Kudla Wants To Make Big Push As Senior

OSU senior defensive end Mike Kudla understands the importance of getting a good pass rush. Kudla, reputedly OSU's strongest player, has worked hard this off-season on flexibility and is hoping to keep the injury bug at bay. Click here for more on Kudla.

Improving the pass rush is job one for Ohio State senior defensive end Mike Kudla.

"My role is to get as much pressure on that quarterback as I can," Kudla said. "We've got a great defense and the coaches are saying, `Let's get pressure on these quarterbacks and not let them sit back there all day.' I worked hard this summer on getting a faster first step and being a little bit more limber. I want to create havoc with sacks and cause some mayhem."

The 6-3, 265-pound Kudla is reputedly OSU's strongest player. But even the strongest of players can be hamstrung by injuries. A pinched nerve in his neck cost Kudla time early last year. Then, after starting the final six games of 2004 at the Leo rush end position, Kudla missed time in the spring.

But earlier this week, he declared himself 100 percent full-go. And, if he can stay that way for any appreciable amount of time, that could be bad news for opposing offenses this fall.

"I feel wonderful," said Kudla, who once lost 40 pounds battling a viral infection after his freshman year in 2003. "I took a lot of extra time this summer to work hard and get ready for this season. I feel great right now.

"I'm really excited. I worked really hard this summer, harder than I ever have before to make sure I'm prepared physically and mentally for the long season. We have a lot of possibilities this year and I want to make the most of it."

Kudla even took up Pilates this off-season to help improve his flexibility.

"It helped me flexibility-wise and being fluid and just working yourself a different way," he said.

Kudla has played in 38 of 39 games over the last three years. Last year, he scratched the surface of his abilities with 28 tackles, 6-1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks.

"Mike Kudla, by the end of last year, I thought was playing pretty well," OSU coach Jim Tressel said.

Kudla is optimistic the defensive line can pick up where it left off last year.

"We have great depth," he said. "We finished up last year with a lot of guys getting to play. Coming into this year, we have good numbers. I guess that's a good starting point.

"A lot of the young defensive linemen that came in and worked with us did a good job. They came in and asked questions and were around us this summer. It will be easier for them because they've been working with us and learning the defense. That's the big thing because if you're thinking you're not playing. They've shown good work ethic and they ask a lot of questions."

Kudla talked about the rigors of preseason camp.

"The tempo really gets going," he said. "We crank it up a notch. You get your body ready physically and mentally for the long season in the Big Ten.

"Camp is always camp. It is exciting to get back here with the guys and throw the pads on. But it's long and it's grueling. It's going to be a good time because we're all coming back and should have a good team this year.

"The first four days are kind of slow for the upperclassmen because we go over basic stuff we've been doing for four years. It's hard on the freshmen because we throw a lot of stuff at them. On Saturday, we throw on the pads and get after it. That's what it's all about. Saturday is always a fun day for us."

For a team full of football junkies, you might even say it was fun – if it wasn't nearly so grueling.

"It's 24 hours a day football, but most of us live for that," Kudla said. "On the days off this summer, most of us found ourselves over here. That's just the way we are. It's fast and furious and it's tough on the freshmen. But everybody helps everybody else get through it.

"For us, the older guys, we've all been in every situation. Being prepared and being smart about things is important. You know when to push it real hard and then come back a little bit because camp and the season go on for a long time."

Although OSU has a big game with Texas scheduled in week two, Kudla said the Buckeyes will focus on the task at hand.

"You put it out of your mind," he said. "The focus has to be on Miami 100 percent. The minute you look at something else, that's when you can stumble."

Kudla, a product of Medina (Ohio) Highland, saw firsthand as a freshman in 2002 how going week to week can translate into a national championship season.

"The sky is the limit," he said. "We need to keep a level head. We have a great schedule and a huge test in front of us."

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