Tyler Simmons Is a Backup With a Starter's Role
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Junior Tyler Simmons plays the same position -- inside linebacker -- as two of Navy's most reliable and experienced defensive players, seniors Ross Pospisil and Tony Haberer. Some players might view that as unlucky, being stuck behind a pair of older players and entrenched starters. Not Simmons.
"I don't look at it like that. I think I'm in a more fortunate position," Simmons said. "The learning that's involved with this position, it's a lot to handle. They handle it well, obviously. . . . All I have to do is sit back and watch them. I've learned a lot."
That much was evident on Saturday against Ohio State, when Simmons helped spell Pospisil and Haberer. He was one of the defensive standouts in the 31-27 loss, recording seven tackles -- including one on a key fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter.
Last year, the Midshipmen had a solid rotation at inside linebacker, with Pospisil, Haberer and Clint Sovie. Simmons played almost exclusively on special teams as a sophomore; he made only one appearance at linebacker, in the season opener against Towson. But during the offseason, Sovie was moved to outside linebacker, and that freed up a spot for Simmons (6 feet 3, 228 pounds), who is one of Navy's biggest linebackers.
Simmons worked hard during the offseason and won the Admiral Mack award, which is given to the most improved player during spring practices. "Coach said to me before spring ball that I had to become a master of the defense," Simmons said. "Whenever you start knowing those plays your body is going to react a lot faster. I focused on reading my keys, reading offensive linemen and trying to get a step quicker with every play."
"He matured physically in the weight room, showed a lot of speed, and showed up everywhere, at both [strong-side and middle]" linebacker positions, defensive coordinator Buddy Green said.
Burge Makes Impression
Senior Jordan Stephens started at nose guard against Ohio State, but junior Chase Burge also played a lot and made an impression. Burge was credited with four tackles. Said Green, "This week we have Chase and Jordan stacked at number one, and we thought Chase played well enough that he's going to get more time."