Jard Work: USC Notebook

There was music in the air this week as Ohio State got ready to head out west and face USC, but it was not exactly pleasing to the ears for the Buckeyes. Get the full story on that, plus notes on who Brian Hartline thinks will be the best linebacker on the field Saturday, what the game has in common with OSU's trip to Texas in 2006 and more in this notebook.

At first glance, Malcolm Jenkins might not seem like the first candidate to request to hear the USC fight song being played. After all, as a senior captain for Ohio State who also plays cornerback, Jenkins knows that hearing the USC fight song likely means his troops have just given up a big play or a touchdown.

But as the Buckeyes have prepared for the Trojans, they have been subjected to "Fight On!" while working out in their weight room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. On a loop that repeated over and over, the OSU players had to endure the song for the first part of the week until, one day, it ceased.

That is, until Jenkins stepped in.

"One of the days they weren't playing it and I told the coaches to put it on just to get the guys fired up," he said. "Guys were already tired of hearing it. They were like, ‘I don't want to hear that stuff.' The more we hear it the more we'll get sick of it and hopefully we won't hear it much on Saturday."

Although the Buckeyes frequently talk about how they do not pay attention to what the national perception is of them or of the program, the fact is that they do take notice. According to Jenkins, the playing of the fight song was another irritation that helped the team bond closer together.

"You get tired of hearing about it, especially when you turn on the TV and you hear you're going to lose and people say you shouldn't win," he said. "Then you come to the Woody where you practice at and you hear their fight song. It lights a fire under you and you want to get better and you want to try to prove some things wrong."

No Small Comments: Although he was simply giving an honest answer to a question at the time, OSU junior wide receiver Ray Small has found himself under fire for his comments about the USC program.

After comparing the two programs and concluding that the Buckeyes have more class than their Southern California counterparts, Small has found himself under attack from national media members and undoubtedly made himself a target for the Trojans on game day.

OSU wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said he spoke with Small about what he said.

"Those comments were unfortunate and hopefully we've – not only him, but everyone has – learned from those comments and we need to move on from that," he said. "I didn't say much to him about it but I think you've got to be very accurate when you talk about their program. Just because people do things a little bit differently or look a little bit differently doesn't mean it's the wrong way it should be done."

Hazell also praised Small for how he has responded to an offseason of adversity and in particular pointed out how important his punt return for a touchdown was against Ohio last weekend.

The return appeared to be aided by an illegal block.

"It looked very good on film," Hazell said.

When it was pointed out that it was OSU's Austin Spitler who appeared to have blocked a Bobcat in the back but was not flagged for the penalty, Hazell stayed the course.

"It looked very good on film," he said, this time with a smile.

To Blitz Or Not To Blitz? After suffering losses in the last two national championship games, the OSU faithful have often blamed defensive coordinator Jim Heacock for not blitzing enough or for not adjusting enough throughout a game.

Heacock himself is aware of those criticism, but added his own take on the situation: that it is not always easy to tell what the team's defense is aiming to accomplish.

"To me, it's just like anything else: If you play base defense and you play it really, really well, you look good," he said. "If you blitz and you blitz well, you look really, really good. If you blitz and you don't get there, people think you don't blitz."

As a result, Heacock said the Buckeyes have probably blitzed more than fans have realized.

"I'm not so sure if you would look at the stats or count, we probably blitzed a little more than you might think we did. The problem was we weren't blitzing well or getting there. We try and be balanced."

An Easy Pick: Much of the talk about Saturday night's showdown with the Trojans has centered on the starting linebackers for each team. In particular, OSU's James Laurinaitis and USC's Ray Maualuga have been touted as the two best linebackers in the country.

OSU junior wide receiver Brian Hartline was asked which of the two he would rather have on his team.

"James Laurinaitis," was his quick reply.

And why is that, exactly?

"He's a Buckeye," Hartline said.

Fair enough.

Ready The Second Team: Two years ago, the Buckeyes made headlines by making a concerted effort to get their second-string offensive line into the game for an early series in each game. That did not happen for each game during the 2006 season, but one in particular stood out.

When No. 1 OSU marched down the field and scored for the first time against No. 2 Texas in a road contest, it was while the Buckeyes had their second-team line in the game. While preparing for USC this weekend, offensive coordinator and line coach Jim Bollman imparted that lesson upon his players.

"I told the offensive line that today in our meeting," he said Wednesday night. "I reminded them of that very fact. I said, ‘if you guys are concerned or nervous about the fact that you're not going to get in the game,' I reminded them that two years ago the first time we scored against Texas was the second line in the game."

The Buckeyes could use the same strategy this weekend, Bollman said. However, the question is which players would make up that No. 2 line.

"That's a week-by-week, game-by-game kind of deal," he said. "I haven't decided yet when that situation comes up Saturday who will actually be in there. There's seven or eight guys who are working to get some playing time."

Paging Carson Palmer: The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback who graduated from USC made headlines during the summer when he proclaimed that he could not wait for the Buckeyes to receive "an old-fashioned Pac-10 butt-whoopin' " at the hands of his alma mater.

OSU senior captain and wide receiver Brian Robiskie said Palmer's comments were nothing more than the thoughts of a proud alumnus.

"That's Carson Palmer," he said. "I don't have too much to say about that. He's a great quarterback from a great school and he loves his team. That's a comment I can't say too much about."

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