But after recording ten tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in his first two games at UofL, the 6'3, 208-pound safety suffered a ‘freak' injury (lacerated kidney) in the second game against Kentucky that forced him to miss the final 10 games of the season.
"It was difficult just to watch," Simien told InsideTheVille.com Tuesday at Louisville‘s 2010 Media Day. "I never sat out before. But I felt like I learned a lot just sitting back and watching the game."
Now, Simien is back on the field and ready to help a Louisville defense that needs lots of it. Simien has been cleared by team doctors for contact after sitting out the physical portions of spring ball.
"Now that I'm back I'm trying to implement everything that I learned from watching last year into the defensive scheme and trying to take the defense to another level," Simien said. "We're just trying to be aggressive on defense."
Though Simien is glad to be back on the field with his teammates, he feels like he's playing ‘catchup' during camp trying to learn Charlie Strong's new defensive schemes.
"I feel good getting back into the mix on defense, learning the plays and getting the hits," Simien said. "It's good, but I feel like I‘m trying to play catchup with everything. I feel like I‘m behind but I‘m taking big steps everyday. Every day I‘m on the practice field I feel like I‘m getting better."
Despite the soaring August temperatures and Strong's physical practices, Simien said he's felt no lingering effects from his injury.
"I feel good," Simien said. "I think I'm back to 100 percent. I've got to get my conditioning back and get back into football shape but everything feels good. I conditioned with the whole team [this summer]. They [doctors and coaches] didn't hold me out of nothing. I'm 100 percent."
Simien's biggest challenge now?
"The biggest challenge for me is trying to get the plays down and getting back into football shape," Simien said.
Simien's return could help a secondary that ranked last in the Big East in pass efficiency defense in 2009.
"We've got to make big improvement," Simien said. "I know if we play together as a team and defense the sky is the limit."
Other than senior Johnny Patrick, who appears a lock to start at one cornerback position, the other three starting spots in the secondary are up for grabs. Simien is the frontrunner at strong safety and sophomore Shenard Holton might be the leader at free safety. Bobby Burns and converted running back Darius Ashley are fighting for the corner spot opposite Patrick.
"Johnny is one of our leaders, but I think everybody is trying to be a leader and hold everybody accountable," Simien said. "We hold everybody accountable in the secondary and just try to play hard every play."
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