Buckeyes need to be strong in the trenches in Fiesta Bowl
Ohio State defensive line coach Jim Heacock knows his players must be at their best.
By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
TEMPE, Ariz. -- While the skill position players receive most of the accolades, it's the guys along the line of scrimmage that may very well determine the outcome of Friday's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
So believes Jim Heacock, Ohio State's defensive line coach and the brother of Youngstown State coach Jon Heacock.
"We've got to do a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage," said Heacock on Tuesday. "Really, that's what it's going to come down to -- who's the most physical.
"We've got to do a good job of getting off blocks and try to minimize the run and somehow you've got find a way to get pressure on the quarterback."
Miami signal-caller Ken Dorsey has been sacked just 11 times, thanks to an offensive line that features All-America center Brett Romberg, the recipient of the Rimington Award.
Need to be disciplined
"It's [also] being disciplined with [Miami running back Willis] McGahee," Heacock said. "They might be running the ball to the right but he's got the ability to cut back against the grain, so the backside better not relax."
The Buckeyes' defensive line is a veteran group, led by All-Big Ten left end Darrion Scott (6-foot-3, 271 pounds), a junior.
It also features senior Kenny Peterson, from Canton McKinley, who moved inside from his normal end position was a second-team All-Big Ten coaches pick.
"What we've tried to do is play six or seven guys extensively," Heacock said. "As the year went on and we got a good rotation going with our front four.
"There's a lot of talk about our fourth quarter play and I think that's part of the reason," Heacock said. "We've been able to stay a little more fresh throughout the game and [when] we got to the fourth quarter we still had some gas in us and we were able to get after some people late in the game and come up with some big plays."
The other starters
The other starters are tackle Tim Anderson (6-4, 289 junior) and end Will Smith (6-4, 250 junior). David Thompson (6-5, 290 senior) and Simon Fraser (6-6, 250 sophomore) have also been in the rotation. Freshman Mike Kudla (6-3, 255) is the seventh man.
Smith, Scott, Thompson, Peterson and Anderson ranked seventh through 10th, respectively, on the team in tackles. Smith was second on the Buckeyes with 10.5 tackles for loss and second in sacks (4.5). Scott led the team with 8.5 sacks.
"We've got a good group, an excellent group, good character, good hard-working guys, very unselfish," Heacock said. "If there's one word that describes them, it's 'unselfish.' Whatever it takes, they don't care who gets the credit.
"What was kind of neat was that all four of them got either first or second team [All-Big Ten] by the coaches. I think that says something about the unit."
Scott was a first team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, while Peterson, Anderson and Smith were named to the second team.
"Each one of them is a little bit different," said Heacock. "Tim Anderson is probably the most underrated; he sits down inside there and gets double-teamed and triple-teamed and probably without him being firm in the middle I don't know that we would be near as good.
"Darrion Scott plays [both] the run and pass well; Will's got the ability to come off the edge and put some heat on the quarterback. Kenny Peterson is a senior that moved down inside and played well this year. He's been a defensive end all his life and actually played pretty well this year."
Battle along the line
Coach Jim Tressel said the national title game will come down to which team wins the battle along the line of scrimmage.
"Our defensive front has been huge for us. They need to be good because the folks they're going against up front are good," Tressel said.
"It's going to be a game that's going to won in the trenches. You might hear about a great catch or great throw or great run, but when you go back and watch the films you'll say, 'That wouldn't have happened unless a great block or that type of thing.'
"So, it's going to be huge what happens up front and I feel good about our guys."