High School Football

In Brown, T.J. Simmons notes a similarity with former coach Saban

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Personality-wise, receiver T.J. Simmons concedes that Nick Saban and Neal Brown aren’t all that much alike.

“Coach Saban is definitely into it. He’s strict and serious at all times,” said Simmons, who played at Alabama in 2016 before transferring to West Virginia. “Coach Brown will joke around with you.”

But in terms of how practice is structured, Simmons says there’s quite a bit in common between West Virginia’s new head coach and college football’s most successful one.

“They’re a lot alike as far as how they want things to be done,” Simmons said. “Nick Saban always would say ‘Nobody stand around, keep moving around.’ That’s a big thing Coach Brown is on. Each period is different. You move from one period to something different. You keep moving around.”

This is different than what Simmons experienced in his two years with Dana Holgorsen.

“With Holgs you might have gotten two or three periods of the same drills and you’re just emphasizing those drills,” Simmons said. “Here, it’s like every period is different.”

Simmons thinks Brown’s method, like Saban’s, is going to make it tougher for players to relax.

“Every period is something new. It’s always something changing, something moving around,” Simmons said. “There’s never a down period. We’re always active and doing something.”

For Simmons, the style is a good match.

“The energy does reflect my personality,” he said. “I’m always smiling and having a good time, always upbeat.”

That attitude helps when dealing with change as often as Simmons has. He will be playing for the fourth different offensive coordinator of his career. In his lone season at Alabama, Steve Sarkisian took over the Crimson Tide offense in the College Football Playoff after Lane Kiffin was hired at Florida Atlantic.

Now he’s picking up on new things from Brown even though much of what the Mountaineers do on offense will bear similarities to what they did with Jake Spavital.

“This is my fourth offense I’m learning,” Simmons said. “It’s just like, knowing and adapting and being able to pick up on offense real quick.”

One of the primary differences is how involved Brown has been in helping coach the receivers.

“Coach Brown, being a receivers guy, our drills are real receiver-oriented,” Simmons said. “Last year we were working on pass concepts more. We do that here, but it’s focused more on receivers rather than the whole offense. He really emphasizes receivers and routes.”

Simmons will try to make that emphasis pay off this season. With David Sills and Gary Jennings headed to the NFL, he’s one of the receivers being counted on to fill their void.

“I think T.J. is ready to take the next step and be a go-to guy,” Brown said at the outset of spring practice.

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