Bucknuts Mag Excerpts: "Instant Impact"

Wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell made a positive impact on last year's team after coming over from Rutgers. At the end of the 2004 season, we had a chance to speak with Hazell about his first year at OSU. The Q&A ran in the March 2005 edition of Bucknuts the Magazine, and today we have some excerpts from that article. Read on for more.

As part of the redesign of the Bucknuts.com web site, we have added an area where we can publish excerpts from Bucknuts The Magazine. Each week, we will put in a new excerpt from the latest edition of Bucknuts The Magazine.

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In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports, including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other sports.

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This week's excerpt is from March 2005 issue, which was our 2005 Recruiting Spectacular. But we also talked about more than just recruiting in that issue. This article is a portion of a Q&A with OSU assistant Darrell Hazell, who talked with us about his first year at Ohio State.

Headline: Instant Impact

By Charles Babb

As the 2004 Ohio State football season wound down, we had a chance to sit down and do an interview with wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell.

Hazell was wrapping up his first season on the OSU staff. We discussed the team's improvement on special teams, the life of a college football assistant coach, the wide receiver corps and what may lie ahead in 2005.

Special Teams

Bucknuts The Magazine: You are in charge of what specifically with special teams?

Darrell Hazell: "I have the whole unit kick return, and on the punt return I am responsible for the deep cast."

BTM: Can you talk about kickoff returns?

Hazell: "One of the things we set out at the beginning of the season is we are going to do a little bit of things and do them very well. I think that is what we kind of worked on all year long. It doesn't matter who you plug in up front, the second wave – I won't say back deep, but you have to be consistent what you do. Because you do it so little – you only get four of five practice reps, six practice reps throughout the course of the week – you can't do too much. So, we tried to simplify it and then tried to be real aggressive. We use a term ‘strain' – once you're on the block you have to strain that extra second."

BTM: What was so complex?

Hazell: "Not so complex, but what happens is if you come in each week and try to do a different scheme it takes time. We only have so many practice reps with those units. We might get a total of four, five, maybe six practice reps throughout the course of the week. If you are changing the scheme each week, that's all you see them. We've been practicing the same return since the first day of camp – the same kickoff return. It's the one we always fall back on. We might have two or three schemes in, but we are always going to fall back on one basic return."

BTM: Did you bring schemes from Rutgers?

Hazell: "I did. All the kickoff return stuff I brought with me. These guys have input obviously in the return game obviously, in the kickoff return game. I think what happens is Doc Tressel is working with the second line, Luke Fickell is working with those back guys, and Joe (Daniels) is doing a great job with returns and Coach Tucker handled the front wedge. We all worked together and tried to get something accomplished."

BTM: Is there any one thing you told the players that clicked?

Hazell: "The biggest thing – the very first meeting I put up a big M for McDonald's. I said to them, what is the one thing about this company, this organization? They said, ‘They do things over and over and over again all over the world, they do them consistently, and they are the best in the business.' I think guys bought into that. We're going to do one return, we're going to do it better than anyone else, and we're going to have an answer for everything. So, I think they bought into that pretty good."

BTM: How rewarding was it to see Maurice Hall excel?

Hazell: "I tell you what, I was so happy for that guy. You look at him, and the guys tease him all the time about being an old man, but he has a knack for that. He catches it, and he doesn't shake and bake – he just hits the small creases, runs through some arm tackles, and comes out the back end. I was fired up for the guy. He deserves it. He deserves it. He puts himself in that position to make plays, and I'm happy for him."

BTM: The punt return team was phenomenal. How did that come together?

Hazell: "Like you said, the punt return has been good. We've been able to put two guys back deep. The other guy has protected him pretty well, and that has been really big. Something like three of those returns, the off returner protected him (the returner) pretty well so the returner has been able to get started. If we can get some creases and come out the back end of creases, we will have some success."

BTM: Whose idea was the two men back?

Hazell: "That was Coach Tressel's idea actually. Coach Tressel kind of pounded the table for that, and I totally agree. We need to get some help back there especially if they are going to start kicking away from guys. The original reason is that we thought they were going to start kicking away from Santonio (Holmes), but that has helped us out tremendously."

The Life Of A Coach

BTM: Can you talk about transition in the coaching staff?

Hazell: "I think if you have good people it is a lot easier. Obviously, you are still trying to learn people's personalities and how to deal with them in staff meetings and things like that, but I thought we – the new guys on the staff – clicked very well. We didn't come in and try to set the world on fire. We just came in and tried to mesh and continue the success they have had here in the past."

BTM: How does this affect game planning, strategy, etc.? Most staffs in transition lose more games the first year.

Hazell: "I think what happens is guys start to know what other guys are thinking after you have been together for a while. That's a good thing, and that's a bad thing. I think it is always good to get new ideas. Coach (John) Peterson's had some ideas and input, and I have had some ideas and input; I think it helped the offense over the course of time. Once guys get the feel for each other – like you say – it starts to flow pretty good."

BTM: Have you had an incident that stood out to you as the difference between Rutgers and OSU?

Hazell: "My first encounter at a restaurant I had at Damon's restaurant where I was sitting down, and I had a family staring at me like the second week I was here. I had no Ohio State garb on, but the family – there was like seven of them sitting there staring at me. I was eating and trying to watch the big television screen. When they were finished eating they came over to my table and said, ‘Are you a Buckeye?' I said, ‘Yes' and they went crazy. They started screaming. That's never happened to me before. That's never happened."

BTM: With a young team you have to know your chances of winning decrease, but you don't want to chalk games up as losses. What do you do as a coaching staff?

Hazell: "If that's our mentality, we have problems. We don't think like that as coaches. I think we think – what is the best way? Do we go wholesale with him or do you spot him and play him in certain situations and get the ball in his hands in certain situations? I think that was our approach initially. Honestly? Honestly, you like to think you can win every game coming in. You look at the schedule and say, ‘Yeah, we can get…' but you know some teams are going to be tougher than others. I think we are a pretty confident group."

BTM: How difficult as a coach is it to make playing time decisions?

Hazell: "It's hard. You know why it's hard? It's hard because you want to build relationships with your players. You are constantly trying to get their trust, and then all of a sudden you have to make a business decision to put the right guys on the field for the right reasons. That's hard. That's probably one of the hardest things about coaching."

BTM: The difference for the coaching staff – year two – how big is that?

Hazell: "It's big. Now they don't have to teach us the offense. We don't have to ask those questions we may not know coming in. We know those so we can go to the next (step) – attacking teams and defenses. We are not a step behind. We should be light years ahead in that fashion."

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