Clemson’s Swinney: Simmons is smart, low-maintenance in ‘superstar body’

Apr 24, 2020, 10:04 AM | Updated: 1:07 pm

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney yells during the first half of the team's Fiesta Bowl NCAA college footb...

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney yells during the first half of the team's Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game playoff semifinal against Ohio State on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Isaiah Simmons has already received projections on which potential NFL defenders he can emulate.

He has already received comparisons to NBA star Zion Williamson.

Simmons even got a Godzilla comparison.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who coached Simmons in college, summarized it: He’s like a superstar.

“He’s a low-maintenance dude in a superstar body,” Swinney told Doug & Wolf of Arizona Sports on Friday morning.

The Arizona Cardinals drafted Simmons, listed at 6-4 and 238 pounds, with the No. 8 pick in the NFL Draft.

A linebacker by name, Simmons has the ability to play all over the defense. He played more than 100 snaps at five different positions, with most coming at inside linebacker (299 snaps) or slot corner (262 snaps) and others at free safety, outside linebacker and strong safety.

“You can’t do that with everybody,” Swinney said. “There are some guys that may even have the ability to do some of that, but they just can’t function that way, and so now they’re not good at anything. Whereas Isaiah, you just keep giving him more and more.”

Simmons could fight through the gaps on the line. He could drop back into coverage to take the tight end. He played some cornerback for Clemson.

He finished the season with 104 tackles with 16.5 for loss, 8.0 sacks and three interceptions.

Simmons would strike with “natural instincts of rushing the passer,” further confounding the offense.

“That was the problem with him this year for people, because they didn’t know where he was coming from,” Swinney said.

As the Cardinals work to find a fit for him in their system – or evolve their defense to better fit his talents – Simmons will have to learn NFL terminology and adjust to the pros.

There will be additional work if minicamps are delayed or canceled due to the coronavirus, but Swinney complimented Simmons’ work ethic and intelligence.

“He has a great IQ and a great ability to learn,” Swinney said. “Because he was so smart and because he learned the way he did, it allowed us to do all the things that we did with him.”

In a conference call after the draft Thursday night, Keim said he hopes Simmons can be a Swiss Army Knife-type player and specifically mentioned his ability to defend tight ends, something the Cardinals struggled with mightily last year.

Swinney used Simmons that way at Clemson. He believes his former star can thrive at the NFL level.

“All 32 teams need Isaiah Simmons,” Swinney said. “Fortunately for the Cardinals, he can only go to one team.”

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