Simon ready to lead in final season at Ohio State


After starting 10 games as a sophomore in 2021, Cody Simon has had to make do with a decreased role over the past two seasons while playing behind Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers. Now, after exercising his COVID-19 waiver in December, Simon is back for one last ride in an Ohio State uniform, and he’ll do so as the unquestioned leader of the Buckeyes linebacker room.

Simon recorded 45 tackles a year ago as the third linebacker in Jim Knowles’ defense while also making two starts in place of an injured Eichenberg. With Eichenberg forced to miss the Cotton Bowl, Simon again slid into the starting lineup and performed well as part of a stifling defensive effort that kept the Buckeyes in the game all evening despite a putrid offensive showing.

For many players with remaining eligibility, the Cotton Bowl carried an air of uncertainty about how the Ohio State roster could look heading into the 2024 season. Decisions loomed for several critical pieces, and while nearly all of those players ultimately elected to return for one final season following the game, Simon knew what his immediate future held going into the game after declaring he would return on Dec. 12.

With Eichenberg and Chambers departing, Simon will give Knowles a safety blanket at middle linebacker as a guy with considerable experience, especially compared to the rest of the room. The responsibilities he will inherit in such a pivotal role for a team with the highest of aspirations are vast, but Simon is embracing that new role as spring practice gets underway.

“It’s definitely been a long time coming, but I feel honored,” Simon said last week. “There’s a lot of respect and effort that goes into being a linebacker at Ohio State. It’s a great honor, and I want to honor the guys who came before me but also play my own way and be a great defender here and lead the defense.”

Behind Simon lies little proven depth as Sonny Styles makes the position change to linebacker and C.J. Hicks and Gabe Powers look to finally put everything together and carve out roles. In addition to his ability to make plays, Simon’s leadership will be crucial in rounding out the group that will fill the middle of the defense in the fall, something he believes he’s well-suited to handle.

“I love having that on my shoulders,” Simon said of the leadership role. “I love being that guy who people look to for help, and I want to be able to lead these guys. I can say I’ve been preparing for it my whole life, even since I was young. My brother and I, we always tried to be the first guy in the room, the loudest, the most vocal, and the most responsible. I think all those little intangibles play into playing the Mike (linebacker) here, and it all helps.”

While Simon may be honored to be viewed as one of the leaders of the defense, in a position that is among the most prestigious in Ohio State’s storied history, no less, he doesn’t want to make the development more than it is. For Simon, being a starting linebacker at Ohio State is how he’s approached every day since he arrived in Columbus, which has helped to keep him focused now that he again finds himself in such a position.

“You want to appreciate those moments that come because they really are fleeting,” he said of the journey. “After being here for five years now, every day goes by so much faster, and you want to appreciate these moments. I don’t want to really read into it as much because I’ve prepared every day like I was the guy, and no matter what, anything can happen in a game. Guys can get hurt and it’s your job. I feel like I’ve prepared since my freshman year to be able to contribute, so right now, I’m not taking it too much to heart. But I understand the moment, and I want to embrace it.”

As for the goals he has for the season, and why both he and nearly all of his teammates with decisions ultimately elected to return, Simon said the objectives remain the same as they’ve always been in Columbus, albeit with an increased sense of urgency.

“Right now, we don’t want to look too far into the future, but our goals are always to beat the team up north, win the Big Ten, and win the whole thing. Those goals have never really changed, and that we haven’t done it in years, that’s the unfinished business for us,” he said.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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