December 11, 2008

Simon ready to focus on offense

MOBILE, Ala. _ On Wednesday morning, as rain pelted the Alabama Gulf Coast, Tim Simon leaned against a wall of South Alabama's basketball practice gym and smiled.

Most importantly, he didn't even need a second to catch his breath, a rare pleasure for Simon when he's in a football environment.

This week, the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder from Cordova, Ala., is playing running back and running back only for Team Alabama as it prepares for Saturday afternoon's Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile. He's not doubling up as a cornerback or safety on defense. He's not kicking off and returning punts and kickoffs either.

"It's a relief, so now I don't have to worry about getting tired, which I usually do," Simon said.

Simon, who committed to Ole Miss on Nov. 3, developed asthma at age 16. He controls the condition through medication and the use of an inhaler, but those around him admit they've wondered how good he could be when he can lessen the work load on the field and focus on one position.

"We asked him to do a lot of stuff, and he's done it," Cordova coach Pete Bush told the (Mobile) Press-Register. "I can't imagine how effective he will be just playing one side of the ball and swapping in and out. He was getting all those yards while he was give-out."

Simon's high school career résumé - 8,500 yards and 130 touchdowns while leading the Blue Devils to back-to-back appearances in the Class 3A title game - places him third in both career rushing yards and career rushing touchdowns in Alabama prep history.

"I was (surprised), but I was happy I did it," Simon said of the accomplishment. "I'm a downhill runner."

As for recruiting, Simon said he still intends to be in Oxford next season and he reiterated the statements he made back in early November. Simon intends to win time at running back.

"I'm still there," said Simon, who indicated he plans to take an official visit to the Ole Miss campus "sometime next week. They're telling me I fit in good and that I can come out there and start if I work hard at it."

Simon said he's "thinking about" visiting Alabama and Kentucky. However, the Crimson Tide has not backed off its stance, Simon said, that he'd play defense only at the college level. Asked Wednesday which position he thought was his future home, Simon said, "Probably running back."

There's a real good chance that Simon will spend the next four or five years representing Mississippi on football fields across the Southeast, likely playing alongside players he'll oppose Saturday.

"I'm real excited about that," Simon said, smiling widely. "I live in Alabama and I want to win this game."

As for the Rebels, Simon said his perception of the program only improved as November rolled along. Since committing to Ole Miss two days after the Rebels' 17-7 win over Auburn, Houston Nutt's club has whipped Louisiana-Monroe, won easily at LSU and disposed of Mississippi State, 45-0, earning a No. 20 national ranking and a berth opposite No. 8 Texas Tech in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 in Dallas.

"That changed a lot," Simon admitted. "They got a lot better. They turned it around and blew out their in-state rival. That meant a lot. They did pretty good."

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