To Brent Venables, it is not fair to compare Isaiah Simmons to former All-American Dorian O’Daniel.
The last two years, O’Daniel was one of the best linebackers in the country. Last year, he captained a Clemson defense that ranked second in the nation in scoring defense and fourth in total defense. He himself was a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award after finishing the year with a team-high 104 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
“The Dorian you are talking about is the same one I am talking about and that is the Dorian who had that incredibly dominate senior year,” Clemson’s defensive coordinator said. “So, from that standpoint, I don’t know if that is fair to Isaiah.”
Venables says Simmons just needs to play some, something he and the rest of the second-ranked Tigers will get to do Saturday when Furman comes to Death Valley for a 12:20 p.m., kickoff in the season opener for both schools.
Simmons, a redshirt sophomore, will start the game as Clemson’s SAM/Nickel back.
“He is not polished in any way,” Venables said. “He has made marked improvements since we moved him over there. We are still working him at safety as well. I do think he has a chance to be awfully good player. He is not yet.”
What Venables likes about the 6-foot-2, 230-pound hybrid linebacker is his humility, work ethic, his eagerness to learn and his sponge mentality.
“He has a great disposition. He likes to have fun out on the field, but still have focus to him” the Clemson coach said. “He is growing up and has been since making the move.
“He is starting to learn and understand the level of consistency that is really important and the focus that you have to bring every day to practice. So, he is learning those things right now. We don’t have time (to play). I will put somebody else out there that I know is going to execute exactly what we want.”
When he thinks about what Simmons can do in his defense, Venables admits he is excited about the young linebacker, “and when he figures it all out, he has a chance to be a really, really good player for us.”
And that is exactly who Dorian O’Daniel was at Clemson. So maybe it is fair to compare Simmons to the former Clemson All-American.