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Hankins, Simon lead a talented OSU defensive line group

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a six-part series previewing the 2012 Ohio State football team.

Upon accepting the head football position at Ohio State, Urban Meyer was more than forthcoming about his concern over the ability for certain position groups to compete at the level he expected. 

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Ohio State defensive linemen John Simon (54) and Johnathan Hankins (52) chase Penn State’s Stephon Green during last year’s game in Columbus. Simon and Hankins bring a veteran presence to the Buckeyes’ defensive line. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO | RICK REED

The defensive line was not one of those groups.

The front four enters the season as the team’s marquee unit. Led by defensive end John Simon and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, the Buckeyes’ defensive line boasts nine players with significant game experience. 

Simon, a senior, is being relied on by Meyer as a leader on and off the field. “A warhorse,” Meyer said of Simon. “He is Ohio State football.”

“He is ‘Tebowish’ in terms of his commitment,” added Meyer in comparing Simon’s work ethic to Tim Tebow, Meyer’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida. 

Simon enters his senior campaign with 11.5 career sacks and figures to be only the seventh two-time team captain in program history.

Hankins begins his junior season as the Buckeyes’ highest rated NFL prospect. Draft pundits have him as a top 15 pick should he choose to forgo his senior season in 2013. 

At 6-3, 320 pounds, “Big Hank” finished the 2011 season with 67 tackles, good for fourth on the defense. With his combination of bulk and outstanding athleticism for a player of his size, Hankins can stuff plays at the point of attack while also having the ability to get after the quarterback.

Both Hankins and Simon have been chosen to the Bednarik, Nagurski and Lombardi watch lists. These awards are given to the top players in the country at their respective positions.

The rest of the front four lack the hype that has been bestowed on Hankins and Simon, but they still provide plenty of experience and talent. 

Lining up opposite Simon at defensive end will be junior Adam Bellamy. A 10-game starter last season, Bellamy will be pushed by the ultra-talented Nathan Williams. 

Williams was slated to be a linchpin on the 2011 defensive front, but an early-season knee injury forced him to miss the remainder of the season. Meyer has referred to Williams as a player that the Buckeyes “need to get back.” Other returners who should see significant playing time are sophomores J.T. Moore and Steve Miller.

Lining up beside Hankins at defensive tackle will be senior Garrett Goebel. A former high school state wrestling champion in his native Illinois, Goebel brings a wealth of toughness and experience to the table. He started all 13 games for the Buckeyes in 2011.

Read the complete story in Wednesday's Bellefontaine Examiner.

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