Delvon Simmons, Continuity Key for USC Defensive Line


USC defensive tackle Delvon Simmons enters his fifth and final collegiate season as an expected leader on the Trojans’ defense.

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And with the team needing to replace a gigantic hole on the defensive line in the form of two-time All-American defensive lineman Leonard Williams, he’ll need to be a rock for USC’s defense to rely on, even while reprising his role from last season, and not Williams’s.

“Nothing has really changed, except the guy’s gone,” said Simmons after Saturday’s first day of fall practice. “We just have to play harder and play physical, just like we did last year, and shoot for higher expectations this year.”

That nothing has really changed is important for Simmons.

Since he signed with Texas Tech in 2011, Simmons has played under a different defensive coordinator and in a new defensive scheme in every single year except this upcoming season.

As a Red Raider, he played nose guard first in Chad Glascow’s 4-2-5 defense, and again in 2012 in Art Kaufman’s more traditional 4-3 scheme.

He then transferred to USC in 2013 as an Ed Orgeron recruit at a time in which the Trojans deployed Clancy Pendergast’s versatile, yet 5-2 base defense.

Oct 11, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive tackle Delvon Simmons (52) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

And even while sitting out the 2013 season, Simmons had to practice through the short-lived Pete Jenkins era as a defensive line helper before Justin Wilcox was hired under Steve Sarkisian to bring a hybrid 3-4 scheme to Troy.

That’s a helluva lot of coaches and styles for a college kid to have to absorb. Not to mention the comically brief Bo Davis pit stop at USC between leaving Texas and being hired by Alabama.

So finally, the talented yet somewhat understandably inconsistent Simmons finds himself entrenched with some familiarity. Both Wilcox and defensive line coach Chris Wilson are back on staff in 2015.

Gone is the learning curve of figuring out a new role on the defensive line. And in is the urgency for him to be a leader and a force on a defensive line with much to prove.

“Last year was like more thinking, and not knowing what we had to do,” said Simmons. “This year, being that we have the same scheme, same everything, it just makes it easier on us to play harder, player faster.”

How much easier? Simmons has an analogy for that.

“It’s just like blinking, you know,” said Simmons. “You don’t have to think about it, it just happens. That’s what we got to get to with this, but I feel like we’re already working towards [getting] there. We’re not there yet, but I feel like that’s one of the good things about having Coach Wilcox and all of them back again.”

It’ll have to be one of the good things, as USC’s defense is still transitioning into a unit that was recruited for the scheme.

The defensive line roster has the oddity of being loaded with seniors and freshmen and literally nothing in between.

For the defensive line as a whole, taking advantage of that collective familiarity and experience is how they’re going to replace Williams.

For Simmons in particular, being a formidable cog in USC’s front three will allow that to happen with more ease, even from the opposite side of the line.

“Be the best me,” Simmons said of his goal for this season. “Just play up to my full potential.”

It’s simple and it’s a cliché , but for the Trojans’ defensive line to take a step forward and not play like they’re missing anyone, they’ll need that potential from Simmons, a former five-star high school prospect.

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