Cody Simon’s sophomore season at Ohio State came with plenty of ups and downs.
On the positive side of things, Simon earned his way into the starting lineup by Ohio State’s third game of the season and started each of the Buckeyes’ final 10 games at linebacker. He played the most defensive snaps of any Ohio State linebacker in 2021 and flashed playmaking ability over the course of the year, recording 54 total tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one interception.
Simon wasn’t able to play up to his full potential, however, as he was plagued by a shoulder injury. He ultimately underwent surgery to repair that shoulder at the end of the regular season, forcing him to watch the Rose Bowl from the sideline. And when he was on the field, he was part of a defense and particularly a linebacker unit that had issues all year long, particularly in his final game of the year against Michigan, as the Buckeyes allowed the Wolverines to rush for 297 yards and six touchdowns en route to their first win over Ohio State in 10 years.
That certainly wasn’t how he envisioned his 2021 season going, but he believes the lessons he learned from all of that will help him as he enters his third season at Ohio State. After playing only 14 defensive snaps as a true freshman, Simon now has more than 400 snaps of experience at linebacker, which showed him what he needs to improve on this offseason.
“The stuff I went through this year, good and bad, was super important for my development as a player,” Simon told Eleven Warriors during a promotional event on Friday. “And so now I know what I can work on and know what I need to work on, which is a lot, but I’m just excited because I have some body of work to go into next season, I can build off of last season.”
While Simon doesn’t know yet whether he’ll be able to participate in spring practices, he says his recovery from shoulder surgery is going well.
“I’m still on the road to recovery, but right now I’m feeling really good and still working really hard,” Simon said. “I’m not sure about the timetable yet. We haven’t really discussed that. But it’s kind of a day-by-day thing where I just keep rehabbing my shoulder and see where it gets us.”
Whenever Simon does get back on the field, he’ll have to quickly adapt to playing in a new defensive scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who is also now Ohio State’s linebackers coach. The process of learning Knowles’ defense has already begun, and Simon says he likes what he’s seeing so far.
“He’s great,” Simon said of Knowles. “He has a new philosophy for us. And we’re just starting to learn it too. But I’m really eager to see how it works in our defense, and I’m gonna buy in 100 percent.”
Simon said “it kind of hurt” to learn last month that Al Washington, his position coach for his first two years at Ohio State, would not be back with the Buckeyes this season. But he understands that’s part of the business of college football.
“I’m close with him and his family. He’s still one of my favorite coaches, so it’s not just the relationship is broken,” Simon said of Washington. “But it’s the way the industry works, and just gotta keep going and keep playing as hard as I can.
“I came in with Coach Wash, so he’s what I’ve known. So it is an adjustment, and it’s not easy to switch coaches like that. But Coach Knowles has been great so far, and I’m just ready to learn from him.”
“The stuff I went through this year, good and bad, was super important for my development as a player.”– Cody Simon on his sophomore season
Given that Knowles is new to Ohio State, there’s no guarantee that Simon will return to the linebacker depth chart once he is healthy. He, like the rest of Ohio State’s linebackers, will have to prove themselves all over again to the Buckeyes’ new defensive coaches.
Simon’s embracing that, though, as he believes having to compete for a starting job all over again will make him a better football player.
“This is kind of the best way to play football,” Simon said. “Everyone’s starting at the same level and you just gotta compete. This whole season’s gonna be all about competition, and the best guys are gonna be able to play. And that’s what it all boils down to.”
Simon says the biggest thing he learned from his first extended playing time last season was the importance of playing with confidence, and he says becoming a more confident player this fall starts with putting in the work to improve this winter, spring and summer.
“I think we were living on our heels a lot last year,” Simon said. “So I think with a great offseason and a great preparation for this season, we’ll be right back where we should be.”