Earlier this spring, the Miami Hurricanes hired Jess Simpson as their Defensive Line Coach. A former Atlanta Falcons assistant who spent 20 years as a legendary HSFB coach, Simpson comes to Miami with a strong track record of coaching experience.
Simpson came to Miami to replace the former Defensive Line Coach, Craig Kuligowski, who left The U for the same position with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Known as one of (if not the singular) best DL coaches in Football, Kuligowski leaves big shoes to fill for Simpson this season.
You can click the link above for a look at Simpson’s past record as a coach, which is beyond reproach. But, looking forward to the 2018 season, there are 2 main ways in which Simpson can prove his worth as the DL coach: 1. on-field performance and player development and 2. Recruiting.
As far as on-field performance goes, Simpson’s group has a high standard to uphold. Under Kuligowski the last 2 years, the Canes compiled great stats, and went from an also-ran type group to a dominant, impactful group up front. Here are the numbers from the last 2 years:
Canes DL stats 2016-17
|Year||Tackles||Tackles for Loss||Sacks|
|Year||Tackles||Tackles for Loss||Sacks|
Miami ranked 5th and 8th Nationally in TFLs the last 2 years, and that production has been key to the Canes’ resurgence as a defense and as a program. Using Bill Connelly’s advanced stat profile from 2017, the Canes DL had an 8.8% havoc rate (which, while there is a longer definition, seems to be fairly self-explanatory) which was 4th nationally. Which proves, again, that Simpson has a big job to keep that production to that level.
Hand in hand with production is player progression. Miami has good talent along the DL, even if there isn’t the depth that the Canes have had in the recent past, but if Simpson is able to coach up the guys in the DL room, then things should go well.
If we look back into the spring, there’s great cause for optimism on both those fronts. The Canes’ DL was disruptive and at many times unblockable. Ends Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin continued to show why they have 1st round NFL Draft potential, tackle Gerald Willis III looked stellar in his return from a leave of absence in 2017, and early-enrollee true freshman end Gregory Rousseau was so dominant — 9 sacks in the 3 scrimmages including 4 in the first scrimmage — that he personally precipitated a lineup change on the offensive line.
There are several other players along with the ones I listed in the previous paragraph (we’ll get to them later this summer) but if performance and progression seen by Jackson, Garvin, Willis III, and Rousseau becomes the standard for every player (or nearly every player) along the DL, then Miami will be in a good spot under Simpson.
The last thing — and some say the biggest thing — that matters for Simpson’s job performance moving forward is recruiting. Thought he was a very good coach, Kuligowski’s performance on the recruiting trail left much to be desired. Yes, there were wins like getting Jonathan Garvin in 2017 and Nesta Silvera in 2018, but when compared with the elite stats shown above, the recruiting haul and DL could have and should have been better.
To that end, Simpson is already off to a good start building relationships and evaluating talent across several classes. He has gotten some good players to commit — guys like 2019 DT Jason Muñoz and 2020 DL Elijah Roberts — and is working on several others. Vero Beach (FL) DE Jahfari Harvey was an unknown previously, but is now the #1 ranked recruit in his local area, and a premium target for the Canes. That is largely due to Simpson’s evaluation, so yeah, that’ll work.
Additionally, with his legendary HS coaching career at Buford (GA), Simpson has been able to build connections with several players from the Peach State, and will likely continue to do so in the future.
While this is a bit of a different profile than the other coaches (since he’s coming into his first year and doesn’t have 2 years worth of work-product at Miami to evaluate), Jess Simpson figures to be a solid addition to the Miami Coaching staff. Yes, he has big shoes to fill, but early returns are strong.
There have been anecdotal statements that Simpson’s coaching ability is on par with or better than Kuligowski’s — that’s DAMN GOOD in case you didn’t catch that — and Simpson’s work on the recruiting trail, to this point, has been far superior to that of his predecessor.
All in all, based upon his track record of success, experience at the highest level of Football, and the early returns of his work with the players both on the roster and the recruiting trail, Miami should be in a good place with Jess Simpson as the Defensive Line coach for 2018.
So, let’s look forward to a lot of meetings at the quarterback (see what I did there?) and plenty of production from the Canes’ DL with their new coach leading the way.