It's hard to believe, but Kent State's rushing defense ranks first
in the nation despite playing without senior defensive end Monte Simmonsfor three of the Golden Flashes five games.
Simmons, a second-team all-Mid-American Conference performer last season,
ranks third in school history with 18 quarterback sacks. He suffered an ankle
injury in Kent State's season opener against Murray State and didn't
play the next three weeks, all losses.
He returned in time for the Golden Flashes MAC home opener, a 28-17 win over
Akron. Officially, he recorded just one tackle, but spent most of the afternoon
chasing down Akron quarterback Patrick Nicely.
"He wasn't hesitant at all," said Kent State head coach
Doug Martin. "For a guy to come off four weeks and a surgery
where you have a plate put into your ankle, to be out there at all is amazing.
And then to go out there and play the way he did was incredibly amazing."
With Simmons rushing from the edge and freshman Roosevelt Nix and
the other interior defensive linemen pushing back from the middle, Kent State
sacked Nicely seven times and helped to force three interceptions.
That's how important Simmons is to the Kent State defense. And now his
speed off the edge is perfectly complemented by the push from the interior
"It's huge," Martin said. "In the past here, what
we've had is really good edge rushers but we didn't necessarily
push the middle of the pocket really well. And now with (Ishmaa'ily
Kitchen) and (Nix) in there pushing the middle of the pocket
making our edge rushers even better because there's nowhere for a quarterback
to step up now. That really helps and getting Monte back certainly draws some
attention out there and it singles some of those guys up on the inside too."
With Simmons attacking the passer, opposing teams are forced to use an extra
blocker, most often a running back in the backfield. That helps the Kent State
secondary, as there's one less receiver to cover downfield.
"He garners a lot of attention," Martin said. "It's
undervalued when teams have to leave a running back in to help protect because
of Monte Simmons. That's one less receiver our guys have to cover downfield
too. He may not get that sack but it's a valuable deal. He still got
a couple of hurries when he pressured the quarterback and was right there."
In two games this season, Simmons has six tackles, including 2 ½ for
a loss. His two sacks this season give him 20 for his career, just five behind
KSU's all-time sacks leader, Justin Parrish.
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