Cornerbacks Coach Seeks Consistency

An old football adage notes that a cornerback has to have a short term memory. A player is this role has to shake off a sizeable gain by a WR, and be prepared for the next snap like nothing ever happened. Having said that, peaks and valleys in performance aren't acceptable either by coaches, like ASU's cornerbacks coach Al Simmons. Devils Digest caught up with Simmons on Tuesday night.

"Overall we're looking pretty good," said Simmons. "I'm a little disappointed with today's (Tuesday) practice, but we'll be all right. We threw a lot at them, and we'll look at it as a staff, make corrections and move on."

Simmons is certainly fortunate to have one of the best Pac-10 cover guys playing in his group - Justin Tryon. ASU's cornerbacks coach remarked that the senior does a great job leading by example, but would like to see him take on a more vocal leadership role. "He's having a solid pre-season, but he understands that he has to be consistent all the time," Simmons stated. "That's the biggest challenge with him. He can do it, and he's working his butt off. He really is."

Coaching staff and Arizona State fans alike, were wondering all through out the off-season as to who would start opposite Tryon. Ever since the beginning of fall camp, Chris Baloney took control of that position and appears to have answered that question once and for all. "Chris has done good things," Simmons remarked. "We still need to work the other guys and develop some depth. But Baloney has done a good job."

One of those young players mentioned by Simmons is highly acclaimed recruit and true freshman Omar Bolden. It has been determined that the Ontario (Calif.) cornerback won't redshirt, which naturally speaks volumes as to his play in fall camp. "Bolden and all the other guys are still growing," said Simmons. "We still need to see what we will get out of them. We need them to improve from week to week, from game to game."

Sophomore Travis Smith is another young and inexperienced cornerback that in fact hasn't played even one snap during a game. "He's done some good things but has never got his feet wet," Simmons noted. "He's doing well, but I don't want to jump (to conclusions) and rather be reserved and conservative because Smith is one of these guys that hasn't played yet."

Simmons is one of only two coaches (Defensive Line Coach Grady Stretz being the other one) that was retained from last year's staff as new head Coach Dennis Erickson came on board. This naturally has helped the cornerbacks smooth the transition between staffs and defensive schemes. "They understand the way I am, the language that we speak," Simmons explained, "they understand how I work. They know when I'm really on them I'm gonna go after them (laughs)…it's definitely a comfort level."

The Sun Devils' will line up against the Spartans of San Jose State this weekend in the 2007 season opener. As a team that sported a 9-4 record, they naturally present some challenges in the passing game that Simmons and his group will have to contend with. "They do a lot of things and give you a lot of different looks, shifts and formations," Simmons commented. "They do some unbalanced stuff we called ‘tackle over' that you have to be prepared for. You never know what you're gonna get anyway, even if you try to prepare for it and this is the first game of the season. The good thing about it is once you get about a quarter and a half into the game, you can already tell what they're trying to do."

Aside from consistency, Simmons' wish for his unit to achieve between now and Saturday's game is to just simply get better. "I know I've said it so many times in the few minutes we've been talking (smile)," he said, "but that's what it is in every way. In your mental approach, studying your film, understanding the offense you're going up against, and your heart here on the field."

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