One year ago, Simmie Cobbs had not yet received a scholarship offer and was unsure what his future plans were.
After not getting serious looks for football until his senior year of high school, the 6-4 freshman wide receiver now is on scouting reports for opposing defenses and established himself against Indiana State as a big body threat downfield that IU wasn't sure it would have. For the Oak Park, Ill. native, it’s all about confidence.
“Freshman through junior year I had no clue what I was going to be doing,” Cobbs said. “Once senior year hit and I started talking to Eastern Illinois and Purdue, that gave me confidence.”
Early in his senior year, Cobbs committed to Purdue, but right before signing day, an Indiana offer swayed the 2013 Illinois all-state selection.
“Then Indiana came and I just knew I wanted to play because that was a big-time school for wide receivers and I’m glad I made that choice to come,” he said.
Though not until Nov. 29, Cobbs’ eyes lit up when asked about playing for the Old Oaken Bucket against the school he first committed to. He’s still focused on the task at hand, however, and that’s a 2-0 start.
In the opening game versus Indiana State, Cobbs led IU in receiving with three receptions for 57 yards, including a 34-yard grab that was Indiana’s longest of the day. With the passing game as quiet as it was against the Sycamores, Cobbs is excited to show what the aerial attack can really do, especially against a Bowling Green defensive unit that has given up 890 passing yards through two games.
“We’re expected to get the pass game going,” Cobbs said. “The week before we had the running game huge, so we’re looking to stretch it out with the passing game.”
There is obviously a lot still to work on despite Cobbs leading the Hoosiers in receiving in game one. The coaching staff has emphasized that the freshmen receivers have come in at a higher level than the level some of the older receivers came to college, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been growing pains and improvements that need to be made.
Specifically, Cobbs wants to improve his footwork, his hands and his knowledge of coverages and how he reads them off the snap.
“So, a lot,” Cobbs said. “Always room for improvement, a lot to improve on. It’s exciting to play as a freshman, definitely humbling.”
He’s come a long way from someone who wasn’t even sure football at the next level was an option until last year. For Cobbs, basketball seemed more appealing and football took a backseat. Cobbs didn’t play football until seventh grade when he was tired of having to wait for his friends to get out practice.
“Once I started getting confidence in football, my perspective changed,” Cobbs said.
To gain that confidence, it was necessary to listen to his coaches who could see the potential in him, especially his head coach John Hoerster at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
“Just staying on task and staying focused and actually learning the game,” said Cobbs on what Hoerster helped him with. “He thought that I could play at the next level when I didn’t believe that, so he helped me a lot.”
Cobbs’ offense in high school was a fast-paced, no-huddle system and that has helped the transition to IU’s similar style of play. While Cobbs is used to being in a hurry-up style and looking to the sideline for play cards or hand signals, the speed and intensity of each play has been eye opening.
“Knowing that every play has to be so fast,” said Cobbs of the toughest adjustment to the college game. “In high school, you could take a slight break, but here in college everything’s fast-paced. It’s more aggressive and you have to be mentally and physically tough.”
QB Nate Sudfeld has been impressed with not only Cobbs, but the other young receivers as well.
“They’ve done a really good job this week,” Sudfeld said. “I’m excited about all those guys stepping up. Really been hungry to learn.”
The quarterback and the young receivers such as Cobbs and J-Shun Harris have been texting each other and have been getting to the football facilities early to watch film and break down opposing defenses.
“Tell me what you see and I’ll tell you what I see, where I could get you the ball. Stuff like that has been very helpful, we’re getting much more on the same page.”
“Watching how they run their routes it gives me a lot of confidence to try to mimic what they do because they’re great route runners and very good role models to follow,” Cobbs said.
If Cobbs keeps building the confidence that hadn’t quite been there for so long, IU may have found a diamond in the rough in the late-bloomer Cobbs, especially considering the need for a receiver with size.
Follow Sam Rumpza on Twitter.com/samrumpza