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Five Breakout Players: Cornerback Lamont Simmons

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Could the Trojan-turn-Jacket be in store for a breakout season in 2018?

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Luck was not on the side of cornerback Lamont Simmons in 2017 — he was on the bad end of two miraculous tipped-pass completions that went against the Jackets, first (and most infamously) against Miami and then later against Virginia Tech. That type of publicity is hard to overcome for any player, much less one with relatively little playing time to his name.

Fortunately, the former USC Trojan has one last shot in 2018 to prove what he’s capable of on the field. The opportunity to step in as a full-time starter for one last season should be all Lamont Simmons needs to show us his growth as a player and the talent that ace recruiter Tee Martin keyed in on years ago when Simmons was in high school. Hopefully luck will be more cooperative this time.

As it stands, Lamont Simmons is the most experienced of the options at cornerback following the departure of the entire 2017 secondary. Rising redshirt senior Jalen Johnson figures to take over the nickel spot vacated by Lawrence Austin, and the next most-experienced candidate to play outside is redshirt sophomore Ajani Kerr. Simmons made two starts at corner in 2016, versus Miami and Pittsburgh, and held his own well in those games. He served as the primary backup to Step Durham once again in 2017, logging snaps in all 11 games (shoutout once again to National Champion UCF for ducking Tech) but making no starts.

Lamont Simmons stands at 6-foot-2 and comes in at just over 200 pounds, making him one of the bigger cornerbacks we’ve seen in recent years. He was praised for his speed and size coming out of high school, so Ted Roof naturally played him in perfect position to utilize neither last season. I went back and watched Simmons’ film from the Virginia game, one in which he got extended playing time, and it’s clear that he wasn’t always put in a good position to make plays. Nate Woody should fix that in a hurry. There were also missteps by Simmons, few of which came back to haunt him due to roughly a million UVA drops, but the potential is still there for him to become an excellent player.

It’s hard to point to a handful of plays to show why I think that Lamont Simmons will be a breakout player like I did with Kenny Cooper last week since Simmons has played a reserve role for so long, but here’s a quick synopsis:

  • He brings size to the position that was sorely lacking with the Austin twins. Simmons even has a few inches on Step Durham, who was a perfectly reasonable height for a corner at 5-foot-11.
  • He will get to use his frame to his advantage because Nate Woody won’t play him 10 yards off of receivers and expect him to teleport to the site of the ball.
  • He proved, even on the fluke plays that resulted in tipped-ball completions, that he has the speed to stick with ACC wide receivers. Miami’s Darrell Langham runs a respectable 4.5 and Virginia Tech’s Eric Kumah is no slouch himself.
  • He’s a strong tackler. There are times when he gets a bit lost in traffic, but it’s incredibly hard for a ball-carrier to shake him once he’s made contact. That’s something that has been, well... non-existent lately.
  • He wears ankle-high socks while playing. You never noticed that, but now you’ll never unsee it. Our staff was shocked by this fact just a couple of weeks ago and no one has quite recovered.

There are things Lamont Simmons needs to work on to make the next leap in his career, but they’re all technical things that I trust the new coaching staff to handle much more effectively than the old one. Remember that he was hardly the only defensive back to struggle with technique over the past few years. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the ride with future Hanes quarter-crew sock model Lamont Simmons as your top corner. Sun’s out guns out, but with lower leg guns.