Schlegel Wants to Bring Back 'Silver Bullets'

Senior middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel racked up tackles during his two-year career at the Air Force Academy. Last year at Ohio State, Schlegel played fairly well, but believes he has a lot more to offer. We recently spoke with Schlegel who gave his usual interesting takes on a wide variety of subjects.

During the dog days of camp, Ohio State senior middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel is one of the players that is good for team morale.

Schlegel is the unquestioned free spirit of the team and can always be found laughing and joking with his teammates. But when it's time to play football, few are as intense as the former Air Force Falcon.

Last year was Schlegel's first season of eligibility at OSU and after a somewhat slow start, he came on and proved to be the ideal compliment to outside 'backers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter.

The 6-1, 250-pound Schlegel is an old-school middle linebacker. He likes taking on fullbacks in the hole. He just enjoys smash-mouth football in general.

Schlegel had 84 tackles last season, a drop-off from the 116 he racked up at Air Force as a sophomore in 2002. However, don't be surprised if Schlegel once again cracks the 100-tackle mark this season.

But Schlegel doesn't want to hear about personal statistics. He just wants to win football games.

"Well, (new defensive coordinator Jim) Heacock, he's been awesome," Schlegel said. "He talks a lot about being focused and putting the team first. That's what he is stressing. When we're on the field, we're 11 silver bullets flying around to the ball. And that's all he is talking about. Eleven silver bullets.

"It's great because we'll stand up in meetings – he'll talk about the defense – and if you had an interception, or caused a fumble, recovered a fumble – he makes you stand up and everybody claps for you because that's what we want is to force turnovers and he's really getting that whole team concept and doing everything we can to get a turnover and help the offense."

We haven't heard much of the term "silver bullets" the last few years. Former defensive coordinator Fred Pagac coined the phrase in the mid-90's and it was a fan favorite overnight. As far as nicknames go for defenses (and there have been a lot of them, especially in the NFL) it doesn't get much better than that.

"We're bringing it back," Schlegel said of the silver bullets. "Bringing it back."

But before they unleash their arsenal, the Buckeyes must first get through preseason camp.

"The first week is always just about getting back into it," Schlegel said. "It's kind of nice because everyone is focused and no one is tired really yet. And we get a lot accomplished. Coach Heacock talks about focus, team and flying around. And, really, that's what we've been focusing on. That's what we've been doing.

"Coach Heacock tells us all the time – whether we're on the practice field, or meetings – to stay focused. And he knows when you're not focused because that's when you start to have those mental mistakes. That's what he wants. He wants us to be perfect and he wants us to fly around."

Two-a-days began last Monday and Schlegel knows that mental toughness is the key to getting through them.

"You've got to focus even more during two-a-days," he said. "You better get a nap between practices. That's what it is. It's just going to mean that you have to focus that much more in order not to make mental mistakes."

Schlegel is part of a veteran defense that includes seven seniors and four juniors in the projected starting lineup. Having experience like that will only help the Buckeyes' chances at making a run at the Big Ten championship and possibly national championship.

"Well, we do have a lot of guys that have been in the system for quite some time," Schlegel said. "We're sitting in there and we know what's going on. And it's good though, because (linebackers coach Luke) Fickell will ask us questions while he's teaching the young guys. So, it keeps you fresh and also it allows you to see different patterns that come up that you might need to adjust to and so you're always thinking. So, granted, we pretty much know all the things, but it's good that you always keep thinking."

Schlegel doesn't just talk about the team concept. He walks it. He was the star linebacker at Air Force, but doesn't mind taking somewhat of a backseat to A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter at OSU.

"It's great. We have a great time," Schlegel said of playing alongside Hawk and Carpenter. "I'm just so happy that everyone is healthy. We just really just hang around and play and after practice go workout again. It's just that camaraderie and friendship that's there, it's just awesome."

The three linebackers have only been playing together for two years. But Schlegel says it feels like they've been together for a lifetime.

"That's what's really fun about it," he said. "I know that Bobby is going to do this, I'm going to come over the top and if the guy is still out there, A.J. is going to come over and make the play. It's just that feeling where you know that guy is going to be there."

Schlegel is a native of Highland Park, Texas. Yes, the Texas at Ohio State game on Sept. 10 is big for everyone. But it means something extra special to Schlegel.

