Recruiting is a fickle game. No matter how good a coach is at recruiting, how good a school is at producing talent and winning games, or any other factors, there are some situations where the personalities just don’t quite gel. We saw it with Jackson Carman a few years back, nearly with Zach Harrison in the 2019 class, and prior to the promotion of Ryan Day, it would’ve likely been the case with Cody Simon.
That’s not to say that the prior regime at Ohio State wasn’t excellent at recruiting, it was just that some players didn’t quite fit with the personality of the program. Simon, in all likelihood, would have been such a player. Ohio State had very few ties to New Jersey on their old defensive staff, and it wasn’t until early May that the Buckeyes actually extended an offer to him.
Now, just over a month later, Simon has joined the Ohio State Buckeyes’ class. What does that mean for the Buckeyes?
On the field
Just like with the pursuit of Kourt Williams, Ohio State going after Cody Simon shows a commitment to fundamentally changing the way that Ohio State plays defense. Simon, at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, doesn’t look like your typical Ohio State linebacker. He isn’t a hulking, bulky, lumbering figure in the middle of the field. He’s an athlete first and foremost, just like Kourt Williams. While Williams is likely to play bullet in Columbus (if he chooses the Buckeyes) and Simon is being recruited to middle linebacker, the theme sticks with both.
That theme? Speed, and instinct. Simon has a nose for the ball, and the raw athletic ability to seek the ball out on every single play. He’s a legitimately great athlete, with rare speed, great burst, and lateral movement the likes of which Ohio State hasn’t seen since Darron Lee suited up in Columbus.
All of that shows most when Simon is disrupting running plays in the backfield, which he does frequently. He has great vision and general field awareness that he pairs with that athletic ability to blow through the line and blow up running backs before they can get to the line of scrimmage. It feels like it’s been a few years since we saw a Buckeye linebacker do that.
Now, Simon isn’t just a tackler. He’s capable in zone, and because he’ll be playing middle linebacker, that’s likely the only real coverage skill he’ll need. As long as he has the awareness and ability to survey the middle of the field within 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, he’ll be doing exactly what the Buckeyes want from him. His job in pass coverage is to stop anything and everything across the middle, underneath.
With Simon, the main knock seems to be his size, but as I said, that’s a feature for the Buckeyes, not a negative. He doesn’t look like a lot of the great linebackers in Buckeye history, but he doesn’t need to, because Ohio State’s new staff doesn’t want to play football in the past. They want a new prototype for linebackers, and that new prototype looks a whole lot like Cody Simon.
In the class
Simon is the 14th member of Ohio State’s 2020 class, and the first linebacker in the class, though he may be joined sooner than later by bullet/outside linebacker Kourt Williams, who also visited Ohio State last weekend.
His pledge serves as a pretty massive victory for Jeff Hafley and Al Washington. Hafley’s connection’s in New Jersey got Ohio State into this battle, and Washington sold the deal by emphasizing speed in Ohio State’s defense at every chance he gets. It’s obvious that Ohio State plans to do things different, and that was the sell to Simon.
From a more quantitative place, this commitment moves Ohio State way up the 247Sports team rankings, as they jump from eight to five, over top of Florida, Notre Dame and Michigan. The Buckeyes are just a point away from Georgia and the No. 4 spot, and they’ll look to make the jump at 5 p.m. ET today, when Darrion Henry is set to announce his commitment.