Veteran prep coach joins football staff

The USF football team added a hard worker and veteran to its staff Monday.

Coach Jim Leavitt announced Mike Simmonds – a coach at Jefferson High School for 14 years – accepted the defensive graduate assistant position, which was vacated by Steve White, who left the team citing personal reasons.

“He’s a tremendous coach,” Leavitt said. “The main reason Mike was hired is because he works extremely hard. We’re very fortunate to have him; he’ll be a great addition to our staff.”

In his eight years as head coach of Jefferson, Simmonds compiled a 74-29 overall record, including a 17-7 record in the postseason. Simmonds also guided the Dragons to two state championship games during his tenure.

The move was a long time coming for Simmonds, who has stayed close to the USF program and Jim Leavitt for the past nine years.

“Coach Leavitt, his staff and I go way back,” Simmonds said. “Ever since the inception of the program, we’ve been big fans of USF. Coach Leavitt has asked me to come up and coach before, and just to me, the opportunity seems right at the moment.”

Now one of USF’s biggest fans will bring 14 years of coaching experience to the Bulls’ staff, which is unusual for a graduate assistant. But Simmonds has no desire in clashing with Leavitt on coaching philosophies.

“Everybody in America understands that Jim Leavitt is the boss. My approach to coaching is I like to think of myself as a hard worker and a grunt – a guy who is in the trenches,” Simmonds said. “I do a lot of dirty work. I’ve always coached the offensive line, called the defense and washed the laundry, so I’m used to doing a lot of different things.”

Having coached the offensive line, Simmonds is close to Jefferson senior offensive lineman Daron Rose, who is rated as the No. 2 tackle and the No. 30 prospect in the country, according to

Rose has been offered a scholarship by USF.

“I’m very close to him, I’d like to think. I’m sure that he’s throwing a lot of things around in his head right now,” Simmonds said. “As of this morning, he was still undecided, and he’s going to make his own decision. But sure, do I want him to play on the same side as I’m on? Without a doubt.” also indicates Rose lists Florida State as his favorite and has no interest in the Bulls, but according to Simmonds, Rose hasn’t informed him of his disinterest in the USF program.

“I really don’t feel that Daron has eliminated USF,” Simmonds said. “I know he loved his USF visit, he loves the South Florida program and what coach Leavitt’s assembled. His parents speak very highly of South Florida.”

Leavitt said adding Simmonds will likely not influence Rose’s decision.

“Daron’s going to go where it feels best for him, and which university feels best for him,” Leavitt said. “Daron will come because Daron wants to come, I don’t think Mike will have an impact on that.”