Cody Simon Ohio State Buckeyes Linebacker

Cody Simon Has Earned His Role At Linebacker

Ohio State linebackers Steele Chambers and Cody Simon are second and fourth on the team in tackles, respectively, so far this season. Chambers is tied for second with 11 tackles, while Simon isn’t too far behind him with eight tackles.

It’s not notable that two linebackers are near the top of the tackle leaderboard, but it is a bit unusual in that they play the same position and are in a rotation at the Will linebacker spot this year.

Back in the spring, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was asked about rotating players on defense and he said they would play whoever proves they deserve it.

So far, that has proven true.

Rotating at linebacker is nothing new at Ohio State. A year ago at this time, the Buckeye defensive coaches were rotating guys on almost every drive because they were still trying to figure out who their best players were. Rotation wasn’t necessarily done to keep guys fresh. It was done to give the coaches more information about who they should actually be playing.

Eventually, Steele Chambers settled in at the Will and Tommy Eichenberg manned the Mike. Cody Simon, meanwhile, actually started most games at the Mike in front of Eichenberg, but a shoulder injury severely limited his level of play.

Two weeks into the season, and Knowles likes where things stand with his linebacker rotation.

“I think that Steele is athletic. Cody has a good physical press presence and experience, and Cody has a very stable mindset that I think the rest of the team picks up on,” Knowles said. “He can handle calls, checks, and just he brings that presence to the defense. So, I like the fact that he’s in that mix and we got three guys who can play right there.”

Knowles likes it so much, in fact, that he has softened a bit on rotating anywhere in the back seven. During camp, he was asked about rotating on defense and said that it’s fine for the front four to keep those players fresh, but in the back seven, he wants his players to stay on the field and get a feel for the game.

“We want our front to be fresh, we want to play a lot of guys,” Knowles explained. “In the back end, I think you need to get into more of a flow with the game and the adjustments and how they’re running their routes and their motion and chips and all those things. So, I feel like it’s more important that those guys are in there and they see everything.

“We’ll play some guys, just nowhere near what they will on the defensive line. You’d like to have an extra corner, an extra safety, an extra nickel, an extra linebacker. I think you can bring those guys along, bring them in, in certain situations with certain calls. So, we’ll have some guys, but I feel good about where we’re at.”

Simon has been much more than an “extra linebacker,” however. He’s played well enough to be considered a co-starter.

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When you consider that Knowles is also the team’s linebackers coach, it’s a pretty significant move by Cody Simon to push his way into a rotation that wasn’t a guarantee to happen this season. The longer camp went on, however, the more Knowles started to see how things were going to go.

“Cody was hurt, right? So didn’t get much of a chance to evaluate him. But you could tell by his presence in the meeting room, and the respect the other players had,” he said. “I had hoped that he would be able to show during fall camp to be a guy who was going to merit a lot of playing time. And he did. He’s really stepped up.”

Together, Simon and Chambers are proving to be very productive. The level of play doesn’t drop when one of them comes out and the other comes in. They are a seamless rotation and so far the only time you notice a change is when one of them makes a play and you didn’t realize the other had left.

That’s the kind of rotation that allows players to build confidence in each other and, as well as confidence in the coaches. And then that’s when the real fun starts.

“You know, he’s a ballplayer, he’s a great player,” Simon said of Chambers. “When he’s on the field, I have the utmost confidence in him. And I feel like when I’m on the field he has confidence in me. So, I appreciate that coach Knowles has confidence in both of us to go out there and compete. It starts with practice, and we’re just getting better every week.”

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