Tharold Simon is LSU’s Next Star CB
By Matthew Osborne
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LSU cornerback Tharold Simon is poised for a breakout season in 2012.
LSU junior cornerback Tharold Simon is ready for his turn in the spotlight, and if his school’s propensity for producing defensive backs is any indication, we should prepare for Simon to quickly become a household name this fall.
The Tigers are rapidly garnering a reputation for producing elite cornerback prospects. Patrick Peterson was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, while Morris Claiborne was the sixth overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Both LSU products were the first defensive backs to come off of the board in their respective drafts.
In addition, current LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in college football last season, despite serving in a reserve role for the Tigers a year prior.
Simon, who has served primarily as the third defensive back in nickel and dime packages through his first two seasons, is hoping that his coming out party will bare similar resemblance to that of his counterpart at cornerback.
Mathieu was a little known player before the start of last season, but burst onto the national scene after registering 76 tackles, 1.5 sacks, nine pass break-ups, two interception and six forced fumbles, in addition to returning a pair of punts for touchdowns in 2011. His breakout campaign led to first-team All-American honors, as well as being named as one of five finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
Although Simon has spent his first two years at LSU in a reserve role, don’t mistake that for a lack of talent or ability. Despite only starting two games last season, Simon finished third in the SEC in pass break-ups with 10, and led LSU with 12 passes defended.
He also seems more than ready for his move into a full-time starting role, as he was named recipient of the “Most Improved” award during spring practice.
When searching for a player who compares to Simon, the most natural fit seems to be current Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes. Like Rhodes, Simon is an outstanding athlete with above-average height for the position.
It is his unique combination of speed, agility and height that make him such a good cover corner, according to his coaches.
“Tharold Simon gives us a big body, and when you're fortunate enough to have a big body you can put on a guy who can play press man, and do the things he can do, it's unusual,” said LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.
His head coach echoed the sentiments of his defensive coordinator.
“Tharold Simon is a difficult guy to get beyond because he has great speed and athleticism,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “He ... plays with a lot of range. Frankly, when the ball is in the air, there is not a jump necessary. He is already there with his body.”
If you need further validation of his talent, many people close to the LSU program believed that Simon would beat out Mathieu for the start position opposite Claiborne last season. Although Mathieu ultimately won the starting position, many people with knowledge of the Tiger program continue to argue that Simon is a better natural cover corner than the player they call the “Honey Badger”.
Unlike many other situations when a team breaks in a new starter, there is no semblance of uncertainty regarding how Simon will perform this year. Even in a reserve role, Simon has proven that he is one of the elite cover corners in the SEC, if not the entire nation.
Mathieu exploded onto the national scene last season, and, although he possesses a very different skill set, Simon may very well be poised for a similar breakout season in 2012.