Heacock, Bollman Preview Iowa Game, More

Ohio State's coordinators met with reporters following practice on Wednesday. Jim Heacock is pleased with the way his defense is playing, but he thinks it can play much better and doesn't believe the unit has exceeded expectations. Offensively, Jim Bollman thinks the rotation on the offensive line could be shaved from 10 players, to seven or eight.

Ohio State's Jim Heacock has done an excellent job since being elevated to defensive coordinator in 2005. The Buckeyes were expected to have a great defense last year, but Heacock's crew have exceeded expectations this year. The "Silver Bullets" have broken in nine new starters and have barely missed a beat.

But you won't find the former Illinois State head coach and longest tenured OSU coach taking too much credit for the strong defense.

"I give credit to the players," Heacock said. "And really I think our two secondary coaches do a great job with those guys. Those guys were young coming into the year and I think Paul (Haynes) and Tim (Beckman) are doing a great job with those guys. And I think Luke (Fickell) does a great job with the linebackers. I think they do an unbelievable job of preparation.

"And our players are the ones out there making plays. You have to give them credit. I think they've played well and have done what we've asked them to do and worked hard in the offseason. The thing I like about them most is that they realize that they really haven't done anything yet and it's a work-in-progress and I think they realize that we're not the defense we need to be to be where we want to be at the end of the year."

But Heacock doesn't necessarily agree that his defense has exceeded expectations so far this year. He expected the unit to be good.

"No," he said. "I think all during spring… I guess my expectations are pretty high, so I don't know if they could exceed them. But we're no way near where we need to be."

The top-ranked Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) will face off against No. 13 Iowa (4-0, 1-0) at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC). Iowa hasn't been dominant so far this year, but Heacock knows the Hawkeyes have a very good offense and the Buckeyes will probably see their "A" game on Saturday.

"It's their whole team. Their offense is balanced," Heacock said. "The thing I think they're really good at is running the ball. Their offensive line is always good. (Quarterback) Drew Tate, what I think we remember is two years over there. He's got the ability to scramble and he's got the ability to throw the ball as we've seen. He's a good leader, competitor. I'm sure he's anxious to get back out there. He's good, the running back is good, the offensive line is always good. Anytime you play Iowa you know it's going to be a bloodbath down the middle. Their a good balanced team. They run the ball well, pass it well, great scheme. They don't do a whole bunch but they do it well."

The Buckeyes have faced inexperienced quarterbacks in each of their four games this season. But Tate, a three-year starter and the 2004 Big Ten offensive player of the year, will present a different challenge.

"No question," Heacock said. "He's the best quarterback (we've faced) and the most experienced."

Ohio State lost to Iowa 33-7 in Iowa City in 2004. It was the only game in the Jim Tressel era where the Buckeyes were not in the game in the fourth quarter.

"We didn't play very well and they played very, very well," Heacock said. "It's just one of those games that you don't like to think about. The guys that went over there, it's a memory they don't like."

Last year, OSU turned the tables with a 31-6 rout in Columbus. The Buckeyes pressured Tate all game and frustrated the competitive quarterback.

Heacock was asked if he thinks OSU can get pressure on Tate again by just rushing the four defensive linemen.

"Well, it's a different team this year than we had last year," he said. "We were playing a lot of nickel last year and when we put Bobby (Carpenter) up there at the nickel spot, you know, it's a different team. We're a little more front-four oriented this year and a little bit more coverage-oriented. We've just got to do what we do. We've kind of got a feel for what's working and what's going on. It just seems like right now we're pretty tough on the front four and the younger guys are coming along and we're just trying to make progress and play better each week."

The Buckeyes' two youngest quarterbacks have been trying to emulate Tate in practice this week.

"Henton. Antonio Henton," Heacock said. "And Rob Schoenhoft is throwing the ball too (on the scout team)."

Junior linebacker Curtis Terry is a player that continues to come on for OSU. He logged his first career start against Penn State and Heacock thinks he will continue to play a lot. The coach explained why Terry was able to surpass Marcus Freeman on the depth chart.

"He played well against Texas, he played well in the Cincinnati game," Heacock said. "And really, it's a way of substituting, that's really the only reason. It's a way of getting (John) Kerr on the field with base people. Getting Curtis Terry on the field with base people. Now in nickel, Freeman who is a little better in pass drops, and (James) Laurinaitis, who are little better pass guys. If we mix it up, that's how we're able to play all six of them."

