Michael Barnett enjoys starring role in preparing UGA for Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons
When it comes to the success of the Georgia offensive line stopping Mississippi State defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons on Saturday, preparation begins and ends with the scout team.
Over the past week as the Georgia offense prepared to go toe-to-toe with the back-to-back SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, a lot of pressure was put onto scout team member Michael Barnett.
All week long, it’s been Barnett’s job to prepare the Georgia offense to face Simmons.
“Michael Barnett he is rushing just like [Simmons],” Solomon Kindley said. “[He has been] doing his moves and everything.”
For Barnett, this means imitating both Simmons’ style and technique to give the Georgia offensive players the best look they can get before seeing the real thing on Saturday.
“[Simmons} has a really good long-arm spin move over the top and he is a really quick player,” fullback Christian Payne said. “I think Michael Barnett does a really good job of being Jeffery Simmons.”
For those that need a refresher course on Simmons here it is; so far this season the sophomore defensive lineman has recorded 2.5 sacks. More so, in Mississippi State’s 37-7 over LSU last Saturday, Simmons was double teamed by LSU after putting together seven tackles against the Tigers’ offense.
But one can’t mention Simmons now without first mentioning where Simmons was before enrolling at MSU. Video surfaced in March of 2016, when Simmons was still a five-star recruit, of the lineman hitting a woman. After deliberation, MSU officials and coaches still allowed Simmons to enroll at Mississippi State and play throughout the 2016 season.
And once last season was all said and done, Simmons had made headlines on the football field despite the controversy before his enrollment. He found a spot on the SEC All-Freshmen Team, recorded a total of 40 tackles, 3.5 of those tackles for a loss, and led all other SEC freshmen in forced fumbles with two.
Now in his sophomore campaign, the Georgia offense is preparing to face him head on come Saturday.
“He is a great player, you know he plays with really good technique,” Christian Payne said. “He’s a really, really quick defensive lineman and we are all looking forward to the challenge.”
With the help of the scout team, specifically Barnett, the Georgia offense is getting plenty of looks that they could possibly see from Simmons’ himself. The key for Georgia will be to constantly be on alert to where Simmons’ presence is on the field, according to Payne.
“You always have to be aware of where [Simmons] is,” Payne said. “The scout team always wears the numbers of the players who we are going to go against and he is always a player who we are always like, ‘well, 94 is over here,” or ’94 is over there’. We are always keeping a count of where he is.”
And if you were wondering, yes, 94 is Simmons’ jersey number.
But for Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, winning on Saturday means more than trying to stop No. 94 alone.
“He is a physical player but its not just him, it’s all across the board,” Wynn said. “We have been preparing by getting the right type of scout team looks and cutting down our [missed assignments].”
But one thing is for sure; even though the Georgia offensive has an entire Mississippi State defensive unit to worry with, extra attention will be put on the 6-4, 310 pound Simmons.
And there is an added drive for the Georgia offense to keep Simmons from being named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the third week in a row.
“Oh yeah of course,” Wynn said when asked about being the ones to stop Simmons’ streak. “I mean its just competition and all of us want to succeed but we also want to definitely put an end to that streak.”