When Isaiah Simmons was going through the draft process, some wondered if the versatile defensive player from Clemson would be used the way he was in college.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables built his entire scheme around Simmons in 2019, which allowed the uber-talented linebacker to use his entire skillset while helping the Tigers play for another national championship.
When the Arizona Cardinals selected Simmons with the No. 8 overall pick in last week’s NFL Draft, some questioned if Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph would take advantage of Simmons’ talents.
Joseph told the media earlier this week Simmons will be a linebacker in the Cardinals’ 3-4 scheme, which makes sense considering the rookie’s 6-foot-4, 238-pound frame. However, he also plans to use him in a lot of the same capacities Venables’ did this past year at Clemson.
In 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Info, Simmons played 286 snaps at slot corner, 218 at safety, 160 at outside linebacker, 120 at inside linebacker and 17 on the perimeter.
“He’s a guy who can solve problems for us, and with his speed, he can be an eraser when bad plays happen,” Joseph said in an article on the Cardinals’ official team website.
This past year, Simmons’ ability to lineup and play at a high level anywhere on the field masked a lot of Clemson’s deficiencies on defense. With a young defensive line and playing with two new starters at linebacker, Venables’ developed a scheme which allowed Simmons to go off, producing one of the best individual seasons by a Clemson defensive player in school history.
“His skillset is out of this world,” Joseph said.
Simmons became a unanimous All-American, was the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and won the Dick Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker. With his talents, Clemson again ranked in the top 10 in most defensive categories, including third in scoring defense and sixth in total defense.
Joseph said he was not sure if there are parts to Simmons’ game that will translate to the NFL or not. However, they are not going to hold him back. They plan to put him in positions so they can see what he can do.
“With this kid’s skillset, he can do a lot of things,” Joseph said. “Until we touch it, until we game plan, I can’t guarantee where he is going to be.
“If it’s a job that we think he can do, we will put him out there. That’s why he was drafted. I want Isaiah to be Isaiah.”
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