep doing it, this coming season at Oscar Smith, in the Under Armour All-American Game and beyond.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.