Heacock Talks Defense As Pads Go On

OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock met with the media on Saturday to discuss the fact he must replace nine starters on defense. Click here for his thoughts on that task as well as how the Buckeyes have looked in the first week and details on a small dust-up between the coaches.

Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock met with the media before Saturday's practice, which was the first of the preseason camp to be in full pads.

"Today is a great day because it's the first day of full pads," Heacock said. "We went with sweats for three days and then with a little bit of shoulder pads and shorts. You get a little bit of hitting and a little bit of nudging. But today is the day we really get after it.

"We'll look at the young guys and see who likes to hit and see who really has fun with it. This is what football is all about. Everything since spring ball has been about track and running around and jumping and all of those things. Now this is kind of an exciting day for a defensive player to get out and play football and hit somebody."

"You look for who really enjoys getting out there and hitting and the mentality of it more than how hard they hit. Up until now, it's been mostly mental for the young guys. It will be interesting to see how they pick up the different defenses.

"Now it's time to see who is making plays. Who is running around. Who's making tackles and interceptions and turnovers."

Heacock talked about the challenge of replacing nine starters on defense. He was asked if this defense can approach what Ohio State fans have enjoyed the last few years.

"It's early to tell," he said. "I think they have the right intentions. They are good film watchers and good workers. They are getting after it and trying like crazy. There are so many fundamentals that we are weak at right now like tackling. These young guys have not had enough reps. I think it's a little early to tell where we're going to be at the beginning of the year. I don't think anybody knows that right now.

"But I do like the way they are approaching practice. They have a great attitude and great intentions. They want to do well. Maybe in a couple of weeks we'll know more about that."

Heacock was asked if he will have to simplify the defense – at least early on.

"We probably have to spend more time on fundamentals and teaching the little things," he said. "We'll probably have to simplify a little bit. The most important thing is they execute what we're doing and we give them something they can execute. We want to give them enough so they can be successful against who we're playing, not too much so they're out there thinking and that's slowing them down. We want them to run and play hard. That's the fine line we're walking right now."

General Comments

Here were Heacock's takes on a number of topics, including:

* The emergence of sophomore DE Lawrence Wilson -- "Lawrence is a good player. He's an instinctive defensive end. When you watch him, he is very aggressive. He comes off the edge. He's got instincts. He's kind of like the whole package. He has good size – he is 275 (pounds) now. He has good toughness and he's a good competitor.

"He and Jay (Richardson) are playing the same spot and they are pushing each other. Then, we have Vernon Gholston and Alex Barrow at the other end spot."

* Which young guys have been impressive -- "(LB) Tyler Moeller is probably the young guy who has made the most plays out here. He's a young guy from Colerain down in Cincinnati. Some of those guys on the back end are running around. It's a good group."

* Linebackers to watch -- "John Kerr has been around the game. He started over at Indiana. He's got some age on him and I think he is anxious to show what he can do. He's got some maturity to him, which is nice.

"Marcus Freeman has been around here for a while, too. It's not like he is a freshman or a redshirt freshman. He's been on the field in some special situations. He's had a couple of good springs. They are anxious to get out there and play. They have been in backup roles and not gotten a lot of playing time. I think they want to show what they can do."

* Youth in the secondary -- "That is an area of concern. That's where we are the youngest. We have to make sure we don't make mistakes and do a good job of execution. I think it throws a bit of pressure back on our front. We have challenged them. They have to get extra pressure on the quarterback and control the line of scrimmage better. For us to be good, our front will really have to take charge and play hard and help those back end guys who don't have that experience."

* On whether this year's defense will be as fast as last year's -- "I wouldn't say that. Here again, just off of what I've seen they move pretty well. But they don't look as fast to me. I think a lot of speed is knowing what you're doing. That group last year had a lot of experience. I think we're still thinking about what we're doing. I think that is slowing us down."

* On the emergence of DE Vernon Gholston -- "Vernon really came on in the spring. Vernon probably surprised me as much as anybody with his improvement. I thought he had a great spring. He seems to be continuing with the fall. Right now, he's running with the ones. To be honest with you, he is about as improved as any player I have coached from what he did last year and what my expectations are. He's on top of the game and he's going to get a lot of playing time."

* On what he has seen of freshman DE Robert Rose -- "He looks like he has good movement. He is very intelligent and picks up the defense well. He has a good knack for the game of football. He runs well. He's a big kid at 275 or 280. Coming off the edge, he looks good. But again, he hasn't had pads on yet, so we'll see."

Temper, Temper

Heacock was asked if he was impressed that offensive coordinator Jim Bollman has been full-go just over two months after undergoing heart surgery.

"I am impressed that he and I almost got into a fistfight yesterday," Heacock said. "He's competitive and cantankerous. He's working hard every day and healthy. I think he's feeling good. He's going hard."

Heacock was asked what precipitated the argument.

"We just had little discussions (about pass protection)," he said. "Whenever you're going against each other, there is always some tension in the air. You get a little bit competitive at times. I would say that offensive linemen hold. But I would never say that."

Also Notable

* Heacock confirmed the move of Chad Hoobler from linebacker to defensive end.

"We did move Chad to defensive end and he is doing a good job there," he said.

* A handful of Buckeyes were sporting colored jerseys to indicate their status for the first full day in pads. The quarterbacks were wearing black no-contact jerseys.

DE Ryan Williams had a blue jersey on, which means limited contact. Williams is recovering from a knee injury last December.

Players in no-contact yellow jerseys included FB Ryan Franzinger, LB Mark Johnson (out with a shoulder injury), LB Austin Spitler, LB Ross Homan (hamstring) and DE Lawrence Wilson.

The good news was that DE Doug Worthington, who also suffered a knee injury last December, appeared to be full-go.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories