STILLWATER — Caleb Lavey was not the most athletic linebacker to patrol Big 12 tundra. Yet Lavey made first-team all-conference for OSU in 2013 because he was a smart, savvy player. He knew where to be and how to get there.
Now junior-to-be Ryan Simmons moves into the middle linebacker spot for the Cowboys. Simmons has played extensively; he had 67 tackles last season as OSU’s weakside linebacker, plus an interception. Simmons has proven to be a playmaker.
Now Simmons has to prove that his mental side of the game is as advanced as the physical side.
“Caleb, he’s one of those guys, he knows everything,” said Simmons, who backed up Lavey in 2012. “Just the way he prepared. Certain things he picked up, I’m sure I saw. Just knowing the defense, I’m going to have to make sure I hold myself accountable for it and being up to the same level as Caleb.”
The middle linebacker calls the defensive signals. Identifies the offensive formation and makes the proper adjustments. It requires a sharp mind and veteran eyes.
“I’m willing to take it on,” Simmons said. “If coach (Glenn) Spencer’s giving me the opportunity to fill this role, I’m going to do everything it takes to do it.”
OSU’s spring practice started last week, and the Cowboys will have a rebuilt defense. OSU had seven senior starters on defense in 2013. A veteran like Simmons would have been important even had he stayed at weakside linebacker. In the middle, Simmons’ experience is even more invaluable.