Player Spotlight - Mike Kudla

Standout DE/LB Mike Kudla from Highland High School in Medina, OH signed with OSU in February. What's the latest?

Since we've last heard from Mike Kudla, he's gotten bigger, stronger... and even faster.

"I'm up to 6-4, 250," Kudla said. "I've added about 15 pounds since the season ended - all in my legs and chest. I've been working out really hard on Ohio State's program."

Kudla is what you might call a workout freak. He bench presses 510 pounds (that's not a misprint) and was recently clocked in the 40 at 4.46 seconds.

"I'm a little quicker and faster than I was at 235. I didn't play basketball this year so I could focus on working out and it's paying off. Ohio State has a real hard training program and I follow it as close as I can."

Kudla is slated to begin his Buckeye career at defensive end, but could move to linebacker.

"I'm very comfortable at rush end, I feel very good about that position. But I could end up anywhere."

The Medina Highland product racked up 210 tackles, 27 tackles for loss and six sacks as a senior playing mostly at linebacker. He shared Division III defensive player of the year honors with OSU signee Joel Penton.

"That's the biggest honor I've ever had in football along with being named All-American."

Kudla played "a lot" on the defensive line as a junior and had 167 tackles, earning him first-team All-Ohio (an award he also picked up as a sophomore).

After that junior season, the recruiting heat shot up a few degrees. Kudla began hearing from nearly every top program in the country, but finally narrowed his choices down to Ohio State, Florida and Tennessee.

"I'd say Florida would have been my second choice."

What factors gave OSU the edge?

"Being from Ohio, growing up a big Ohio State fan and definitely coach Tressel - he's a great person. It just was the right fit for me both academically and athletically."

Kudla said he liked the recruiting process for the most part.

"I had a lot of fun with it. It was a big decision for me, but I enjoyed meeting a lot of new people. There were some ups and downs, but definitely more ups than downs."

Kudla was recruited to OSU by defensive backs coach Mel Tucker.

"I got to know coach Tucker real well. But I spoke with a lot of the coaches - they are like a really tight knit family."

What about Tressel? How often did he check in?

"Oh, I talked to coach Tressel a lot. Out of the blue, he'd call just to see how you were doing. One time I received a letter from him wishing me good luck before a playoff game. That got me really pumped up."

Kudla didn't take his official visit to OSU until January. He was hosted by Simon Fraser.

"I met almost all of the players that weekend."

He also knows most of his fellow '02 recruits.

"I know a lot of them really good. Pretty much all of the Ohio guys, especially the ones from the northern part of the state... It's a little harder with the out-of-state guys."

Kudla's reaction to OSU's No. 2 ranking in the recruiting race?

"That's not a big deal to me, four years from now is what matters. Hopefully we work our way up to No. 1 when it counts."

Many Buckeye fans expect that Kudla will step right in as a freshman and contribute at defensive end. Juniors Will Smith and Darrion Scott are the likely starters, but with Kenny Peterson's move to tackle, there is a spot available on the two-deep (Fraser is the other backup).

"I don't want to redshirt, any type of playing time would be great. Whether it's on the two-deep at rush end, or on special teams, I just want to play."

What does Kudla consider his strengths?

"My speed, size and instincts. I've also been working hard on my rush moves."

What part of his game needs improvement?

"You can always improve your speed and quickness. The game is so much faster on the college level and that will be the biggest adjustment."

Kudla will be at OSU for "a couple of days" during spring practice. He's excited to get down there, but he really can't wait for July 28 - the date freshmen officially report.

"I'm definitely excited. It's going to be a big change in my life and a big thrill being around the players and coaches and being a part of this program."

Kudla carries a 3.9 GPA at Highland, but has not yet decided what he'll major in at OSU.

"I was thinking about business marketing, but now I'm still looking around and working with their counselors."

When he's not lifting, or studying, you can bet you'll find Kudla working on his truck and jamming to some tunes.

"I love music and I love working on my truck and its speakers."

Any favorite type of music?

"Not really, I like everything. But you need to have a little heavy metal when you're working out."

The first thing that comes to mind after talking with Mike Kudla? The guy seems too good to be true. He's obviously a gifted athlete (510 pound bench press and sub-4.5 speed?), but he's also gracious with his time, very intelligent and seems to have a great work ethic. It will be a lot of fun watching him over the next four years.

Special thanks to Mike for the interview!!!

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