Ryan Simmons Ready For First Career Start

Shaun Lewis has 177 career tackles while starting a team-best 32 consecutive games. Caleb Lavey has 137 career tackles while starting 26 consecutive games. On the other hand, Ryan Simmons has 26 career tackles, and the third-year sophomore is expected to make his first career start Saturday when Oklahoma State faces Mississippi State in the Texas Kickoff Classic in Houston.

The Cowboys coaching staff have taken comfort the past two years in knowing that Lewis and Lavey would handle two of the three linebacker positions most every time the defense took the field.

Lewis has been the starter at "sam" linebacker with Lavey the starter at middle linebacker. The pair of Texas seniors – Lewis is from Missouri City and Lavey from Celina – once again will be mainstays on the Cowboys defense this fall.

The 6-0, 242-pound Simmons spent much of last season backup up weakside linebacker Alex Elkins, appearing in all 13 games.

He earned the starting position alongside Lewis and Lavey at the other linebacker spot during the spring and held on to it since practice began Aug. 2. Simmons is now prepared to make his first collegiate start against the Bulldogs in Reliant Stadium.

"Very excited. I'm very excited and ready to play," Simmons said. "I've just put in the position that I have earned the trust of (defensive coordinator) coach (Glenn) Spencer that I can go out there and get the job done.

"I appreciate the opportunity. It's a great experience for me, and I'm just excited to play," said Simmons, who set a career high with seven tackles against Texas Tech last season.

Simmons is one of the team's fastest linebackers and hopes to use that speed to his advantage against the Bulldogs.

Spencer, the first-year defensive coordinator, is ready to see what Simmons will do in a more steady role this season.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Ryan in a full-time role this year. Last year he was very active at times and was new. He didn't have that experience. I think he's seeing things develop more now, and he should be able to make more plays for us this year," said Spencer.

"He's just improving. The want to and the ability is there, and the energy is there, he's just got to put it together on Saturdays now."

Although Simmons showed some signs last season of what Cowboys fans could expect in the future, Spencer knows it may take some time before the Cibolo, Texas native is the finished product.

"Well, it's a process. He shows signs. But we have to see it against competition live on Saturday in the game-day experience. You cannot replicate that in practice. I've got confidence that he'll be able to get that done."

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