"I've seen him work his butt off. I see him running extra, lifting extra, just trying to get better," Heyward said. "He had a great freshman year so I've always told him he can't have the Cameron Heyward Sophomore Slump, so I'm looking forward to this year."
Heyward delivered the last line with a bit of a grin on his face, but he was serious.
Injuries to older players pushed him into a starting role in 2007, and the native Georgian responded with 10 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks for the eventual Big Ten champions.
A year later - without Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Vernon Gholston drawing extra attention on the other side - Heyward notched three sacks but only 4.5 tackles for loss, numbers he made clear he did not find satisfactory.
Nor did they please Ohio State defensive line coach Jim Heacock.
"He and I have talked about that. I suppose he got that from me," the coach said when asked about Heyward's disappointment with his sophomore season. "What I've seen a lot with freshmen who come in and immediately are in a comfort zone playing and having good things said about them, there's just a natural comfort going into your sophomore year. Then after your sophomore year the coach gets after you a little bit, you get after yourself a little bit, and you're driven a little bit more. You're hungrier.
"If you did a study you might find that would be accurate for a lot of freshmen who come in and have success."
Simon, a 6-2, 270-pounder from Youngstown, was not a freshman starter as Heyward was, but he did make an impact with his impressive strength and aggressive nature. Simon notched 15 tackles, including four for loss and 1.5 sacks, during 114 minutes, the fifth-most among defensive linemen.
This season he is poised to move into the starting role Doug Worthington vacated.
"Right now I'm just trying to do my best, get better every day," Simon said. "Hopefully I do well this year, but really it's about the team. We're really working well as a team right now. We get our fits at the right time, we get our timing down. We're just trying to perfect that before the season."
Simon found his way into the rotation despite the presence of four seniors on the depth chart, and he credited their guidance and his own hard work for his success.
"Everyone on the D-line has their own unique status, but this year we're all focusing on going to the whistle and hunting people down even if they break free, so we're just doing our best and improving on our weaknesses every day," he said. "It doesn't take a lot of talent to get to the ball. that's just effort. Everyone is running to the ball and fighting to make that tackle and help the team out."