Hawk Discusses Young, 'Horns

Ohio State senior linebacker A.J. Hawk never gets too high, or too low. But even he is excited for Saturday night's showdown with Texas under the lights at Ohio Stadium. Hawk knows it will be a tough challenge, but is looking forward to going up against quarterback Vince Young and the Longhorns.

Senior linebacker A.J. Hawk has played in several big games during his Ohio State career. But, other than the national championship game and the Michigan game from the 2002 season, Saturday's night tilt with No. 2 Texas is at the top of the list.

"People have been talking about it for a long time now and we're excited," Hawk said. "It's going to be a great time. Having a night game and everything against a great team like Texas, it obviously is a big game for us and them as well."

The players might be a little extra fired up this week, but Hawk says head coach Jim Tressel never changes his mode of operation.

"Well, Coach Tressel is always the same," he said. "But for us … this is the kind of game that everyone has been talking about, as I said before. Everyone around the program. Until this week – well, we worried about this game a little bit – but everyone outside the program has been talking about this Texas game and saying it's going to be such a great match-up, night game, all that. So, I think it will be a special atmosphere because we've never played Texas before and it being a night game, Big Ten versus Big 12 matchup … anytime there's a game getting this much attention nationwide, it's fun to be a part of and these are the types of games you come to Ohio State to play."

Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter made headlines this week when he reportedly said that he hoped when Texas quarterback Vince Young left Ohio Stadium Saturday night, he was no longer a Heisman Trophy candidate.

"He said they took him out of context a little bit, I guess," Hawk said. "But, I don't think it means anything, because when I get on the field it's not like I'm going to be thinking, ‘Oh, man, one of their guys said something bad about me.' I couldn't care less what they want to say before a game. Once you get out there it's all the same."

Hawk was asked if Young reminds him of anyone he faced thus far in his OSU career.

"Not really," he said. "I don't think many guys in college football have done what he has done. He's played really well and has hurt people through the air and on the ground as well. So, it's tough to compare him to guys, I think. Maybe after I play him in person I will have a little better of an idea."

Some have said that OSU quarterback Troy Smith and Young have similarities in their games.

"They're similar type guys, I guess you could say," Hawk said. "That's why I think having a guy like Troy helps us out a lot as a defensive unit because we face a guy like Troy every day that can run and throw the ball just like Vince Young."

Hawk watched Texas' 38-37 win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl last season and like everyone else, came away impressed with Young.

"Yeah, I watched the game," he said. "It was a fun game to watch. Vince Young had a huge game and their whole offense was impressive."

Hawk also saw the highlight reels of Michigan defenders grasping for air or bouncing off Young. He obviously doesn't want to follow in their footsteps.

"Yeah, great players have a tendency to make some defensive guys bad sometimes and that's what you're going to say on TV; that's the highlights they're going to show," Hawk said. "So, I just think as a person, a lot of guys don't want to be on the wrong end of highlights and you want to stop them and try and win the game. We feel that if we stop their offense, we have a good chance of winning this game, especially with the type of offense that we have. So, for us, that's our main goal, we say it every game: stop the run first. That's what we're going to try and do."

The Buckeyes will most likely have a "spy" on Young each play.

"You have to be aware of where he is at all times and make sure that he's accountable because he can turn a nothing play into a 60-yard touchdown run," Hawk said. "So, you have to make sure you know where he is."

Hawk was asked why big time quarterbacks usually have a tough time playing against the Buckeyes in Columbus.

"I think it has something to do with our stadium being a tough place to play," he said. "As an offensive guy, as a quarterback, it's hard to hear what's going on. I also think our coaches do a great job of getting us prepared and we're used to playing against such great players. I think we have good game plans going into the game and if you execute them, it makes it tough for a quarterback to play well, if we put pressure on them, which is what we're trying to do."

After last Saturday's five-sack, blitzfest against Miami, it's safe to say that the Silver Bullets are back. The Buckeyes brought linebackers, corners and safeties from all over the field. First-year defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said he wanted to have an aggressive unit this season and the group is off to a good start.

"Yeah, it's a little bit about what Coach Heacock's philosophy is," Hawk said. "We want to affect the quarterback, but he also knows that you can't blitz on every play. Sometimes you just have to play your base defense and just execute and I think we did that a lot Saturday as well. It might have looked like we were blitzing sometimes, but we have some good D-linemen that just beat their guy. (Mike) Kudla had a big sack, he just beat his guy. That wasn't a blitz or anything, he was just one-on-one and got to the quarterback."

Hawk began his Butkus campaign with 10 tackles, including a sack. Last year, he racked up 141 tackles.

Hawk says for all the hype surrounding the Texas game, the game will be decided by the basics, like sure tackling.

"When it comes down to it, it's just whoever executes," he said. "Coach Heacock stresses that a lot. You come out and try and win every play. Don't be thinking, ‘I just want to win the game.' You want to think, ‘I want to win every play I'm in; I want to make sure I do my job.' And that's what I think as a defense we've been trying to do is come out there and make sure that everyone does their job every play and hopefully there won't be too many holes."

Other than Young, the strength of Texas' offense is its offensive line. Including tight end, the Longhorns start three seniors and three juniors up front.

"I think they have a great offensive line," Hawk said. "They're big, physical and they've been around a lot; they know what to do. I think it's definitely one of the best offensive lines I'm going to see in my career here and that makes it a good challenge for us. We'll see more Saturday night, but on film they look really good."

Texas had to replace tailback Cedric Benson this year (the No. 4 overall pick of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears). However, with juniors Selvin Young and Ramonce Taylor, as well as true freshmen Jamaal Charles and Henry Melton, the ‘Horns have plenty of talent in the stable.

"Yeah, they have two or three guys they can put in there that can all play," Hawk said. "So, I think we'll see a little piece of all of them at least. I think they have great team speed and if they get going, you get them in a rhythm, it's tough to stop them. So, I think we're going to have to come in and stop the run first."


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