D-Line Will Lead OSU's Defense

With nine defensive starters to replace, one might think there are many sleepless nights for Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock. But nothing could be further from the truth. Heacock knows it won't be easy, but seems confident that the Buckeyes will have a good defense in 2006. We also caught up with Quinn Pitcock, Joel Penton and Jay Richardson.

Ohio State wrapped up its second day of spring practice on Friday.

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has his work cut out for him losing nine defensive starters, but he seems excited about the challenge.

"It's real difficult because those guys were good players and also good leaders," Heacock said of the departures. "It's going to be difficult, but we've lost a lot of seniors before and it's something you've got to do. That's the way it is.

"We're having fun out there. We've got a lot of young guys that are real anxious. The neat thing is everybody that is out there right now has a chance to play. And they all know that, so we're getting great attention and they're spending a lot of time in the weight room. It's kind of neat to have a bunch of young guys that are anxious and are champing at the bit to get in there and show what they can do. Of course, we haven't been in pads yet, but (Saturday) morning we will be. At this point they've been working hard, they've been watching film and they've had a good offseason. I think the four seniors (on the defensive line) are going to do a great job of leading. I think we've got a good group of seniors."

The seniors – Quinn Pitcock, David Patterson, Jay Richardson and Joel Penton – provide experience to an otherwise green defense. Penton will actually come off the bench as sophomore Lawrence Wilson is slated to start at defensive end.

As for the rest of the defense, everything is very much up in the air at this point.

"We'll probably go through most of spring without having a first team," Heacock said. "We're leaving pretty much everything open. Our front four is pretty much in tact. We've got a lot of guys back who have played a lot of football – the four seniors – they've played an awful lot of football and they're back. And Lawrence Wilson is back. So, up front, we feel that we should be able to make a stride forward.

"In the back seven, we feel that all those positions are so wide open right now. I think we're going to have good competition at linebacker. We've got six guys there that it wouldn't surprise me if any of them would start.

"(In the secondary), we've got a group of guys that are competing and have a chance. So, the competition is good, and like I said, they're anxious. They're young and we've got a long way to go before we're where we need to be to have the kind of season we want to have."

Heacock was asked for his primary goal regarding spring ball.

"One of the biggest things is that we have to figure out what our strengths are so when we go into next fall we know what we can do," he said. "We might have to change some things and do some things a little bit different. But as we go into the spring we want to find out what our strengths are and who the players are that are going to make plays. And once we figure out that, we can plan what we want to do defensively and how we can have success and how much we can put in. It's all going to be a growing process."

It's never a good situation when a team is forced to replace linebackers like A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel. But there doesn't appear to be a tremendous drop-off for the Buckeyes with the likes of Marcus Freeman, John Kerr and James Laurinaitis around.

In addition, two first year linebackers that are expected to contribute in 2006 are already on campus.

"No question," Heacock said. "You take a guy like Ross (Homan), he's been here a whole quarter, so he's comfortable and has been able to hit the ground running. Larry (Grant) and some of the other new recruits, they're trying to get to class and it's a little bit different. But I think it's great for them to be here and get a chance to learn the system and come along and see where they are at by the end of spring."

Heacock is not sure where senior Mike D'Andrea fits in at this point.

"It just depends on how well he does," he said. "He's a Mike linebacker and it just depends on when he gets back. Like I said, the competition is good and it's no different than regular season.

"From what I understand, we'll be lucky to have him back this spring. He's rehabbing and I'm not sure if he's going to be back this spring or not. I think he's anxious to get healthy, where he feels like he can compete a little bit better. Like I said, with the medical, I don't know where they're at with it right now. I just know he doesn't feel comfortable with it. It swelled up a little bit. I think what he wants to do is compete at 100 percent, and I don't blame him."

Heacock was asked if D'Andrea can fill some of the void Carpenter left behind as a rush end on passing downs.

"Oh, he can do that. He did it a couple years ago," he said. "The nice thing is we've got three or four guys that can do that."

Junior defensive tackle Sian Cotton is a player with a lot of talent, but has not produced up to this point of his career. Depth is needed at tackle, but is Cotton ready to be that No. 4 tackle, behind Penton?

"He's doing fine," Heacock said. " But here again, I don't even evaluate the front without pads on. This is like track practice for me."

As for the starting tackles, Pitcock gets most of the hype – and with good reason – but Patterson is another player that Heacock is excited about.

"Yeah, I think he had a great year," Heacock said. "I think he has the chance to be a dominant football player. With him and Quinn inside, we've got two of the best inside guys we've had in a long time."

Heacock explained why the 6-3, 290-pound Patterson – who rotated between end and tackle – had such a strong season in 2005.

"He got healthy," he said. "He had a little bit of a knee problem early and then he got healthy and started getting some confidence in himself."

