Stepping up

Larry Williams & Paul Strelow, Tigerillustrated.com staff
Tiger Illustrated

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The one player on Clemson's defense who helped his cause the most this spring ...

Quite a lot of guys helped their cause on this side of the ball, so good arguments aplenty. But I'll go with Isaiah Simmons.

The back end of this defense has lost some serious talent and athleticism the last two years with the departure of Mackensie Alexander, T.J. Green, Jayron Kearse, Travis Blanks, Adrian Baker, Jadar Johnson and Cordrea Tankersley.

The Tigers have plenty of experienced talent returning in the secondary, but Simmons seems to invite some really intriguing possibilities with his frame and his ability to move around the field.

Simmons could be a safety, but he could also be quite a commodity at the nickel/SAM position where Dorian O'Daniel is the starter. This is a tough position to play because of the hybrid nature of it as you're matching the offense's personnel and choosing your own based on whether you think it's a run or pass.

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In the ACC title game last year against Virginia Tech, the Tigers got caught a little bit after O'Daniel's early ejection for targeting. His replacement, Jalen Williams, is a smart player who can play several different positions while holding up well against the run. But Williams was exposed a bit against the pass, and Simmons' 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame creates promise of him being a weapon who can stay on the field regardless of the situation.

Mike Reed and Mickey Conn have quite a bit of versatility in the secondary this season, thanks in part to Simmons and also to K'Von Wallace. The staff was pleased with Wallace's experiment at boundary corner during spring practice, so options abound as the coaches decide where to put the different pieces.

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