Jason: Malik Simmons has got force responsibilities here.
Greg: Sheds a block by Bug Howard.
Jason: Sheds a block and limits that to a 3- or 4-yard game. And could have been a lot more.
Greg: If you go back to the start, this is their balance. The defense knows, because they’ve run this so much, that Fedora’s offense calls for when that guy goes in motion and no one follows him, that’s where they’re throwing the ball.
Jason: Every team in the ACC knows that at this point
Greg: Right. So that’s a tip-off.
Jason: But he just flat beat the guy and he makes the first contact at 2-3 yards. That’s pretty darn good. As a cover-2 corner, you’re going to be responsible for force and run fit a good bit, so you’ve got to have a guy who can be physical, shed a block and make a tackle.
Greg: Malik Simmons got chosen for ram because, in talking to Vic Koenning, he liked the Sam Smiley-type player at safety because he had speed. One of the reasons they had Simmons at the ram with Brandon Ellerbe was because they liked Ellerbe’s size and Simmons’s speed. And they felt like Simmons did a good job - for his size – against the run.
Jason: This play is why he was starting at the ram because the ram has a lot of the same responsibilities as a cover-2 corner.
Greg: Koenning wanted to make sure he had as many cornerback types as he could get on the field. That’s why that first year he eventually put Jabari Price in at the ram. He said, ‘When I do that, it’s a tell-tale that we’re playing pass coverage.’ Simmons can cover and had some success against the run, that’s why they put him at that ram spot.
Jason: And that’s why Gene Chizik and his staff have him as a starter at the cover-2 corner. He’s not a really big guy but he’s physical and has the tools and I think that’s part of it.
The question is, to which direction do you make your plays best? The cover-2 corner needs to be able to make his plays going forward. If you think about it this way, the cover-3 corner is turning around running down the field, whereas cover-2 corners are facing the quarterback and making plays going forward. You have to be able to turn and run as a corner, but you’ve got deep help, so Simmons has some speed and he makes plays going forward. What you want in safeties is a guy that makes plays horizontally and down the field where they can cover a lot of ground. That’s the difference.
I think corner may be the strongest position on the team in terms of what they have depth wise. They have four guys that can play corner in this system.
Greg: When they go to the nickel, Simmons moves from corner to that nickel spot and Lawrence comes in at corner. That’s versatility and they’re going to utilize that.
Jason: Considering what they have at safety, they could consider looking at M.J. Stewart or someone like that at one of the safety spots when you’re in a base defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a little cross training like that down the road because, for me, the concern in the cover-2 is having guys that can cover ground in the secondary. And if you do have trouble with guys at safety getting beat deep, I’d consider when you’re in a base using one of those corners at safety. But you can’t really cross train until guys have spent some time in the system – in Chizik’s system.
Video by J.B. Cissell