Tigers get early Christmas present in 4-star safety

by - Senior Writer -
According to ESPN, Clemson has commits from the top two players in Kansas - Isaiah Simmons and Xavier Kelly.
According to ESPN, Clemson has commits from the top two players in Kansas - Isaiah Simmons and Xavier Kelly.

The Clemson coaching staff received an early Christmas present Tuesday afternoon.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney likes to compare National Signing Day to Christmas Day and an early present came in the form of 4-star safety Isaiah Simmons of Olathe (KS) North Olathe. Simmons made the announcement via his Twitter account.

Simmons chose Clemson over one of the favorites in nearby Nebraska and Michigan. He had offers from Clemson, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona St., Illinois, Iowa, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Louisville, Maryland, Minnesota and Missouri.

“I really just felt like it was home and it was the best opportunity for me with their safeties leaving. Also, I could see myself going there if football wasn't an option,” Simmons told TigerNet. “It really seemed like they are family-oriented and it didn't feel like it would be something only about football. It was about more than that.”

The addition of Simmons gives Swinney, defensive coordinator Brent Venables a needed body at safety – the Tigers lost junior starters T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse after the Tigers’ loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Phoenix. Both players opted to forego their senior season and declare for the NFL Draft.

The Tigers lost a total of four members of the secondary in the last month – Kearse, Green and cornerback Mackensie Alexander opted for the NFL while safety Jefferie Gibson transferred out of the program. If you count Travis Blanks – who played the hybrid nickel/SAM position – the Tigers lost five players from the group that played in Phoenix.

It was defensive coordinator Brent Venables – who recruits in his home state of Kansas – that helped tip the scales in Clemson’s favor.

“I feel like he's family and isn't going just to be my coach,” Simmons said of Venables. “I feel like I can go to him for anything.”

Simmons visited Clemson on January 29th, and his family made the visit with him. The visit ensured Clemson’s place in the 6-3, 212-pounder’s top three but his final destination was in doubt until the announcement.

Simmons’ mother Denise said the visit was more than they could have hoped for.

“There were actually a couple of things, but the number one thing is they embraced Isaiah and embraced Isaiah for the person that he is more than his athletic ability. Mores his character and all of the work he has done up to this point,” she said. “We just felt like we were a family with everyone - from the staff to the team members and even (Clemson University) President Clements. We had an opportunity to interact with him and the coaches' wives and we were at home. One of the other things that we did, we even had a picnic. Our first picnic of the year was at Clemson.”

Simmons said he knew that Clemson was the right fit while he was on campus.

“Throughout my visit I just kept getting the feeling that I liked it more and more,” he said. “It was standing out way more than the other schools. That is when I figured it would be my decision.”

Swinney and Venables also made an in-home visit with Simmons and his family late last month after the Tigers were a late addition to Simmons’ offer list. The Tigers are targeting Simmons to play in the secondary while other schools were looking at him as a receiver and were telling him he could play both positions. He said he doesn’t care what position he plays as long as it’s at Clemson.

“I was either way for offense or defense. I am 50-50 on playing offense or defense,” Simmons said. “I really don't have a preference at all. But just knowing that I am headed to a high-profile school and be able to play there was a really big factor.”

Simmons is ranked 32nd nationally at his position by Rivals.com while ESPN has him as the No. 23 safety nationally. According to ESPN he is also the second-ranked prospect in the state of Kansas. Who is first? Clemson 2016 defensive end commitment Xavier Kelly of Wichita (KS) Wichita East. Kelly committed to Clemson back in July of 2015.

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