We are a day away from there being one month remaining before the USC Trojans take the field for their season opener against Arkansas State at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 5. We also continue to creep closer and closer to the start of fall camp at the end of this week.
The players are ready to get out on the field and (after a couple of practices) finally be able to put the pads on and hit one another. That holds especially true for the offensive and defensive linemen that haven’t been able to do quite as much as the skill players during summer workouts.
We continue our countdown of the 30 USC players most important to the Trojans’ success this season with one of those big boys in the trenches. This list is not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that will put up the best stats, but instead the guys that could propel USC to a successful season.
Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success?
16. Delvon Simmons - Redshirt Senior
Entering the 2015 season, one of the big questions for USC is how do the Trojans replace Leonard Williams. There’s obviously a reason The Big Cat was a top five pick in the NFL draft. He was a monster on the defensive line, making play after play. And now that he’s gone, USC has a large void to fill.
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said that replacing Leonard is not the task of one man, but of the collective defensive line. One of the potential big pieces of that Leonard-less defensive line is 6-foot-5, 295-pound redshirt senior Delvon Simmons.
Simmons has taken the road less traveled to get to this point. A former four-star recruit from McKeesport (Penn.), Simmons originally committed to North Carolina, but changed his mind leading up to signing day and ended up going to Texas Tech.
Two years with the Red Raiders proved ultimately fruitless as he recorded just 40 tackles and 2.5 sacks despite playing in 10 games as a freshman backup and starting all 13 games his sophomore year. While defensive tackles aren’t expected to put up huge numbers like Williams did for USC, Simmons underwhelmed in Lubbock. There was no uproar from the Texas Tech fans when Simmons decided to transfer to USC.
After sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, Simmons earned 10 starts last year, taking over the starting role at defensive end opposite Williams after Week 2. He bested his first two years at Texas Tech, finishing with 44 tackles on the season — ninth best on the team and second most of any down lineman. He added 2.5 tackles for loss, including a sack against Washington State.
He had a huge game in the 13-10 win at Stanford, even though he didn’t record a tackle. On the first drive, he blocked a field goal attempt and following Hayes Pullard’s targeting ejection on a long kickoff return that gave the Cardinal the ball at USC’s 32-yard line, Simmons recovered a fumble to get the Trojans out of trouble once again.
Simmons is the type of player that other teams have to scheme against. Like Williams, he often required a little help for an offensive lineman whether it be a chip from a running back or tight end of a full-blown double team. Simmons is capable of playing any of the interior gaps on the line. At USC, he’s typically lined up as a defensive end at the four-technique — straight up with an offensive tackle. But Simmons was a defensive tackle in Texas Tech’s 4-3 defense and during the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska last season, Simmons slid inside to the nose tackle position for the Trojans after Antwaun Woods was injured.
With one year remaining, Simmons needs to show that he can produce the stats to go along with the dirty work of occupying multiple blockers and funneling ball carriers to teammates. He has the measurables to be an NFL talent. He just has to show the production is there as well.
While Trojan fans aren’t going to forget Leonard Williams any time soon, if Delvon Simmons has a strong season this year, they may be surprised to see a more productive defensive line unit.
“Delvon Simmons is a monster out there. People sleep on Delvon. He’s been very productive in the short time he’s been here. Delvon, like a lot of other guys on the team, can be as good as he wants to be. He has had a positive mindset since the end of last season until now. He’s been working very hard. You can tell the difference. When we get the pads on, his pass rush moves have gotten a lot quicker. He’s a lot more disciplined in his technique and his responsibilities and that’s what it’s going to take if he wants to be successful.” — USC linebacker Su’a Cravens
“Great take by Su'a. It's like that famous Samuel Johnson quote about how facing the gallows tends to "concentrate the mind wonderfully." Well, so does becoming a fifth-year senior with hopes of playing at the next level. This does look like a new Delvon, a mature guy able to use his athleticism, speed and wingspan to make plays and run past blockers. "What will help here is a defense that across the front, and really across all 11, will attack opponents this year rather than hang back and hope something good happens. Of all the front line guys, this new approach may help Delvon the most." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
|16||Delvon Simmons||84 pts||1 (Shotgun Spratling)||28 (Gerard Martinez)|
|17||Jabari Ruffin||79 pts||12 (Dan Weber)||25 (Ryan Abraham)|
|18||Anthony Sarao||77 pts||13 (Keely Eure)||26 (Austin Geller)|
|19||Zach Banner||72 pts||12 (Shotgun Sprating)||Not listed (Austin Geller)|
|20||John Plattenburg||68 pts||15 (Keely Eure)||29 (Austin Geller)|
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|