I'm a firm believer in the thinking that the only thing worse than a malcontent player that leaves a program is if the same guy that stays around and spreads his venom throughout the locker room. I'm not going to lose a lot of sleep in Delvon Simmons, a former 5 star recruit leaving Texas Tech, but I'm also under no illusion that the Texas Tech defense is fundamentally better off without him.
While Simmons wasn't what I would call a difference maker in 2012, he was a factor in what the defense was doing and contributed to its success. Ask Kerry Hyder how much having a guy like Simmons lining up next to him helped Hyder make first team All-Big 12. Simmons really emerged the final two games of the season versus Baylor and Minnesota when he had a combined 10 tackles, a sack and 2 TFLs, and now the Red Raiders have to find a replacement for him.
The easy answer is there isn't a replacement. Not from a size, or even experience standpoint. Look no further than the NFL: versatile DL are a valuable commodity and teams work really hard to keep them around. Richard Seymour of the Raiders and Justin Smith of the 49ers are two of the best in the business and have had long careers because of what they can do to help a defense scheme.
Another change in the defense brought another change in responsibility this spring for Simmons. Instead of an interior position on a 4 man front, he was listed at first string "tackle" on a 3 man front, which as best I can tell, the tackle's job is to contain an edge while also maintaining interior gap responsibility. This meant a lot of responsibility, and we'll never know how he would have been fully utilized in this defense. The by-product of Simmons playing that position at 6'5'' 290 lbs is that he has a better chance at winning a one on one battle with a similar sized OL and creating a lane for a blitzer coming off the edge.
The other benefit that Simmons brought to the table is the element of deception. Teamed with Hyder and Dennell Wesley, those three could be interchangeable across the defensive line and the opposing OL could have a tougher time matching up, calling protection and identifying potential edge rushers. No offense to Jackson Richards or whomever replaces Simmons, but as a DC, I can do a lot more with a player of Simmons' size versus one who is shorter and lighter.
As for replacements, if no one changes positions, Jackson Richards will get the first crack at it. He has the experience from a standpoint of playing on the edge, but may lack the size to be disruptive from the interior. Demetrius Alston, an incoming junior college transfer, would also be a candidate to get reps at that spot. Alston measures at 6'4'' 261, which is similar to the measureables Richards checked in with this spring. Another solution may be moving Donte Phillips, 6'2'' 260 to tackle and see if Anthony "Snacks" Smith (5'10'' 320) can assume a backup role to Wesley.
The best solution, however, may be to move Hyder to tackle and then let a competition emerge between the players left to hold down the end position. Doing that would increase the burden on both OLB positions to put some pressure on the opposing quarterback. Make no mistake about it. Everyone's job on the DL in 2013 just became more difficult.