Heacock is ready to get the pads on Saturday and see who the real football players are. It's when spring ball truly begins in his mind.

"To me, I like playmakers," Heacock said. "But you can't really tell that until we scrimmage. What I like to see at a scrimmage is a kid that goes out there and makes plays. Sacks, fumbles, interceptions. And now we've got to figure out who the playmakers are going to be."

Seniors Leading Defensive Line

As Heacock mentioned, Pitcock and Patterson could form one of the best tackle tandems in the country this year.

"He said that one day and I was kind of surprised," Pitcock said. "But then we were watching film today and there was one particular play where Dave and I did textbook style, perfect everything. Looking at that I can kind of see where he's coming from. We have the potential and if we listen to him and work hard enough we may have a chance."

Pitcock talked more about the play in question.

"It was against Penn State," he said. "It was a zone play and basically we both went so fast and with strong force beat our guys. We didn't even make the tackle. But just us beating our man at the same time made the play."

The 6-3, 300-pound Pitcock was solid the past two years, but he has the chance to be dominant as a senior.

"I'm just working hard to try and be better than I was," he said. "I think my sophomore year was my best year. I was injury free and I'm just trying to play better than that."

Pitcock believes spring is an important time for the team. More than anything, it's an opportunity for the younger players in the program.

"I think the biggest thing is seeing who wants to compete," Pitcock said. "Who wants to really work hard for a position. You just want to find 11 guys that really want to play. We've got to find that, because once we get to camp and it's more serious and then it's game time."

With so many spots open on the defense, the first two days of practice have been heated, even in shells. But the tempo isn't quite up to speed yet.

"It is intense," Pitcock said. "That's one of the things right now is we're taking it really slow to make sure everyone is on the same page. Some people might learn faster than others and we don't want them to get behind right away. So, we're trying to take it slow so everyone is on the same page and they can show what they can really do."

* For another fifth year senior like Penton, he's just looking to go out on a good note. He's received decent playing time the past two seasons and he fully accepts his role as the first man off the bench on the defensive line.

"I realize how special this place is and all the tradition," Penton said. "I just want to contribute to that tradition and help the team out. The fans are important and the whole tradition of Ohio State. If I can somehow be a part of that, that's incredible. I just want to realize the potential that I do have.

"I'm just going to try and contribute any way I can. If we're run down and we've got guys tired, I'll be ready. If they need me to start a few games, I'll be ready for that. Whenever they call my number, I'm going to try and be ready to help out wherever I can."

The 6-5, 290-pound Penton was an all-state linebacker in high school, but has added muscle and weight each year and worked his way into being a tackle.

"I've definitely progressed from when I first got here," he said. "When I got here as a freshman I was 50 pounds lighter and I was getting thrown around a little bit in there. I was an end and I've kind of evolved down into an inside guy. But I've definitely gotten better and I feel that I'm more capable now."

Penton was asked if fans should expect any new wrinkles from the Silver Bullets in 2006.

"I think the defense always evolves," he said. "We find out what we're capable of, what we do well, and maybe what we don't do well. Then we come up with a game plan morphed around that and the calls will form to that. And I think that happens every year. As we have more practices, we'll know better what we're going to do defensively."

* The 6-6, 280-pound Richardson – yet another fifth-year senior – seems to have a starting spot locked up.

"Right now we're not rolling through that much," he said. "I'm staying firm in there and I'm trying to help out the guys behind me as much as possible."

Talent has never been the question with Richardson. Keeping his motor revved up has. But as a grizzled veteran, he is determined to lose that label.

"Consistency. That's what I'm working hard on right now is getting consistent pressure on the quarterback and trying to be consistent in the run game," Richardson said. "I've always been good at pass rush, and now I've got to pick it up with the run and just be a complete player. It feels good coming into the spring and knowing I have the opportunity to help lead the team and really try and help out the team as much as I can."

Sure, the rest of the defense is young, but it doesn't get more veteran than four seniors on the defensive line.

"Oh yeah, on the defensive line, we have something like 54 combined starts," Richardson said. "We have a lot of experience and a lot of talent. And I think we're pretty deep as a defensive line. We've got a lot of young guys that can play. I think our defensive line has to be the reason why we are a good defense this year."

Richardson also gave his take on freshman tailback Chris Wells, the All-American phenom who enrolled early this spring.

"As far as a specimen of a running back, he's a good looking kid," he said. "Strong, fast, real good back. We haven't done too much physical yet, so it's hard to get a feel for him. But he's looking good. He's learning. He's trying to get the mental part of it down."

Richardson was asked if any of the other running backs have stood out thus far.

"I thought Erik Haw looked real good at practice (Thursday)," he said. "He looked real quick."


