USC Football: Dissecting the Jordan Simmons Move to Defense


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Since USC converted to a odd-man front in 2013 under then defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, they have had their ups and downs defensively.

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One of the key reasons is that in a 3-4 defense as opposed to a 4-3, you need a nose guard who can clog the middle and protect the inside linebackers. USC converted their scheme, but lacked the sort of specimen needed for the job on their line.

However, it seems that Steve Sarkisian caught on and USC welcomed 2015 signee Jacob Daniel as the heir to that position. He was impressive throughout high school and at the Army All-American game when he dominated the competition, but will be a freshman this season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So while the summer is full of surprises, none was bigger –literally– than Jordan Simmons reportedly making the move from offensive guard to nose guard.

At 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, he definitely looks the part. However, he is a redshirt junior. Is it a little too late for this move to happen? Here are the pros and cons:

Pros for Jordan Simmons on Defense:

1. As previously mentioned, the size is there for Simmons to make an impact. He has the size that would qualify him to be an SEC-caliber defensive lineman. Few linemen in the Pac-12 can say that.

2. Simmons has a non-stop motor, something that former defensive line coach Ed Orgeron noticed when Simmons played on the offensive line. That is a must have if one wants to be elite as a lineman. As coach Bill Yoast said in the film Remember the Titans, ‘defense is desire’. Jordan Simmons has that, which is not true of some of the starters on the current USC defensive line.

3. USC needs bodies on the defensive line. Last season, there were times when there were 4-5 defensive linemen, meaning that they had to take more snaps than they had energy for. In the Pac-12, where offenses besides Stanford want to go at a high tempo, it’s imperative that you are able to rotate your defensive linemen so that they can stay fresh at the end of the game. With Simmons available, this will be more possible than it was last year.

Cons for Jordan Simmons on Defense:

1. By trade, Simmons is an offensive linemen and there is a vast deal of difference between the two. From footwork to hand placement to snap count, Simmons is basically a rookie. He will have to learn the position from scratch, and there may not be enough time for him to master it by the fall.

2. Antwaun Woods, for better or worse, is more than likely going to be the starter at nose guard. Jacob Daniel will more than likely be his back up, and Cody Temple will be competing if healthy. This means it will be as up-hill a battle for Simmons to get playing time as a defensive tackle as it was for him to get time as an offensive guard.

3. In his last two camps, Simmons has impressed. However, he never seems to be able to stay healthy. While it seems he is fully recovered, being an injury risk is always in the back of a coaches mind and in the front of the players mind. It can limit how intense a person practices, which may limit his opportunities come game day.

Bottom Line:

Whether the experiment will work won’t be known until fall camp and the upcoming season. The tools for Simmons to succeed are there, but can he grasp this new opportunity and make it big on the defensive line? Only time will tell.

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