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Countdown to UVA Football: #22 Jahvonni Simmons

One of the top recruits in the class of 2015 was slowed by injury. What to expect from the new, slimmed down Simmons?

Position: ILB
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 225
Year: RS Freshman
Hometown: Virginia Beach

Jahvoni Simmons was the highest rated recruit in the Hoos 2015 class. All 4 major recruiting services agree on that. He was a consensus 4-star recruit and had offers from just about every big name schoolyou can imagine. Alabama? Yep. Ohio State? Yep. Oregon? Yep. Simmons could’ve gone wherever he wanted. But he chose to come to UVA. Say what you will about Mike London The Coach, but Mike London The Recruiter was a genius.

Even with Micah Kiser entrenched at MLB last year, it seemed likely that Simmons would play as a true freshman. Even if that was to be mostly mop-up duty and special teams work, he just seemed too good to stay on the bench. But due in part to an “upper extremity” injury, he redshirted.

Simmons came to college at 240 pounds, but is listed now at 225. Is this related to the injury? Has he lost weight in order to gain quickness? Was he out of shape when he arrived on grounds? Have Coach Mendenhall and Frank Wintrich decided that Simmons will be a better player if he was lighter? Simmons’ physical strength was one of the reasons he was so highly rated. Will the weight loss remove some of his strength? He wasn’t considered particularly fast, so maybe the weight loss will help him gain a step? We may not ever get answers tothese questions.

Here is Simmons’ highlight reel:

There’s actually a very nice set of plays here, showing Simmons’ versatility. Most of the plays are interior runs. There’s a couple of times where it’s easy to lose Simmons in the video. He’s in the middle of the pile making the play (after all, it is a highlight reel). But we also get see him come on a blitz. And we get to see him in pass coverage.

Mostly, we see a downhill LB. We see a guy who fills the gap at the line of scrimmage and gets the RB to the ground. This is what you want from an ILB. There isn’t a lot of flash to his game. He’s a smart player who trusts his reads and starts moving as soon as the play begins. When the ball carrier gets to the line, Simmons already has a head of steam going and is able to make the tackle, usually without giving up any yards after contact. Simmons is noted as a big hitter, but also a solid fundamental tackler. And he seems to have a knack for knowing when to go for the big hit and when to wrap up.

He’s a decent blitzer, especially on the delayed blitz where his intelligence gives him an advantage. But he’s also very good at covering the underneath zones. He may never be a good man cover guy, in part because of a lack of top-end speed but mostly because playing him with his back to the QB makes no sense. He’s too good at reading plays and making tackles to ask him to cover just one guy.

Because the Hoos are still pretty set at the ILB position with Kiser and Zach Bradshaw, Simmons may not play much this year. He’ll probably see some time on special teams (this may be part of why he’s lost the weight) but he won’t get on the field at LB unless Kiser or Bradshaw are out for some reason. Kiser has another year of eligibility remaining, though Bradshaw does not. Simmons is a good bet to be starting next to Kiser in 2017.