The trickle down effect of that trend can already be seen in college and USC freshman corner Lamont Simmons is Exhibit A.
Simmons is the team’s tallest defensive back, and while practice observers are on Adoree Jackson watch, the Jacksonville (Fla.) native is standing out quite literally.
But that’s not completely unique to USC with Kevon Seymour and Josh Shaw both 6-feet tall.
“Adoree (Jackson) is a freak athlete, as you all can see, but who really impressed me, is Lamont Simmons,” said Seymour. “Well he didn’t impress me that much because I know he had it in him.
“You know we do our player run practices and stuff like that and he just always stood out to me. He is tall, 6-foot-2 and a half, got nice length and all that. He’s also real coachable. We got a lot of good freshman out here that are ready to go, that can just like hop on the field with us this year once they get their plays down and get their mindset right.”
Shaw also relates well with Simmons as a big corner who can control receivers off the line of scrimmage.
“Lamont is similar, but he’s definitely taller than me,” laughed Shaw. “He’s got longer arms. I think he’s grasping the game right now.
“Each and every day he’s improving. I think when the coaches, when they press play, I think they see a guy who’s out here making plays for us early on, which is always exciting whenever you get a new prospect.
“You’re just excited to unwrap what you get when you come into fall camp and I would say they’ve definitely been pleased with Lamont and we as a team have been pleased with Lamont’s play so far.”
Traveling across country from Florida, Simmons took the opposite route of Shaw in coming to USC.
“Well, I remember when he was on his visit I told him that I’ve been through that process before,” said Shaw. “I went to the University of Florida, so I told him I definitely know how it is.
“While he was out here I helped the transition to be as smooth as possible and I saw Coach Heyward and him walking yesterday and they were walking past me and they were kind of joking.
“Coach Heyward goes, ‘Hey I just told Lamont he should hang around you a little bit more.’ I was like, ‘Did he really say that?’ He was like, ‘yeah he did.’ Lamont, he’s just a good guy though. Just a guy that I think can help us this fall if he continues his play.”
While the coaching staff can talk to players like Simmons about acclimating to being away from home, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox agrees that the players may shoulder most of that responsibility.
“One of the main things is the team and the players on the team looking out for one another,” said Wilcox. “We have guys from Florida on the team where Lamont is from, and guys from all over, so I think that helps.”
As Simmons acclimates to college life off the field, he also has to acclimate to the speed of the college game.
With several sub-6-foot wide outs darting around the field, Wilcox points out, there is a reason why cornerbacks aren’t usually 6-foot-3.
“Got to play lower to the ground, especially for guys that are high cut and tall like him,” said Wilcox. “Change of direction (can be an issue with tall corners), but he has good change of direction skills. He just has to get stronger.
“He’s long, lean, fast and agile. He is also really long levered. When he plays press he’s really hard to get off the line of scrimmage. He’s got a long ways to go technically, but he can run and he’s competitive.
“He has gone up first day and played press man against some of our best receivers. He’s not been perfect by any means, but he’s been competitive.”
Practice News and Notes:
- Offensive line coach Tim Drevno is excited about the potential of Viane Talamaivao at center, but thus far in camp, the 6-foot-3, 330-pound interior lineman has been inconsistent snapping the football. He was pulled mid-series Wednesday after a bad snap in team run.
- Wide receiver Juju Smith and cornerback Adoree Jackson had a handful of match ups in seven-on-seven and team scrimmaging Wednesday. Jackson won the first rep in seven-on-seven with a great pass deflection on a jump ball down the sideline. The other passes were overthrown to Smith.
- Receivers Rahshead Johnson and Ajene Harris both had some nice flash plays Wednesday. Johnson blew by D.J. Morgan in one-on-one drills and Harris continues to work hard in the slot. The former high school quarterback has been all over the field as a wide out this week.
- While Lamont Simmons height is usually an asset, the 6-foot-3 corner got shook by Jackson in the open field during the first team period Wednesday. Simmons has to drop his hips more and break down for that tackle.
- Mater Dei match up of Jonathan Lockett versus Victor Blackwell won by Blackwell who makes a great diving catch. Lockett comes back strong later in practice with a couple of good pass break ups. Lockett, like Ajene Harris on offense, is just a solid, smart player who competes on every play.
- Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu jumps out with a nice hit that puts tight end Chris Wilson on the ground. Nwosu, who was a safety 'tweener in high school, looks like a solid 225-pounds now and growing. Again, Tee Martin and the staff who evaluated Nwosu at Narbonne may look like geniuses in two years when he figures out what he is doing as a linebacker.
- Speaking of hits, offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn hasn’t been hit like he was Wednesday — maybe ever. Lobendahn pulled right and ran smack dab into J.R. Tavai who obliterated the freshman off the edge. One of the hardest collisions you will see between linemen.
- Jackson starts getting his offensive reps in seven-on-seven catching two early passes short. Jackson’s passing tree is still limited, but it is evolving with each practice.
- Rush end Don Hill playing opposite of SAM linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. Hill, Nwosu and Malik Dorton alternate from practice to practice participating in seven-on-seven or linemen pass rush drills.
- Simmons has a great strip/interception in seven-on-seven near the goal line, which had defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox fired up.
- Smith continues to catch the ball well in traffic across the middle. Again, this was something he didn’t do much in high school, so it’s a positive to see this early in camp.