John Simon was one of three former players to receive championship rings at halftime of this past Saturday’s Ohio State spring game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The defensive end more than did his part in helping the Buckeyes run the regular season table with a 12-0 record despite the specter of sanctions that kept them out of the Big Ten’s championship game and any postseason bowl games.
When a team of that quality loses a player like Simon – the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 44 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks for the Buckeyes – the obvious question is: how is he replaced?
Having a five-star recruit who played in 10 games as a true freshman doesn’t hurt.
Adolphus Washington is going to be counted on heavily this season as he is a leading answer to the question of how to replace not just Simon but the seven defensive starters no longer on the team that includes the entire starting defensive line.
Washington made a good first impression during the spring game, where he finished with 4.5 tackles and four sacks in his hometown. Yes, spring games aren’t the greatest barometers of success, especially when you don’t actually have to tackle the quarterback, in this case Braxton Miller, but when considering the alternative it’s a better prospect for the future.
“Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer after the scrimmage. “He’s a legitimate player as a starter at Ohio State. We saw him today just have his way with the offensive line. He could be a very good player.”
Washington was an Associated Press state Player of the Year in football and basketball at Cincinnati’s Taft High School, in the city’s west end. Taft has revitalized itself over the past decade, going from being one of the worst schools not just in the Cincinnati Public School system but the entire state of Ohio to earning a National Blue Ribbon of Excellence award from the U.S. Department of Education.
Part of the school’s revitalization was also in athletics. Washington helped lead the Senators to the football playoffs for the first time as a junior and senior. Taft won the Division III state basketball title in Washington’s junior season and was a Division II regional finalist his senior season.
Making the jump from high school to the Big Ten brought some lessons.
“It’s going out there and playing hard every play because in college everybody plays hard every play. I’m still learning that,” said Washington, who admitted he was surprised by how much of a difference there was in levels.
Washington and fellow sophomore-to-be Noah Spence are at the top of the depth chart at defensive end. Spence had four tackles and three sacks in the spring game for the Gray team. He played more downs (237) last season than Washington (156) and, like Washington, was a five-star recruit out of high school in Harrisburg, Pa. The tandem has the potential to become among the best in Ohio State history.
“Noah looked real good. We’re dorm mates so we talk about it a lot about going out there, going out to practice and doing what we’ve got to do,” said Washington. “It sends us into the summer with a lot of confidence right now. At the beginning of the spring, we had a lot of confidence but not as much as we have right now.”
The Scarlet beat the Gray, 31-14, for what it’s worth, behind Miller’s 16-of-25 passing day for 217 yards, touchdown throws and one touchdown run. More importantly, the film produced by Washington and Spence should help alleviate any concerns about replacing seven defensive starters.
“The defensive line is the most important thing on the defense,” said senior cornerback C.J. Barnett. “We’re going to go as far as they’re going to go. Them getting pressure and doing what they need to do is going to help everybody else on the back end.”