Defensive end Shane Simmons is no stranger to expectation; the blue-chip defender entered last season as a five-star true freshman tasked with using his redshirt year to get his body Big Ten ready. After all, the college game is a different beast. Jumping from 225 lbs all the way up to his current weight of 250 — fans should be excited at the thought of what Simmons brings to the table.
James Franklin didn’t hold back any praise during his post-practice media availability when discussing the body of work Simmons put together this offseason.
“I think he’s another example of a guy we’ve been talking about,” Franklin said. “He did a great job on the scout team last year but we need to get him to learn the defense. He’s getting 1,000 reps during spring ball and doing a nice job — I know the defensive staff is pretty excited about his growth and what he brings to the table.”
Simmons is, to put it in layman’s terms, an athletic specimen. He’s chiseled from head to toe, but it’s not all just show — he’s performing like a player of his caliber should be at this point in camp, and there’s room for exponential growth.
“He’s always been a very explosive athlete and he was that at 225 lbs, and now he’s around 250 and he’s still explosive, he’s still lean,” Franklin said. “He was looked at early on as a kind of pass-rush guy but now he’s showing that he’s going to be able to hold up against the run. He’s a guy we’re really excited about.”
Hearing that Simmons won’t just be a one-trick pass-rush pony is a comforting thought for Nittany Lion faithful as defensive coordinator Brent Pry and co. try and replace significant production at the end position lost after the departure of players like Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels.
With Torrence Brown expected to be named the starter, Simmons could be employed as a situational rusher — but make no mistake about it. There’s a good chance Franklin leans more heavily on a player who could have a bigger impact than expected in his first year of actual competition.
With plenty of spring ball left to be played, Franklin and his staff are still learning more and more about their younger contingency ahead of the Blue-White Game — an game that should paint a clearer picture of where players like Simmons currently stand in their development. But, from the sound of it, don’t be surprised if Simmons makes a splash in Penn State’s annual spring game and cements a much larger role for himself in Pry’s defensive system.