Monday, August 25, 2014

Kansas senior Victor Simmons at home at ‘buck’

Kansas University linebacker Victor Simmons (27) pulls in a pass during a team practice Thursday, August 14, 2014.

Kansas University linebacker Victor Simmons (27) pulls in a pass during a team practice Thursday, August 14, 2014.


It’s a good thing Victor Simmons does not fear change, because the Kansas University senior has experienced nothing but transition since joining the program.

Wouldn’t you know it? After 61 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a team-leading three forced fumbles in 2013, this past offseason brought another move for the 6-foot-1 1/2 jack-of-all-defensive trades. Simmons can now call himself a “buck” (a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position in KU’s scheme).

All he could do was embrace the ongoing changeover. Simmons said his freshman-year experience of fighting for a spot and doing all he could to get on the field — something new for the high school star — ended up shaping how he approached the game. Back in 2011, he determined the best way to climb the depth chart was to learn as much as he could.

“My strategy worked,” Simmons said. “So when I had to switch positions again, I was like, ‘Well, let’s try this again.’”

Headed into his final fall with the Jayhawks, Simmons opened preseason camp at No. 2 on the buck depth chart, behind fellow senior Michael Reynolds. KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen thinks Reynolds could have a “special” season. But the staff has worked to develop more players who can apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Bowen said Simmons has acclimated himself since switching spots again.

“Victor’s a really good athlete, has a really good speed burst,” Bowen said. “He’s a guy who made a lot of progress in the spring time.”

Bowen said before preseason camp that Reynolds and Simmons were clearly the team’s two best bucks, adding, “We’ll see who else shows up and what they do.”

Rushing the passer is a far different responsibility than playing free safety, Simmons’ initial function at KU. But his main goal every time he has switched to something new has been to maintain a balance of speed and size. He wanted to add muscle, but not at the expense of his quickness.

His teammate, senior defensive end Ben Goodman, can relate. A former buck, he, too, has done an about-face on more than one occasion. Goodman said he and Simmons joke about their adaptability.

“He looks like a really good player out there,” Goodman added.

Of Simmons’ new defensive obligations, one is the glaringly different.

“Every position has their thing that is physically demanding, mentally demanding, whatever,” the senior said. “When I have to fight with the (offensive) tackles, that’s no fun. So I choose to run past them.”

His acceleration remains his go-to weapon, because most plays call for him to race down the quarterback from an edge — usually with a 6-8, 350-pound mountain blocking his path. In comparison, Simmons said other scheme responsibilities don’t seem that complicated, even if they are relatively new to him.

“The change isn’t a big deal to me,” he said. “Now that I’m settled into this buck position, it’s almost weird now, to have a home.”

Simmons loves variation, and that’s exactly why he also fits in so well at his latest defensive post.

“I could line up against the same guy every snap of the game,” Simmons said, “and every single snap will be completely different.”


Aaron Paisley 7 years, 11 months ago

Simmons is going to primarily play when KU needs extra pass defense. He might occasionally do some pass rushing, but with his size and skill set, he's a pass defense specialist.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

Maybe, but the secondary is quite a bit deeper this year than it has been. If he's needed in the secondary, it will probably be safety, but with him at Buck, I doubt he's going to rush the QB a whole lot when a team puts out five wide receivers like Baylor or Texas Tech. He'll probably be called a buck, but will play like a safety in those situations. That would give us a fifth or even a sixth(when the nickel package is in) secondary cover guy. With his speed from the edge, he could force the QB to step up into the pocket into the middle rushers or be one guy that the offense just can't block so he can fill a gap and nail the RB or the QB for some TFLs. KU just has to be ready when going up against a team that is playing hurry up. Get back to the line of scrimmage faster than the offense does and then play cover if there are five wide outs and then do his normal read between a pass and a run play when there are only 3 or 4 receivers out. It could also provide another advantage putting a guy with safety skills on a tight end, as no tight end in the Big 12 is faster than Simmons is. There seem to be many possibilities to create match-up nightmares for the opposing offenses no matter who we play if we have 6 guys with secondary skills in at a time. Could it be innovation is finally starting to show itself at KU? We'll find out.

Speaking of hot reads, if our guys are freed to signal a hot read if they see a CB or Safety cheating up to a guy a like Pierson, we can burn them with it. It's about execution at this point.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 11 months ago

I'm not saying Simmons will play a secondary position because that's not what the Buck position is. I'm saying he'll play the Buck when KU wants drop a 7th or 8th guy into pass coverage.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

Wait, isn't that the same point I just made in my post? It's because of his coverage skills that makes it innovative.

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