August 5th, 2014 was an exciting day on the recruiting trail for the Virginia football program.
Head coach Mike London was on a hot streak in the months of June and July, but the Tidewater native pulled off the biggest coup of the cycle on the first weekend of August.
After giving subtle hints in Virginia's favor in the week's prior, four-star middle linebacker Jahvoni Simmons finally committed to the Cavaliers.
Ever since Simmons donned the UVa hat for the first time, Wahoo fans began imagining what the blue chip linebacker could do in Jon Tenuta's defense. Simmons emerged as a top recruit in the state of Virginia following his sophomore season at Ocean Lakes. In his first year under the spotlight, Simmons tallied a whopping 157 tackles. Following an impressive camp circuit and an even better junior season in 2013, Simmons became one of the top middle linebackers in the entire class of 2015.
This past fall, Simmons anchored an Ocean Lakes defense that yielded a little more than 11 points per game. Simmons and the Dolphins capped off a perfect 15-0 season with a triumph over Centreville in the State Championship Game at Scott Stadium.
Simmons held offers from just about every elite college program, but elected to stay in-state and join the Cavilers. The top defender arrives in Charlottesville with already great size, at 6-1, 240 pounds. Simmons is a rugged LB, and has the intelligence and leadership skills required to play middle linebacker at the college level.
Let's take a closer look at this blue chip linebacker.
Name: Jahvoni Simmons
High School: Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach Va)
Ranking: Rivals/247/ESPN 4-star
Starting experience: Three years
Recognition: 2015 Under Armour All-American, 2014 First-team All-State selection, 2014 All-757 Defensive Player of the Year, Back-to-back First-team All-Tidewater, Coastal Conference Defensive Back of the Year honoree, School-record holder for career tackles (423)
When watching Simmons on film, one can't help but draw comparisons to former UVa linebacker Henry Coley. Like Coley, Simmons is a sure-tackler, and thrives off of stopping the run in the middle of the field. What Simmons lacks in top-end speed, he makes up for in both physicality and technique. Simmons has a terrific football IQ, and generally is not fooled by what the opposing offense is doing.
At 6-1, 240 pounds, Simmons can be relied upon to take down bigger running backs and tight ends. Simmons is skilled at shifting blocks, which is bad news for opposing ball carriers. The former state champion can lay the lumber, and displays excellent tackling technique.
While Simmons does not posses elite speed, the incoming first-year is reliable in zone coverage situations. Simmons has great instincts and can telegraph a route from the middle of the field. The incoming first-year also played tight end at Ocean Lakes, and has excellent hands.
In the 1:41 mark of the video above, Simmons takes on the role of a receiver, reading the play perfectly, and coming away with the interception. Simmons picked off four passes as a junior.
This one is a little difficult.
While Virginia must replace Coley, the Hoos appeared to be well-stocked at middle linebacker for the forceable future. Redshirt sophomore Micah Kiser has spent the last two seasons learning behind Coley, and is ready to anchor the Virginia defense in 2015. Junior Mark Hall is listed as an outside LB, but he can also shift over to the middle at times. In addition, fellow incoming freshman Dominic Sheppard has had a solid first week of practice, and will push for playing time at middle linebacker.
So where does that leave Simmons? The Virginia Beach native can certainly compete with any of the aforementioned 'backers, but it will be an uphill battle. Simmons would benefit from a redshirt season to create separation between he and Kiser, but typically, kids of his caliber do not stick around for five years. He is physically ready to see the field right now, but it is going to come down to depth and Simmons' knowledge of the playbook.
There is no denying what Simmons brings to the table, but when will he get his chance to shine? That question will be partially answered in the coming weeks.