It's not everyday that you see a college football team lose their best player to the NFL Draft and then go ahead and replace him with another stud.
However, that is the case this year with LSU as junior-to-be Tharold Simon will now take over a starting role for the Tigers and face the challenge of replacing All-American cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Claiborne, who was selected sixth overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2012 NFL Draft, was the top defensive back in college football this past season, winning the Jim Thorpe Award and taking home first-team All-American honors as well.
But as they say—that was then and this is now.
The future of this LSU defensive backfield lies in the hands of Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon, whose patience will pay off as he will be an everyday starter for LSU. Simon has the skills to make a huge name for himself, just like his former teammate Claiborne did in that Tigers uniform.
In fact, Simon and Claiborne shared very similar routes to Baton Rouge.
Like Claiborne, Simon was recruited by Les Miles and his coaching staff as an "athlete," having played all over the field in high school. Both Simon and Claiborne were in-state recruits who had some decent offers outside of LSU, but nothing that really stood out. Simon's top offers outside of LSU were from Tennessee, Texas A&M and Tulsa.
When Simon arrived in Baton Rouge, he settled in at cornerback and made an instant impact upon arrival, playing in eight games as a true freshman.
Standing at 6'3", 187 pounds, Simon has great size for a cornerback and the ability to cover any big-play wideout in the nation. In addition to his tremendous size, Simon also has great quickness and is not afraid to come up and make a hit when called upon. He has recorded 51 tackles already, despite only starting two games at LSU in his college career.
In addition to those 51 tackles, Simon has also posted 13 pass breakups, three interceptions and one forced fumble in 21 career games in Baton Rouge. He was often used in passing situations last season, especially when Mathieu was asked to come off the edge in nickle and dime packages.
But now that Claiborne is gone, as well as Ron Brooks, who was also selected in this year's NFL Draft, Simon will have the responsibility of being a leader in this talented LSU defensive backfield.
The numbers, the size, the will to succeed.
Tharold Simon has everything that is needed to be the next big defensive star at LSU.
He may not be the Jim Thorpe winner like Claiborne or a Heisman Trophy candidate like Mathieu. But make no mistake about it, every college football fan will know the name 'Thaold Simon' at some point during this year's college football season.
You can count on that.