“Papa Chubbs” is the nickname that 6-foot-4, 325-pound offensive lineman Jordan Simmons goes by and uses in his Twitter handle, but maybe he should try on “Mr. Adaptable.”
During the last two weeks, USC's offensive line depth has taken some hits. With the departure of E.J. Price and Chuma Edoga being sick, the redshirt senior Simmons has bounced back and forth between the guard and tackle positions. On Tuesday, he took the majority of the first team reps at right tackle with Zach Banner sidelined with an ankle injury and Edoga still under the weather.
“I think it was a great opportunity,” Simmons said. “Obviously, we've got a couple of guys down. I had to go in, step up and play right tackle today and guard. We were really thin today, so it was combination of guard and tackle.”
Tuesday’s loss of starting left guard Damien Mama to a stinger and the earlier season-ending loss of center Toa Lobendahn meant the Trojans once strong two-deep along the offensive line had been cut in half.
“You don't have a choice,” Simmons said of being short-handed. “You've just got to rally up and do what you do. Just get through each period practice. You've just got to do it.”
The Lobendahn injury led to Khaliel Rodgers switching from defensive tackle back to offense two weeks ago — something Simmons knows well.
Simmons came to USC as a five-star offensive lineman out of Encino (Calif.) Crespi, but his career has been about making adjustments. Nothing has gone to plan. Knee injuries have derailed his star potential.
Knee surgery forced him to miss half his first year at USC, so he redshirted in 2012. The next season, he played sparingly in the first seven games, but a knee injury cut his season short. He played in the dreadful Boston College game in 2014, but the knee would not hold up before a matchup with Oregon State and he missed the rest of the year. He made the switch to defensive tackle in 2015, but again had issues with his knee and didn’t play until making a cameo appearance in the Holiday Bowl against Wisconsin.
With a new coaching staff this season, Simmons moved back to the offensive side and thus far, his knees are holding up. While he was initially in the running for one of the two guard positions in spring and fall camp, he lost out to Viane Talamaivao at right guard.
Simmons is just happy to be back on the field. He’s been a special teams contributor through the first four games, participating in the punt and field goal kicking units. He also played 23 offensive snaps in the first two games of the season, but offensive line coach Neil Callaway has tightened up the rotations in the last two games.
But Simmons’ versatility means he could find his way into the game at a handful of positions on offense or special teams. He has been adapting to playing both guard and tackle spots on the right side.
“It's been different. I've been primarily on guard, but when we're in the meeting room our coach expects us to know each other's position, which makes it easier for us to play faster. As far as lining up at tackle, it's kind of the same. You're just going against faster guys off the edge. It's not too bad.”
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