 

 



Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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\r\n
\r\n \r\n","mobileBody":"Ohio State wrapped up its second day of spring practice on Friday.

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has his work cut out for him losing nine defensive starters, but he seems excited about the challenge.

\"It's real difficult because those guys were good players and also good leaders,\" Heacock said of the departures. \"It's going to be difficult, but we've lost a lot of seniors before and it's something you've got to do. That's the way it is.

\"We're having fun out there. We've got a lot of young guys that are real anxious. The neat thing is everybody that is out there right now has a chance to play. And they all know that, so we're getting great attention and they're spending a lot of time in the weight room. It's kind of neat to have a bunch of young guys that are anxious and are champing at the bit to get in there and show what they can do. Of course, we haven't been in pads yet, but (Saturday) morning we will be. At this point they've been working hard, they've been watching film and they've had a good offseason. I think the four seniors (on the defensive line) are going to do a great job of leading. I think we've got a good group of seniors.\"

The seniors – Quinn Pitcock, David Patterson, Jay Richardson and Joel Penton – provide experience to an otherwise green defense. Penton will actually come off the bench as sophomore Lawrence Wilson is slated to start at defensive end.

As for the rest of the defense, everything is very much up in the air at this point.

\"We'll probably go through most of spring without having a first team,\" Heacock said. \"We're leaving pretty much everything open. Our front four is pretty much in tact. We've got a lot of guys back who have played a lot of football – the four seniors – they've played an awful lot of football and they're back. And Lawrence Wilson is back. So, up front, we feel that we should be able to make a stride forward.

\"In the back seven, we feel that all those positions are so wide open right now. I think we're going to have good competition at linebacker. We've got six guys there that it wouldn't surprise me if any of them would start.

\"(In the secondary), we've got a group of guys that are competing and have a chance. So, the competition is good, and like I said, they're anxious. They're young and we've got a long way to go before we're where we need to be to have the kind of season we want to have.\"

Heacock was asked for his primary goal regarding spring ball.

\"One of the biggest things is that we have to figure out what our strengths are so when we go into next fall we know what we can do,\" he said. \"We might have to change some things and do some things a little bit different. But as we go into the spring we want to find out what our strengths are and who the players are that are going to make plays. And once we figure out that, we can plan what we want to do defensively and how we can have success and how much we can put in. It's all going to be a growing process.\"

It's never a good situation when a team is forced to replace linebackers like A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel. But there doesn't appear to be a tremendous drop-off for the Buckeyes with the likes of Marcus Freeman, John Kerr and James Laurinaitis around.

In addition, two first year linebackers that are expected to contribute in 2006 are already on campus.

\"No question,\" Heacock said. \"You take a guy like Ross (Homan), he's been here a whole quarter, so he's comfortable and has been able to hit the ground running. Larry (Grant) and some of the other new recruits, they're trying to get to class and it's a little bit different. But I think it's great for them to be here and get a chance to learn the system and come along and see where they are at by the end of spring.\"

Heacock is not sure where senior Mike D'Andrea fits in at this point.

\"It just depends on how well he does,\" he said. \"He's a Mike linebacker and it just depends on when he gets back. Like I said, the competition is good and it's no different than regular season.

\"From what I understand, we'll be lucky to have him back this spring. He's rehabbing and I'm not sure if he's going to be back this spring or not. I think he's anxious to get healthy, where he feels like he can compete a little bit better. Like I said, with the medical, I don't know where they're at with it right now. I just know he doesn't feel comfortable with it. It swelled up a little bit. I think what he wants to do is compete at 100 percent, and I don't blame him.\"

Heacock was asked if D'Andrea can fill some of the void Carpenter left behind as a rush end on passing downs.

\"Oh, he can do that. He did it a couple years ago,\" he said. \"The nice thing is we've got three or four guys that can do that.\"

Junior defensive tackle Sian Cotton is a player with a lot of talent, but has not produced up to this point of his career. Depth is needed at tackle, but is Cotton ready to be that No. 4 tackle, behind Penton?

\"He's doing fine,\" Heacock said. \" But here again, I don't even evaluate the front without pads on. This is like track practice for me.\"

As for the starting tackles, Pitcock gets most of the hype – and with good reason – but Patterson is another player that Heacock is excited about.

\"Yeah, I think he had a great year,\" Heacock said. \"I think he has the chance to be a dominant football player. With him and Quinn inside, we've got two of the best inside guys we've had in a long time.\"

Heacock explained why the 6-3, 290-pound Patterson – who rotated between end and tackle – had such a strong season in 2005.

\"He got healthy,\" he said. \"He had a little bit of a knee problem early and then he got healthy and started getting some confidence in himself.\"

Heacock is ready to get the pads on Saturday and see who the real football players are. It's when spring ball truly begins in his mind.

