January 17, 2008

Why I'd hire Dennis Simmons

Most of the speculation swirling around employment opportunities on the [tm]Texas Tech[/tm] football coaching staff has centers on the defensive coordinator vacancy and the likely appointment of Ruffin McNeill to that position. Of almost equal importance, however, is the void created when former defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich was eased out of his job.

As it currently stands, and assuming McNeill secures the defensive coordinator position, the Tech staff still be one coach short of a full complement. Given that Setencich coached linebackers in addition to coordinating the defense, any newcomer to the staff may well be tasked with coaching that unit.

Special teams, too, is a possibility. McNeill currently coaches special teams as well as the defensive line, and the appointment of a new special teams coach would allow him to focus exclusively on the defense.

Fortunately, there is already a candidate on campus who has extensive linebacker and special teams experience. His name is Dennis Simmons.

Simmons, currently Tech's Director of Football Quality Control, was a three-year starter at outside linebacker for BYU, and in 1997 coached the Cougars' special teams and offensive line. He does, therefore, know a little something about linebacker and special teams play at the D-1 level.

Simmons demonstrated his special teams coaching prowess, moreover, by designing and calling the onsides kick that helped jumpstart Tech's victory over Virginia in the Gator Bowl. It was a well-designed, well-executed play. It was also as gutsy a call as any coach made during the entire bowl season.

But Simmons would bring more to the Tech staff than just coaching skill. As has become readily apparent to observers of Red Raider recruiting, Simmons is a heavy bat in this field. He was instrumental in signing Mike Crabtree, among others, and many a recruit has mentioned how impressed they are with Simmons. He brings an energy-level, a vitality, and an enthusiasm for recruiting that cannot be faked. And recruits pick up on those traits.

Simmons, who is in his early thirties, has a natural rapport with youngsters who essentially belong to his generation it seems. He is not a blow-and-goer along the lines of a Ruffin McNeill, but it is readily apparent that the players on the team respond well to Simmons' more low-key style of communication. Simmons' degree is in broadcast communications and it is obvious that he learned well how to get his points across.

Were Simmons appointed to the Red Raider coaching staff, he would also undoubtedly bolster Tech's burgeoning out-of-state recruiting success, and more specifically, would strengthen Tech's growing presence in the South.

Simmons, whose home town is Memphis, Tennessee, was a key figure in signing Tennessee Player of the Year, Aaron Crawford, for instance. Needless to say, the Volunteer State is a gold mine for schoolboy football talent and Simmons' presence on the Tech staff might crack open that state the way Seth Littrell has helped blaze a trail into his native Oklahoma.

It would also improve Tech's stock in Arkansas, yet another state Mike Leach is trying to prize open, and could well pay dividends in Mississippi to boot. In combination with offensive line coach Matt Moore, who hails from Georgia and has strong connections in Alabama, Simmons could help the Red Raider football program become a recruiting force across the entire southern tier of the United States.

And as anybody who has watched the LSU Tigers and Southeastern Conference football in general knows, if you can add a heaping helping of those grits, collard greens, boiled peanuts and pork butts to your plate, you are bound to make some noise.

Put it all together, and Dennis Simmons on the Tech football staff makes an awful lot of sense.

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