Virginia Beach linebacker Jahvoni Simmons is a touted member of the 2015 recruiting class who ranks atop the wish list of several FBS squads. He received his first collegiate scholarship offer as a freshman and has seen interest increase throughout a productive career at Ocean Lakes High.
Simmons, a 6'1", 225-pound junior, helped lead the Dolphins to a 26-2 record and consecutive deep state playoff runs the past two seasons. He quickly emerged as one of the premier defenders in talent-laden Virginia.
A strong sophomore campaign put Simmons on the map as a national prospect. He compiled 157 tackles, including 23 for loss, in 2012, per Scout.com.
Offers have arrived at a steady pace. Simmons' list of options features Clemson, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan State, Miami and Ohio State.
Rated the country's No. 2 inside linebacker recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings, Simmons is listed at No. 99 among all members of the 2015 class.
Bleacher Report caught up with the coveted defender this week, discussing his aspirations as a senior and at the next level. Simmons shared his thoughts on an evolving recruiting process, including what it's like to receive interest from a college football coaching icon.
Bleacher Report: Give us the scouting report on Jahvoni Simmons. What makes you a special player?
Jahvoni Simmons: I can diagnose both the run and pass equally. I’ve become good at differentiating the two before the snap. It helps me understand what's coming. I can anticipate plays and put myself in the right position.
BR: Your first college scholarship offer (Old Dominion) came during your freshman year. What was it like to get the recruiting process underway so early?
JS: Having an offer freshman year is definitely a major accomplishment. I think most eighth-graders and freshman would want to get their first offer early. It’s big knowing your parents won’t have to go into their pocket and pay for college.
BR: You've continued to receive plenty of offers since then. Is it ever intimidating to hear from some of the country's most famous coaches?
JS: It’s shocking more than anything. It’s like, 'wow, I’ve been looking up to you my entire life and now you want me to play for you?' It makes me feel a lot of appreciation.
BR: Any particular moment during this recruitment that really felt special?
JS: An offer from Nick Saban stood out. He’s one of the winningest coaches to compete in the NCAA and has all those national championships. It’s an honor to know he wants me on his team.
BR: That Alabama offer came in March, so did an offer from Michigan State. Those are some strong defenses.
JS: Absolutely. Both were big to me. The way Michigan State produces professional athletes is impressive.
BR: You recently spent time on campus at Virginia, Clemson and North Carolina State for junior days. What was your biggest takeaway from those visits?
JS: The Clemson visit was great. That team is on the rise and just won the Orange Bowl. The coaching staff really knows the game of football. Coach (Dabo) Swinney and (defensive coordinator/linebackers coach) Brent Venables are excellent coaches.
BR: When you look around at your different college options, how much do you focus on defensive scheme?
JS: A team’s defensive scheme plays a part but it’s not really a determining factor. It’s all about finding a role and adapting. When you leave college and go to the NFL, it’s the same thing.
BR: Is there a particular linebacker you grew up admiring and trying to be like?
JS: Ray Lewis was always a great linebacker to watch. I really like the way he played the game as a true "Mike" linebacker. He's a student of the game, like I try to be.
BR: During the past few years, you've had All-American defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi lined up in front of you. Next season, he'll be playing for Florida State. How does that change things for you?
JS: Having Derrick up front definitely lightened my load. With him gone, it’s going to force me to improve in a lot of ways. It's a challenge and I'm working hard to be ready.
BR: What's the main focus of your efforts to improve?
JS: I'm trying to get bigger, faster and stronger. But it's really about becoming a student of the game. I’ve started to watch a lot of film, as much as I can. I look for my mistakes on film and see where I can get better.
BR: Are there particular campuses you want to visit for games this season?
JS: I definitely want to see the game-day atmosphere at schools—Alabama, Miami, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia Tech, for sure. Really, I want to try to visit as many of the teams that offered me as possible.
BR: Are there any programs that haven't yet offered you that you'd be interested to hear from?
JS: Yes. Some teams would be LSU, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Georgia and Auburn.
BR: When do you plan to decide on a college?
JS: Probably not until midseason. I might wait until after the season.
BR: Are you targeting a specific conference or are you wide open in that regard?
JS: It doesn’t matter what conference I play in or what team I’m on. I’ll work hard and strive to be the best linebacker in the country. That’s my main goal.
BR: Are you the best high school linebacker in the America?
JS: Absolutely. I do believe I’m the best linebacker in this class, that’s how I feel about it. But it’s about me going out and proving it with my play. That’s what matters.