INDIANAPOLIS – If the Colts are going to make a significant jump in their defensive play this season, they will be relying quite heavily on some Ohio State Buckeyes.
Urban Meyer has had a hand in the development of DT-Johnathan Hankins, OLB-John Simon and S-Malik Hooker.
Earlier this offseason, Meyer was asked about Simon, the linebacker from Youngstown, Ohio.
The praise Meyer threw out there?
Tim Tebow-type praise.
"I'd put him in the Tebow category," Meyer said of Simon.
"Of all the players I've ever coached, (Simon) and Tebow are two of the toughest I've been around. Tough as hell."
Simon was one of the earliest free agent signings the Colts had in 2017.
He's one of the several new faces charged with re-shaping the new-look outside linebacker bunch for the Colts.
Just over a month after Simon signed to return to the Midwest, Hankins, his college teammate, also came back to this part of the United States.
The Colts having a player like Hankins has been missing for quite some time.
Simon knows what such a body can do for a 3-4 scheme.
"That takes guys off me when he's in there taking two (blockers)," Simon says. "I know he's going to help the defense a lot. He's a great player.
"It's a huge piece, especially for the inside linebackers, being able to get downhill on run plays fast and not have guards climb to them."
One year after Simon and Hankins left Columbus to pursue their NFL dreams, Hooker was entering the football program at Ohio State.
Three years later, and two weeks to the day after Hankins joined the Colts, Chris Ballard completed his Buckeye trifecta by drafting Hooker.
The three Ohio State products will now try to back up the lofty aspirations that Hankins referenced earlier this month.
"Right now I feel like we've got the best defense in the AFC," Hankins said. "On paper it looks good, but we've got to go out there and prove it. If we can just come together during OTAs and Training Camp and trust each other I feel like we can be real dominant out there.
"Chris (Ballard) did a tremendous job of bringing a lot of guys in here. Even going into the draft, he brought in even more defensive guys. Of course, we have a few Buckeyes on the defense too. I love the new atmosphere we've got going on in here about winning. I'm just ready to take the next step with them."
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