\"To me, I like playmakers,\" Heacock said. \"But you can't really tell that until we scrimmage. What I like to see at a scrimmage is a kid that goes out there and makes plays. Sacks, fumbles, interceptions. And now we've got to figure out who the playmakers are going to be.\"

As Heacock mentioned, Pitcock and Patterson could form one of the best tackle tandems in the country this year.

\"He said that one day and I was kind of surprised,\" Pitcock said. \"But then we were watching film today and there was one particular play where Dave and I did textbook style, perfect everything. Looking at that I can kind of see where he's coming from. We have the potential and if we listen to him and work hard enough we may have a chance.\"

Pitcock talked more about the play in question.

\"It was against Penn State,\" he said. \"It was a zone play and basically we both went so fast and with strong force beat our guys. We didn't even make the tackle. But just us beating our man at the same time made the play.\"

The 6-3, 300-pound Pitcock was solid the past two years, but he has the chance to be dominant as a senior.

\"I'm just working hard to try and be better than I was,\" he said. \"I think my sophomore year was my best year. I was injury free and I'm just trying to play better than that.\"

Pitcock believes spring is an important time for the team. More than anything, it's an opportunity for the younger players in the program.

\"I think the biggest thing is seeing who wants to compete,\" Pitcock said. \"Who wants to really work hard for a position. You just want to find 11 guys that really want to play. We've got to find that, because once we get to camp and it's more serious and then it's game time.\"

With so many spots open on the defense, the first two days of practice have been heated, even in shells. But the tempo isn't quite up to speed yet.

\"It is intense,\" Pitcock said. \"That's one of the things right now is we're taking it really slow to make sure everyone is on the same page. Some people might learn faster than others and we don't want them to get behind right away. So, we're trying to take it slow so everyone is on the same page and they can show what they can really do.\"

* For another fifth year senior like Penton, he's just looking to go out on a good note. He's received decent playing time the past two seasons and he fully accepts his role as the first man off the bench on the defensive line.

\"I realize how special this place is and all the tradition,\" Penton said. \"I just want to contribute to that tradition and help the team out. The fans are important and the whole tradition of Ohio State. If I can somehow be a part of that, that's incredible. I just want to realize the potential that I do have.

\"I'm just going to try and contribute any way I can. If we're run down and we've got guys tired, I'll be ready. If they need me to start a few games, I'll be ready for that. Whenever they call my number, I'm going to try and be ready to help out wherever I can.\"

The 6-5, 290-pound Penton was an all-state linebacker in high school, but has added muscle and weight each year and worked his way into being a tackle.

\"I've definitely progressed from when I first got here,\" he said. \"When I got here as a freshman I was 50 pounds lighter and I was getting thrown around a little bit in there. I was an end and I've kind of evolved down into an inside guy. But I've definitely gotten better and I feel that I'm more capable now.\"

Penton was asked if fans should expect any new wrinkles from the Silver Bullets in 2006.

\"I think the defense always evolves,\" he said. \"We find out what we're capable of, what we do well, and maybe what we don't do well. Then we come up with a game plan morphed around that and the calls will form to that. And I think that happens every year. As we have more practices, we'll know better what we're going to do defensively.\"

* The 6-6, 280-pound Richardson – yet another fifth-year senior – seems to have a starting spot locked up.

\"Right now we're not rolling through that much,\" he said. \"I'm staying firm in there and I'm trying to help out the guys behind me as much as possible.\"

Talent has never been the question with Richardson. Keeping his motor revved up has. But as a grizzled veteran, he is determined to lose that label.

\"Consistency. That's what I'm working hard on right now is getting consistent pressure on the quarterback and trying to be consistent in the run game,\" Richardson said. \"I've always been good at pass rush, and now I've got to pick it up with the run and just be a complete player. It feels good coming into the spring and knowing I have the opportunity to help lead the team and really try and help out the team as much as I can.\"

Sure, the rest of the defense is young, but it doesn't get more veteran than four seniors on the defensive line.

\"Oh yeah, on the defensive line, we have something like 54 combined starts,\" Richardson said. \"We have a lot of experience and a lot of talent. And I think we're pretty deep as a defensive line. We've got a lot of young guys that can play. I think our defensive line has to be the reason why we are a good defense this year.\"

Richardson also gave his take on freshman tailback Chris Wells, the All-American phenom who enrolled early this spring.

\"As far as a specimen of a running back, he's a good looking kid,\" he said. \"Strong, fast, real good back. We haven't done too much physical yet, so it's hard to get a feel for him. But he's looking good. He's learning. He's trying to get the mental part of it down.\"

Richardson was asked if any of the other running backs have stood out thus far.

\"I thought Erik Haw looked real good at practice (Thursday),\" he said. \"He looked real quick.\"

 

 

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