Every day here at Your Best 11, we are counting down to the start of the regular season with our Top 150 players for the 2012 season.
No. 107: Tharold Simon, No. 24, LSU, Cornerback
After spending the year as the Bayou Bengals' third and fourth corner, Tharold Simon is set to step into the starting lineup opposite Tyrann Mathieu. The rising junior is a big, physical specimen at the corner position who is just a year removed from leading LSU's stellar defense in passes defensed.
Simon is bigger than Morris Claiborne, longer than Claiborne, and he has a lot of the same skills as the first-round draft pick. Quick feet, good technique and great vision all help Simon to be a truly solid corner.
Length is Simon's biggest asset. He can jam up receivers at the line in press coverage, and once he's down the field, his length allows him to swat balls away, grab interceptions and make the quarterback's target difficult to hit.
Playing every play, every day is going to be the big transition for Simon. Instead of spelling Claiborne or coming in on dime packages, his junior campaign will see Simon as the "new kid" on the block opposite the Honey Badger.
Early on, he is going to be tested as the new commodity, and in this new, expanded role, he is going to be forced to prove his mettle.
There is no Claiborne—and, more importantly, Ron Brooks—there to spell Simon or allow the cornerback to go hard for a few plays before being substituted. Stepping up is the challenge, and the big question mark for 2012 is if Simon is ready for the move.
Having watched copious amounts of LSU last season, and being the defensive-back junky that I am, one thing really stood out to me. As far as corners go, Simon was the second best on the team.
Claiborne was better, Brooks was more experienced, Mathieu was a better all-around defender—but Simon was the second-best cornerback on the roster. This year, he gets to show the nation that I am not wrong.
There are some quality defensive backs in the SEC, but Simon, in his new role, is going to get a great shot at making the All-SEC team. There will be balls flying his way early as teams avoid the playmaking skills of Mathieu, and that means he can get breakups and interceptions.
I expect Simon to be, at least, a second-team All-SEC-type player in 2012, because he has that sort of skill, and John Chavis knows how to maximize his talent.