Ohio State Football: Can Ryan Shazier Fill John Simon's Leadership Void?
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Tebowish in work ethic and leadership.
"If we have another child I want to name him Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that."
Those are two ways Urban Meyer described John Simon, the heart and soul of the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes. A team that went from 6-7 to 12-0 even without a chance to play for a conference or national championship.
But now Simon, a fourth-round pick of the Ravens, will no longer don the scarlet and gray. His departure leaves a void bigger than just and empty defensive end spot. The Buckeyes will have to find some way to replace his leadership.
Much of that responsibility will fall to rising junior Ryan Shazier. A player with all the physical tools to be Ohio State's next legendary linebacker. But one that is still learning how to harness his immense talent.
Shazier has the talent and will be "the man" for Ohio State's defense, but I don't expect him to be the leader Simon was. But Shazier shouldn't have to be. There will be plenty of help around him to continue the Buckeyes' winning ways.
The Head Honcho
Simon is known as a workout warrior with a high motor. He carried that physical, hard-working nature onto the field where he dominated. His "macho man" presence along with his production on the field made him an easy leader to follow.
In 2013 Shazier will take Simon's place as the face of the Silver Bullets. Although it could be argued that Bradley Roby will be the best defender on the team, Shazier will likely get more focus.
Playing linebacker in a rebuilt front seven, Shazier will be the only returning starter in the Buckeyes' front seven, which will give him plenty of opportunities to pile up tackle totals. As he did in 2012 when he led Ohio State with 115 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and five sacks.
In the world of football, it is the manliest men who players are most likely to follow. A fast, hard-hitting and fearless linebacker like Shazier certainly fits that mold. Just like Simon did.
Meyer said, via Doug Lesmerises, The Plain Dealer:
They're different. God made them completely different. They're freaks. They're bizarre. I'm talking about the self-discipline, self-respect, work ethic that most of us can only dream of. One guy I'll point out to you is No. 54, John Simon. He's a freak. I've not been around a guy like that, other than my quarterback -- that left-handed kid at Florida, Tebow.
While his physical ability gave Simon a platform to speak his mind, it was his passion that truly made him a great leader.
Shazier clearly plays with passion. He is always seen flying around the field at full speed trying to knock out the ball-carrier, or any other player in another uniform.
But it remains to be seen whether or not he can apply the passion he plays with to leading his teammates as well.
Ryan Shazier Will Have Backup
While the rest of the front seven will be new for Ohio State's defense, the Buckeyes return a veteran secondary. Senior safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett will provide a safety net for Shazier and the rest of the front seven.
Junior cornerbacks Roby and Doran Grant also have experience and will provide much-needed support.
The help from the secondary won't just be on the field either; they will help Shazier replace Simon's leadership in the defensive meeting rooms.
Concerns about Ohio State's revamped defensive line have also been eased with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington's performances in the spring game. Those two sophomores will be joined by several other high-profile recruits looking to replace the 2012 seniors.
Leading in 2013
To expect Shazier to completely fill the leadership void left by the departure of Simon and Zach Boren would be too much. Shazier is a good, looking to be great, linebacker, and his 2013 season will reflect that fact.
But if Ohio State is going to have another season like the 2012 season, it is going to have to replace Simon's leadership. All the responsibility shouldn't fall on Shazier, because there are other veterans on the defense. But it will be his job to succeed even when offenses are scheming for him.
Don't be surprised if Shazier follows Simon as the Big Ten's best defensive player.
But don't expect Shazier to be Tebowish or Simonish in terms of leadership. He doesn't need to be. He and his teammates just have to keep the fire they saw in Simon alive.
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