Player Capsule: Jordan Simone
Position: Bandit (boundary) safety
Weight: 195 pounds
2014 season quick review: After being awarded a scholarship last August, the former walk-on transfer from Washington State and legacy Arizona State player from Sammamamish, Wash., not only saw his way onto the field but became a starter and one of the team’s most reliable and productive defensive players. From his Bandit safety position (boundary side) Simone had 100 tackles on the year, second only to fellow safety Damarious Randall, but Simone played in one fewer game, thus a higher tackle-per-game rate of 8.3. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors and the program’s Darren Woodsen Outstanding Secondary Award.
Co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Chris Ball's take: “My only concern was that was he going to be athletic enough to do it. But I knew what he had inside of him and if given the opportunity he’d perform at a high level. But there are some things that he did shock me with, with you know the way he played, his physical play shocked me. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things.
“He’ll be one of our best leaders this year, he might be the captain of our football team. He’s just got that thing that you just can’t coach. He’s got the ‘it’ factor, [that’s] the thing you gotta recruit, he’s got all of that. But with that too, he’s gotta be careful too, not to get distracted by that. Sometimes guys become seniors and they get distracted by being a leader. I mean he’s still needs to lead but he needs to continue on the things that he needs to get better at.”
SunDevilSource.com analysis: Even when he was sitting out post-transfer from Washington State, it was clear to see Simone was an extremely uncommon walk-on in every respect. He carried himself like a scholarship player and surrounded himself on and off the field with some of the team’s best players. He regularly would motivate and lead even as a first-year ineligible walk-on in drills and was always among the most energetic and hardest practicing players on the roster.
Simone’s approach to all facets of football preparedness combined with absolute fearlessness are what set him apart. While an underrated athlete, Simone isn’t going to wow pro scouts or anyone else for that matter from a size-to-athleticism standpoint, and his ceiling isn’t as high as others as a result, but he’s one of the best players on the ASU team all the same, and someone who will come about as close to maximizing his potential as anyone on the roster.
ASU’s Bandit safety is often heavily relied upon as a run supporter into the boundary where backs and receivers screens often hit the corner quickly and there’s a lot of player traffic and a need to be decisive and physical. That’s where Simone is at his best. He’s a hard charging player who attacks plays in an effort to blow them up before they develop and he fearlessly drops his pad level to square up ball carriers.
Simone’s range isn’t great but he probably moves and can get out and run and change directions better than he gets credit for. Fortunately for ASU, playing into the boundary makes for a bit less opportunity to be exposed in space, and Simone is a little better zone defender -- in addition to his high level playmaking ability closer to the line of scrimmage -- than he is when tasked with man coverage responsibility.
Projected depth chart status: One of the key off-season goals for ASU will be to get Simone healthy, after he played through stinger (nerve) issues during the second half of the season, forcing him out of several games prematurely and leading to missing the Arizona game entirely. He’ll likely be non-contact for much, if not all, if not all of the spring. The other way to help keep Simone healthy will be for ASU to be more physically and structurally sound against the run up front and on the perimeter so he’s not as relied up from a tackling standpoint. ASU’s two safeties led the team in tackles last year and that’s a non-ideal situation. Simone will no doubt continue to try to develop his man coverage skills, as that is something that can take his overall skill set to the next level, particularly given how much ASU puts all of its defensive backs in conflict.