Heacock Preaching Team Concept to Defense

First-year defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has a lot of talent at his disposal and the Buckeyes could be one of the nation's top defenses, as they were in 2002-03. Heacock is excited for the season, but downplays his role personally. We caught up with the coach for more on his new job and the defense.

If you want an ego guy, you aren't going to find it with Jim Heacock.

The first-year Ohio State defensive coordinator is humble as they come and doesn't believe life will be much different as the Buckeyes' top defensive mind.

"It's great," Heacock said of his new role. "I think the thing that makes it is the players. That's the thing that you enjoy. I don't know, the title doesn't do a whole lot for me. But, the opportunity to work with these seniors in particular – they've done a great job this offseason and during camp so far. They've done a great job."

Heacock is entering his 10th season at OSU and also has experience as a head coach at Illinois State. He's seen a little bit of everything, so it takes a lot to get him excited. He'll be the one making the defensive calls this year, but downplays the role.

"No, I don't think it will be much different," Heacock said. "We've got three great assistants: Luke (Fickell), Paul (Haynes) and Tim (Beckman) and along with myself, it's going to be a team effort. I don't get into that part of it that much. We're going to work together on the game plan and calling the game and making adjustments. I enjoy working with the players and I enjoy seeing the team play as a team and not get into the individual side of it so much."

Every defensive coordinator is different. Mark Dantonio coached from the press box. Mark Snyder was on the sidelines.

"I'll be on the sidelines," Heacock said. "Luke and Tim will be upstairs and Paul will be with me on the sidelines."

Switching gears to personnel, Heacock can't help but feel optimistic. His specialty is the defensive line and he believes it will be a much-improved unit.

"I feel good about them," Heacock said. "I feel good about the leadership. Marcus Green and Mike Kudla had great summers and I know they are anxious to have a great senior year. I feel good about them and I feel good about the depth. Quinn Pitcock and Jay Richardson are fourth-year guys that we're excited about. I just think we have guys that have played now for a couple years and we've got four nice freshmen coming in. I just think it's a really talented group, a hard-working group and a group that doesn't care who gets the credit. That's the neat thing."

The 6-3, 295-pound Pitcock is receiving well-deserved preseason accolades. The 6-6, 280-pound Richardson is the unknown, but showed up to camp in outstanding shape.

"Jay is looking real good," Heacock said. "He's had a good offseason. A great offseason. He's had a good camp so far."

Heacock was asked which player would likely be the No. 3 defensive end.

"David Patterson right now, probably," he said. "Then we've got Vernon Gohlston, Alex Barrow and we've got the two young freshmen – Lawrence Wilson and Doug Worthington – who are looking good."

The No. 3 tackle will likely be Joel Penton (6-5, 290, Jr.). A guy who just keeps getting bigger and stronger each season.

"Yeah, Joel has been playing for two years now and he'll be a top backup for us," Heacock said. "David Patterson can play inside. He can play inside or outside, so he'll be a guy that we'll get in there an awful lot. So, we've got a number of guys. It's just a matter of getting them to play together and getting them to make plays. We want to be a little bit more active."

Heacock says the young defensive tackles – Sian Cotton and Nader Abdallah – are coming along fairly well.

"Yeah, they've both had good camps so far and they had good offseason," he said. "So yeah, I think they'll be in there. There's going to be a bunch of them competing. That's the nice thing, there's a lot of competition going on right now."

Heacock has three All-American candidates at linebacker and will rely on them heavily. He reminds A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel constantly of their role on the team.

"Lead. Be team members," he said. "To me, that's what they have to do. They have to be team leaders and just do their job."

Heacock was asked if the Buckeyes' would use more 3-4 alignments this season to get players like Marcus Freeman on the field. But you know a veteran coach like this is not giving away any secrets.

"No, same as last year," he said with a little bit of a smile.

In the secondary, the Buckeyes are loaded at safety and have one of the best corners in the nation in junior Ashton Youtboty. Tyler Everett is a first-year starting cornerback and the coaches are optimistic he will get the job done. But it could go either way.

Heacock likes what he sees from the secondary as a whole.

"Good group," he said. "They've got some experience. The safeties, Donte (Whitner) is a hitter and Nate (Salley) is a hitter. I like that, the fact that we've got two hitters back there that can come up and can play football up there on the line of scrimmage.

"I think Tyler is getting broken in at corner; he's played mostly safety for us, so that's a little bit of a change. But he had a good summer. He's in good condition and ready to go. And then of course Ashton has had a good career so far. So, I think they fit right in with the team concept."

Heacock was asked who will be the No. 3 corner.

"Don't know yet," he replied.

Could it be Ted Ginn Jr.?

"Don't know yet," Heacock said. "You'll have to ask somebody up higher than I am."

OK, so the coach isn't giving away any of his secrets. Fair enough. But look for him to do a solid job in his first year running the defense, with a little help from his friends.

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