In his mind, Isaiah Simmons is not worried about Clemson’s defense this year.
Yes, the Tigers lost four All-Americans up front on the defensive line. Yes, they lost two of their starting linebackers and yes, they lost an All-ACC cornerback.
However, despite all of those losses, Simmons thinks Clemson’s defense will be okay.
“I will always have faith in us and will never doubt us,” the All-American candidate said. “I think that we will be fine. It is just the timing. It is just going to be different on when we are going to be ready.”
That means Simmons feels Clemson’s defense at the end of the season will be much better than the one it will showcase in 12 days when it hosts Georgia Tech at Memorial Stadium in the season opener. Right now, the Tigers are young and there will be some growing pains along the way as they gain experience.
“It is a completely different defense. It is really hard to compare,” he said. “Everyone from last year’s defense was really there from the year before. This year we are a young team and we have a lot of guys that are just getting here and just learning.”
Because the Tigers are having to replace seven starters on a defense that led the nation in scoring defense and ranked in the top five in total defense, Simmons has taken it upon himself to learn more of the defense. In the off-season he worked on learning everyone’s roles on the team, helping him have a better understanding on what each position is supposed to be doing on every play.
“I can help guys if they forget. It happens. Just learning what everyone else does because it helps me in the long run,” he said.
“The main thing we (the upperclassmen) think is if you make a mistake, let’s not do it twice. You are not going to get mad because you understand how they feel, because at one point that was us,” he later continued. “I know how hard it is to learn a playbook that is (big). It is not frustrating. It actually helps me as a leader to just help them learn what is their job.”
The redshirt junior’s number one goal this year is to focus on the team. It is about how he can help make this year’s defense a complete unit by season’s end.
“We get together a lot without the coaches. That way they (the young players) feel relaxed and are not so pressured to learn. Just getting together in the film room or just doing something else, we do a lot of things like that,” Simmons said.
“Leading is just not football. It is on the field and it is off the field,” he continued. “(The younger players) are always watching you … all the little things you do. I always tell the (older) guys that ‘you can’t do stuff like that because then the younger guys are going to think it is okay.’ It is really just the little things, whether it is football or not that really makes a difference.”
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