Keith Simms spent last season studying Jim Leavitt’s defense.
The sophomore linebacker suited up for the first time since 2016 during Oregon’s 58-24 win over Bowling Green on Saturday and will likely play a bigger role when Portland State (0-1) visits the 23rd-ranked Ducks (1-0) on Saturday.
Simms got the majority of work at outside linebacker after La’Mar Winston was injured against Bowling Green. With Winston in concussion protocol, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal listed the junior as questionable to play against PSU.
“I'm definitely ready to go, ready for my opportunity,” Simms said. “I wish (Winston) the best, but I am ready.”
The 6-foot-3, 227-pound Simms played sparingly as a freshman before missing last season with a knee injury. He played 47 snaps and finished with five tackles Saturday.
“It was good to get back out there and get my feet wet again,” said Simms, a Washington D.C. native who had family and a former coach in town to watch his return to Autzen Stadium. “I put in hard work during the offseason so it was one of those things where I was ready to get out there.”
Simms was named one of Oregon’s special teams players of the week after having tackles on punt and kickoff coverage.
“Special teams is something I pride myself on,” he said. “When I got the job on kickoff I wanted to make an immediate impact and show the coaches what I could do. Being back out there felt back to normal because I was on the kickoff unit my freshman year.”
Simms said his knee is back to full strength as he takes what he learned as an observer last year onto the field.
“I learned a lot from afar, but it is different when you are actually out there with live bullets,” Simms said. “I have been trying to get experience and get ready to go with that. With La’Mar out, I definitely think this is an opportunity for me to show what I can do so I am ready for that.”
Simms spent most of his time at inside linebacker before moving outside this season.
“So proud of Keith,” said Leavitt, Oregon's defensive coordinator. “He played real well.”