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Thursday, February 21, 2013
Big Ten rankings: No. 4, John Simon

By Brian Bennett

Our postseason Big Ten player rankings, based solely on 2012 performance, have advanced to the final four.

Everyone from this quartet has an argument to be ranked No. 1, though only one can win that honor. Leading off our fantastic foursome is a guy who Buckeyes fans won't soon forget ...

No. 4: John Simon, DE, Ohio State, senior, 6-foot-2, 263 pounds

Preseason ranking: No. 3

2012 numbers: Collected 44 tackles, including nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 11 games.

Why he's here: First, let's allow Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to shower praise on the heart and soul of his undefeated 2012 team.

From the preseason: "He’s a freak. I’ve not been around a guy like that, other than my quarterback -- that left-handed kid at Florida, Tebow."

From a September win over Cal: "If we have another child I want to name him, what is it, Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that. That's how much I love that guy. I'm not ashamed to say I love him.”

What did Simon do to earn such high regard from his new coach? Well, he was one of the hardest-working, most dedicated players Ohio State had seen in some time. His work in the weight room was legendary. And he became the unquestioned leader of the Buckeyes, battling through injuries and leaving everything he had on the field.

But that alone wasn't enough for Simon to win Big Ten defensive player of the year honors. He also led the league in sacks per game and was among the tops in tackles for loss despite dealing with several aches and pains throughout the season. It had to kill him to miss the finale against Michigan because of a knee injury, and you know he would have played if there was any way he could have. But he still had a huge impact on the undefeated season, including his five tackles for loss and two sacks against Nebraska in a signature performance.

Pro scouts will wonder this week whether Simon is too small or too stiff to be an effective player at the next level. But if NFL personnel call asking for Meyer's opinion -- or anyone associated with Ohio State, for that matter -- they'll all be told the same thing: Dude is a warrior.

The countdown

No. 25: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
No. 24: Michael Carter, CB, Minnesota
No. 23: Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
No. 22: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska
No. 21: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
No. 20: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
No. 19: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
No. 18: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin
No. 17: Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
No. 16: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
No. 15: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
No. 14: Matt McGloin, QB, Penn State
No. 13: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
No. 12: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
No. 11: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
No. 10: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
No. 9: Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
No. 8: Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
No. 7: Taylor Lewan, LT, Michigan
No. 6: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
No. 5: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska