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June 18, 2013

Washington has big shoes to fill

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's not his talent that's the question; Adolphus Washington has plenty of that. It's not his size either; the former four-star recruit measures in at an impressive 6-foot-3, 292 pounds. But if Washington is going to successfully replace John Simon at Ohio State's strongside defensive end position, he knows that there's at least one thing that he needs to improve in his sophomore season: his work ethic.

After all, that's what was perhaps the defining quality in Simon, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a fourth round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in this past April's NFL Draft. A reserve defensive tackle in his freshman season, Washington said that he knows that it's up to him to up match the intensity that he witnessed from Simon on the Buckeyes' defensive line.

"One of my biggest problems last year was I didn't go out there and play hard every play. And everybody knows John Simon, that's what he does," Washington said. "We've just got to go out and compete every play. If we let down just one play we know the eyes are already on us."

After recording nine tackles -- including three sacks -- in spot duty in 2012, the Cincinnati, Ohio native has already drawn rave reviews in his new role as a starter. It may have only been an exhibition, but Washington stole the show in Ohio State's spring game in April, recording four sacks in a performance that was full of promise.

What should bring more optimism than that, however, is that Buckeyes defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said that Washington -- along with fellow starter Noah Spence -- were even more impressive in their spring practice sessions that were closed to the public.

"We approached every Saturday scrimmage as defensive linemen as if it was a game for us," Vrabel said. "Throughout the scrimmages and Saturdays, they were productive and that's what most of their grade in my evaluation came on."

Although the Taft high school product shined in the spring, the Ohio State coaching staff never lets him forget who he's attempting to replace. Simon was not only the face of the Buckeyes' undefeated team a year ago, but one of the more productive defensive linemen that Ohio State has ever produced. His 45 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, and nine sacks will certainly be difficult to replicate, as will the leadership that the Buckeyes have lost.

"The coaches let us know about that every day," Washington said. "As we got better they let off a little bit, but whenever we have slack days, they let us know about it."

Much of Simon's legend around Columbus stems from the praise that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer heaped on his team's former "heart and soul," once joking -- or perhaps not -- that his next son's name would be Urban John Simon Meyer. That should make the positive things he's said about Washington this offseason all the more encouraging for Buckeyes fans, although he'll need to see plenty more from the sophomore before thinking about naming an offspring after him.

"Every time he grades out a nine or a 10 in his attitude and effort, and really everything that he does," Meyer said of Washington. "We grade every day. He's just a wonderful kid.

"The first half of spring I wasn't buying that stock, but I'm buying it now."

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