There are some plays where Isaiah Simmons makes everyone in practice say “Wow!” Then there are other plays where he misses the assignment and the coaches wonder what he was thinking.
But that’s the life of having a versatile athlete like Simmons, who is good enough and fast enough to make up for a mistake on the same play he made the mistake.
“He can erase a lot of mistakes with just his ability,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He gives us a lot of ‘Wow!’ moments.
Simmons has mostly practiced at the nickel/SAM position as the Tigers try to replace perhaps the most versatile linebacker they have ever had in Dorian O’Daniel, who has used up all of his eligibility and is now hoping to make it in the NFL.
O’Daniel led the Tigers with 104 stops, while also registering 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions which he returned for touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named an All-American at season’s end.
Now there is Simmons, who at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds is two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier than O’Daniel (6-1, 215).
“He has range,” Swinney said about Simmons. “He gives us some diversification. I love what I am seeing from him out there.”
The Tigers are having to play Simmons some at safety, too. Nolan Turner, a redshirt junior this coming season, will have to miss the rest of the spring after injuring his shoulder in the Tigers’ first scrimmage of the spring on March 14
“We are cross training (Simmons) at both spots,” Swinney said. “I think long term that bods well for us, just the diversity he provides us by playing at safety, but we love him at the Nickel/SAM position. We love him on the back end.
“He has length and range and ball skills. He is really starting to figure things out.”
Simmons had 49 tackles, three tackles for loss and five passes broken up as a reserve safety last season.
Clemson will resume spring practice on Wednesday. The Tigers conclude the spring on April 14 with the annual Orange & White Spring Game.