"Well, I'm a Buckeye," Schlegel said. "I know the first thing we've got to do is play Miami, but I've got a little thing for Texas. They didn't recruit me. I'm from Texas and they didn't recruit me. I'd love to stick it to them. But if you don't have that mentality, there's something wrong with you. So, but the main thing is when we go out there it's all about business and flying around playing good football."

Schlegel has received several ticket requests for the game, but had to turn everyone away. Yes, even the players can't get tickets for this one.

"Oh yeah, my friends, I've had all sorts of people call me up and try and get tickets to that game," he said. "I just tell them, ‘You've got to buy your own tickets.' And it's hard. Everyone wants to come up here to Ohio for that game and it's really big down there. They are making a really big deal of it. So, I think it's going to be exciting. Two powerhouse programs playing at night under the lights, you can't get any better than that."

Schlegel was asked if he was more of a Texas or Texas A&M fan growing up.

"Well, my wife (Stephanie) went to A&M – she's an A&M grad," he said. "I probably liked A&M growing up because it's a little more country than UT. But I've been to UT as well. UT is a good place, but I just never, ever liked Texas. Where I grew up was probably in the middle between College Station (A&M) and Austin (UT)."

Schlegel says his boyhood friends don't give him a hard time about playing up north.

"People know that I'm a Texan," he said. "I'm just not a Longhorn. I'm a Buckeye. That's what it is. They know that I'm just playing football and I'm an Ohio State Buckeye."

Schlegel says he does not know any players on Texas' football team.

"No, I know none," he said. "I know none of them and I want to keep it that way."

But just how can Ohio State stay focused on Miami University with the Texas game receiving so much publicity?

"Well, I tell you exactly how," Schlegel said. "I've watched so much Miami film that I know exactly what Miami can do. I've seen it. They've got a great quarterback (Josh Betts) who threw for 3,500 yards last year, fast wide receivers coming back and a lot of guys coming back in that spread offense. So, I know how dangerous they can be and that's why I'm not overlooking that game."

Schlegel was asked if any of OSU's backup defensive players have been impressive so far during camp.

"I tell you one thing, I saw the other day, Joel Penton – we've been saying, ‘Thank you Joel.' He was slanting and grabbed his guy and then he reached over and grabbed the center. The center is going over here trying to make a block and Joel is just hanging on to him. He's a great ballplayer. Joel's been playing really well. Up front, it's been really awesome. Just how crisp the D-line has been with the pass rush and getting after the quarterback and stuff like that.

"We've got some young DB's that have been playing well. Guys just flying around causing turnovers. That's what the coaches have been preaching, turnovers and hustling."

Schlegel, 24, is the second-oldest member of the team, behind kicker Ryan Pretorius (26).

"I feel like a veteran because I'm old," Schlegel said with a laugh. "I've been around the block. But I also feel like a young guy just because I'm ready to get this party started. I just wish it was the third week of camp already and we were getting ready to start focusing in on Miami. This next week is going to be really tough. But, we're just having a good time, so I feel young in that way."

Sophomore linebackers Marcus Freeman and Chad Hoobler will provide solid depth for the Buckeyes this season. Both of them could be future stars.

"They've been doing well," Schlegel said. "They both had great springs and they've been on the ball in meetings and knowing what coverage we're playing. They're still learning what they're doing because they've only been here a year and there's a lot of things in our defense. But they've really done a good job of just trying to play fast and if they do make a mistake, as long as they're going hard it's OK."

Schlegel was asked if OSU might use more 3-4 alignments this season to get players like Freeman more playing time.

"I'm not a coordinator, but I know that the coaches are going to put the best guys out there and whatever is going to help our defense – whether it be a 3-4, 4-3, 5-2 stack monster, we've got all those things," Schlegel said. "Whatever it is, Coach Heacock is going to put it out there so we have the best defense."

As for do-everything sophomore Ted Ginn Jr., Schlegel says even OSU's players are still sometimes amazed by Ginn's athletic ability.

"Teddy is unbelievable," Schlegel said. "I wish people could see – we did this relay race and he just hit these hurdles and it was like, ‘That's sick.' We were doing these little hurdle things, it was like an obstacle course, and he flew over these things and you're just like, ‘Wow, that guy is fast.' And then he blew by somebody and he didn't even look like he was trying. God gave him a lot of talent. Whoever God gave talent behind him got nothing."

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