Elijah Simmons’ Offseason Preparation Will Be Key for Tennessee’s Defense

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    While spring camp has only been going on for a week, the next Tennessee football season began as soon as the last one ended. Head coach Josh Heupel and his team were able to find success in the inaugural year of the Heupel era, but they also found a lot of room for improvement.

    For Tennessee defensive lineman Elijah Simmons, the offseason was about getting his body in check so that he can use it to his full potential. After starting the first four games of the year last season, Simmons missed three straight games in the middle of the schedule with an injury. Getting his body back in better shape was one of the biggest goals for the lineman, and defensive line coach Rodney Garner has taken notice.

    “Elijah definitely has done a good job of losing some of the weight that he had gained,” Garner said on Monday. “I think he’s probably down 20-pounds, 25-pounds. But now we have got to get his motor to mirror the weight loss. The motor right now is still running at that same weight. So that’s the next thing to get him to move like he’s lighter than what he was like before.”

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    Simmons finished his redshirt-sophomore season with just four solo tackles and seven assisted tackles. However, with the size and force that he can bring up the middle, Simmons is working to put himself in an undeniable position on Tennessee’s defensive line – especially one that lost Matthew Butler and Jay Blakely during the offseason.

    With three years in Knoxville under the Tennessee umbrella, Simmons is a veteran player in the locker room, even without all of the on-field experience. So for him, spring camp is less about learning procedures and routines but instead making sure the small adjustments are being locked in on.

    “A few minor things,” Simmons said about what is still missing from his game on Monday. “Just my hand [placement], alignment, and things like that. But I think I have come a long way so far. I’ve been working in the offseason so much. I’ve been doing pretty good.”

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    Tennessee will rely on Elijah Simmons to be an impact player on the defensive line this year. With Butler, Blakely, and Caleb Tremblay all gone from last year’s team, the Vols have to replace 94 tackles and eight sacks from those three players alone.

    “It is good to see that he did have the discipline to do what they’ve asked him to do in the training room and in the weight room,” Garner said about Simmons on Monday. “Nutritionist and all of that. So now we have just got to keep moving the needle in the right direction.”

    Speaking of healthy eating, Simmons did say that cutting out junk food has been one of his biggest priorities in order to get/keep his body in shape. What was the toughest thing for him to let go of?

    “Fried food and burgers,” Simmons said with a laugh. “I love burgers, but I gave it up.”

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.