Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2 ¾, 230 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Simon has three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Simon tested the waters at each of the three linebacker positions this spring, beginning as the widely-presumed starter at Rover and ending as the probable backup to fifth-year Asmar Bilal at Mike linebacker.
Recruiting: Most of the Big Ten, including Michigan and Ohio State, chased the consensus four-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American, as did six ACC programs. Simon was ranked the No. 12 outside linebacker and No. 159 overall prospect by rivals.com.
CAREER TO DATE
Simon appeared in nine games as a freshman, making four tackles with half a tackle for loss and one pass breakup. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s broken foot certainly boosted Simon’s role, but he likely would have appeared in more than half the games, regardless.
Simon seemed to have found a home in goal line packages, an added physical body but one that could still cover a running back in the flat. It was, in fact, a third-and-goal from the one at Virginia Tech in which Simon combined with Te’von Coney for a tackle four yards behind the line of scrimmage, preserving Notre Dame’s then-slim lead.
Bilal moving from Rover to an inside position was long-expected. Needing the extra step of Buck to Mike in order to find the right inside position was not a great concern. Simon moving from Rover to Buck to Mike, however, was both unexpected and a bit odd given Simon was seemingly recruited for Rover.
“We felt like early in the spring, as much as we liked what he was doing to the field (at Rover), his physique, his body type, just how he looked physically and how he’s grown, we don’t want to put limitations on where — he’s still in his first year — where that frame will continue to grow and tightened spaces for him allow him to play physically, play fast,” Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea said at the end of spring practices. “We see him as a factor in the box right now.
“He slid in to play some Mike for us, just as a way to get him box experience, get him reps. Obviously, I think he’s a guy that could do both. His experience, even last year playing Buck, will help if we need to slide him over.”
WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“When fifth-year linebacker Drue Tranquill moved inside after a successful 2017 spent at Rover, it opened the door for Simon to contribute defensively right away. It is still somewhat unlikely, but it would have been outright unfathomable (barring injury) with Tranquill at the position for his final season and second as a captain.
“Bilal will still get the first chance, and his physicality sets him up well to handle any running attacks. He has yet to show thorough adeptness against the pass, though, an area where perhaps (Isaiah) Robertson might excel.
“Simon, theoretically, presents both possibilities. If Bilal were to be exposed against the pass and Robertson against the run, then either Simon or (Jeremiah) Owusu-Koramoah could be needed against a genuinely-capable offense, whoever is more ready.
At the least, Simon’s athleticism should lead to him working on kickoff coverage this season. Preserving a year of eligibility would be a mild surprise.”
Simon may move (back) to another position again this preseason. Given the constant flux at linebacker, it would not be all that shocking if Simon started at any of the three positions on Labor Day (76 days). A preseason development? Yes, but no longer an outright shock.
Or, just as likely, if not more likely, Simon could remain Bilal’s backup. The latter played well enough against the pass last year, but it has never been his forte or an area in which he is most comfortable. Thus, Mike should highlight Bilal’s best skills, making it unlikely Simon leapfrogs him this season.
That does not inherently mean Simon will not get meaningful snaps. Bilal is neither Coney nor Nyles Morgan. Notre Dame intends to actually rotate linebackers this season. That is in part due to the lack of established veterans, and in part due to a bevy of possible contributors.
“Even if it’s 10 or 15 reps, ownership of that, knowing that you’re going to be on the field, it just pushes everything forward in preparation,” Lea said in early March. “… If we get to the fall and we can’t do it because we feel like performance suffers, then that’s something we have to confront, but at this point, we’re looking to open the doors up and ask the guys just to earn what they want.”
Simon spelling Bilal will aid Bilal’s effectiveness in November and will further Simon’s real-time development. That may be the best indicator of a successful sophomore year for Simon. If he reaches 15 tackles in competitive scrimmage moments, those would be 15 collisions Bilal was spared.
DOWN THE ROAD
Notching 15 tackles from scrimmage this season would also strengthen Simon’s chances of starting in 2020 with Bilal gone. Of expected linebacker contributors, only Bilal will use up his eligibility this year, making it beneficial to Simon to say at Mike linebacker. There he will have only classmate Bo Bauer to compete with for playing time. Even if Bauer matures as was once projected from him as a recruit, Simon could at least split snaps.
There will be a clear chance there, even if these days everything around the linebackers is cloudy.
NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 50: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star