Heacock likes what Terry brings to the table.

"He's tough and aggressive and has good explosion," he said. "He's able to get after it and gives us a little pop. A little explosion."

Heacock was asked if Freeman is basically a nickel specialist now.

"Pretty much," he said. "Curtis is playing good run defense, as is Kerr. And of course Laurinaitis is playing well in both areas – dropping and playing the run. Freeman is a good drop guy and is a good athlete and is good in space. He's kind of taken on that role."

For a while, it looked like freshman Ross Homan was going to pass Kerr on the depth chart. But Kerr has been solid and is hanging on to the job for now.

"Homan is going to play more," Heacock said. "Him and Kerr are going to split time a little bit more from now on."

"(Homan) didn't play quite as much as we thought he would (against Penn State) but he'll play more as we go along. He's going to be a real good football player."

Another player that fans expected to see more of is sophomore defensive end Lawrence Wilson.

"I think he's a little bit like Ross Homan – we'll see him more and more as time goes on," Heacock said. "He'll play more this week than he did last week and he's going to keep getting better and better. He missed some of the spring, which was tough on him, but he's going to be an outstanding player. He's had a real nice week of practice and he gives us a real good backup for Jay (Richardson). We'll be able to keep both of them fresh and play both of them."

Bollman Talks Offense

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Bollman has been pleased with the 10-man rotation on the O-line this season. It allows players to stay fresh and has provided valuable reps for some of the younger players.

But as the Buckeyes head into the meat of the Big Ten season, Bollman thinks they might scale back the rotation just a bit.

But first up, he explained when it first occurred to him that OSU was going to be 10-deep on the offensive front this year.

"Well, we were hoping last spring that we would be able to get more guys in," he said. "And we'll have to see how long we can keep subbing the whole deal like we have been. We may get to a point where we go with just seven or eight guys. But, I think that's been good. It's been good experience for all those guys."

In the early stages of the season, there was talk that sophomore left tackle Alex Boone was possibly the weak link of the starters. But he played arguably the best game of his career against Penn State and was named OSU's Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week.

"He's a young guy," Bollman said. "This is really only his ninth start. He just overall played better last week. Played a little bit lower, played a little bit quicker, played a little bit better. Played the way we'd like to see him play."

Bollman is the running game coordinator and he has been obviously pleased with the production of junior tailback Antonio Pittman.

"He continues to be a guy that is more consistent," Bollman said. "He's a guy that we're figuring on being a good runner and a good receiver and he does a pretty good job pass blocking for us. I think in all parts of the game, as he continues to get better, we can do more with him.

"Certainly the last two weeks he gave us a little spark and got things rolling. He focused on playing hard in both of those situations.

"Last week we ran the ball pretty consistently. We didn't end up with any long runs, but as far as consistency I was satisfied."

Iowa's defense has struggled at times this season, but has stepped up when it needed to in tight games against Syracuse (including a game-winning goal-line stand) and Iowa State. And Bollman knows that OSU is going to see Iowa's best effort on Saturday.

"They've had a couple pretty tough ballgames," he said. "I think the Syracuse game was pretty tough for them and the Iowa State game was tough for them. They are just doing the same stuff that they've always done since you've watched them play. They don't change very much. Same scheme of things and they do it very, very well."

With the new clock rules, there has been some talk that OSU has been more aggressive in its offensive play calling this season. Bollman gave his take on the new rules that shorten the game.

"Every snap is worth a little more," he said. "All it does is put more of a premium on each play. When I really look at it, I don't know exactly how many possessions have been cut short. Some weeks maybe one, or a half or so. Other weeks it's been about the same. But there is no question in means fewer plays."

But has it forced the Buckeyes to be more aggressive?

"Well, the one thing, when you do get the ball, you're going to get it 10 or 12 less plays than you used to get it," Bollman said. "So, you've got to make them count."

Ohio State was known in the first four years of the Jim Tressel era as a running team. But the second half of last year, as well as the first four games of this season, the Buckeyes have aired it out quite often.

"We probably have the first four games," Bollman said. "But that can change depending on who were playing, and the weather. It can change a lot of different ways. We'll try to be ready to do whatever we need to do."

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