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How Cody Simon can lock up starting linebacker role for Buckeyes

Spencer Holbrook07/08/21
Cody Simon By Birm-Lettermen Row
Cody Simon found his way onto the field on special teams last year. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The summer offseason is in full swing, and Lettermen Row is trying to survive it with our annual Position Week breakdowns. By the time all nine units at Ohio State have been covered, training camp and media days will nearly have arrived — and the return of football in the Horseshoe will be just around the corner. Let’s roll right along by turning the attention to the linebackers for the Buckeyes, and how Cody Simon can make an impact in Year Two.

COLUMBUS — Cody Simon could have contributed as a true freshman last season for Ohio State.

The New Jersey native and second-year Buckeyes linebacker was talented enough to play as a newcomer. He was a factor on special teams as the season went on and found playing time during blowouts and late in games.

But Simon has the potential to be on the field for bigger moments. The logjam at linebacker in front of him just prevented that from happening last season. But now with four linebackers off the roster and in the NFL from a season ago, Simon has a chance to emerge as a star for the Ohio State linebackers room that is going through a massive shift — from experienced and deep to green and in flux.

Simon can step in and thrive.

“Cody Simon and Mitchell Melton, man, those are two young studs,” Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington said during spring practice. “They handle themselves like pros. You want to talk about being a freshman. You’ve got Tuf Borland come in the room, sit down and open a notebook, has copious notes. You look at a guy like that who is very serious, focused about his work, they were impacted by that. They were impacted by Justin Hilliard’s resolve. They were impacted by Pete Werner’s toughness, they were impacted by Baron [Browning]’s willingness to step up and become more vocal as a leader. … Cody Simon and Mitchell Melton got schooled on what it looks like to be a linebacker here. They handled themselves the right way. They’re very talented. They’re very bright, and they just need reps. They need those repetitions, they need to be coached and evaluated, pushed.

“When it does callous over and it clicks, they’re going to be pretty dog-gone good.”

Cody Simon-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State linebacker Cody Simon is pushing for a role. (Spencer Holbrook/Lettermen Row)

Expectations have always been high for Simon, the former four-star recruit and fourth-best linebacker prospect in the class of 2020. He can now continue the path to living up to those expectations. As one of the only healthy linebackers to make it through all 15 spring practices, Simon earned plenty of first-team reps and became one of the breakout players of the spring session.

And while the Buckeyes are hoping to maintain elite linebacker play while replacing four seasoned veterans, Simon can remedy the concerns in the middle of the defense.

“It is a great challenge in a lot of ways,” Washington said during the spring. “But in the same breath, this is the evolution of football — especially in college. This is why they come to Ohio State. This is what it’s about. The next guy is up. Take advantage of your opportunity. Believe in yourself. Compete. Every day identify the things you need to improve on. That’s been our message: Hey, we’ve got to be fully conscious every day, and we’ve got to be really hard on ourselves. We have to be focused on how we can improve, and over time we’ll get better.

“You coach long enough, these things happen. But I’m fortunate that the four guys that left did a great job of setting the example. … I think the young guys having witnessed that and being in the same room with them to see how they developed and how they grew helps. We don’t really talk much about it. Our standard is our standard, and the next guy is up. We’ve got to uphold that standard.”

Simon certainly can uphold that standard. He gained momentum with reps during the spring, and that has carried into summer workout programs, where he is continuing to pack on muscle. Of course, he lacks the experience Ohio State had at linebacker last year. But the entire unit does.

He was talented enough to play sparingly last year. But with the inexperience in the room this fall, he has a chance to break through.

“The unit is looking very strong, their attitudes have been great and the best thing we have is competition,” Washington said. “I think everybody is competing, so when that happens, you get everybody’s best.”

Cody Simon is giving his best, and it might just lead to a starting role for the revamped Ohio State defense.