June 11, 2010

Heyward's role to expand this season

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward sat down recently with defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.

The message from Heacock was simple.

"Me and Coach Heacock sat down and he basically said 'I don't plan on you coming out anytime soon,'" Heyward said Wednesday afternoon at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. "I took it as a challenge."

Tasks like playing more and leading the defense had to be expected by Heyward, who returned to the Buckeyes after a monster junior year that most certainly was good enough to land him a spot in the NFL following what could have been a potential first round draft selection.

But the increased playing time, though expected by Heyward, is a mandatory thing not only for Ohio State's defense, but also the development of the Buckeyes' best defensive lineman.

Heyward, who was recently selected to the Playboy Preseason All American team, knows exactly what he needs to do to be on par with the best defensive linemen in the country.

And Heyward knows because Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel found out and told him. What Tressel found out came directly from the NFL.

"For me individually I have to get better in conditioning," Heyward said. "Tressel had done the (NFL) study for me and he showed Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, Adrian Clayborn, Jerry Hughes, Brandon Graham, and he showed me all these guys' production and how many snaps they played. They played 90 percent of the plays and I was only playing 60."

Heacock has already acknowledged that Heyward's playing time will be increased this season, which is quite the testament given the defensive coordinator has developed quite the track record for shuffling fresh linemen into the game on a pretty regular basis.

"I look at it as a challenge. Since the bullseye is on my back I am going to get a lot more attention from offenses," Heyward said.

"The main thing for me is that I can get tired out there," Heyward added. "I don't plan on taking plays off, but I still have to have to production. The main thing for me is to get into better condition and keep working on my technique. Once you're technically sound, anything is possible."

The thing Heyward hopes is possible is that his name could be next to the players he mentioned above like Suh, McCoy, and Hughes when the season is over.

Heyward acknowledged those players put the defensive linemen back on the map and he hopes to continue to carry the torch in his senior season with the Buckeyes, who have one of the best defenses in the country returning for next year.

"For a minute there you never heard about defensive linemen," Heyward said. "You are going to remember all-time greats like Reggie White and they always talked about him. He was a mean, mean guy. The main thing is the spotlight is on defensive linemen right now. We have so many defensive linemen in the nation, especially in the Big Ten. It is going to be a tough run, but I will be up for it."

While Heyward has the utmost respect for guys like Suh and McCoy, both of which were high first round draft picks in last year's NFL Draft, his main focus in returning for another year was to try and pass what both of those guys were able to do.

Heyward continued to mention how they dominated games from the interior defensive line, which is something the senior is hoping to do in as many games as possible in his final year as a Buckeye.

He was asked if he wanted his name next to Suh and McCoy's, but Heyward took it a tad further.

"I want to be better," Heyward said. "(Suh) is a great player and Gerald McCoy was, too, but the main thing I want to do is dominate. Looking back at their tapes, they dominated games and I think if I do what's right, keep working hard, I could be at that level.

"The main thing is I just need to take care of my work," Heyward continued. "You don't want to be just as good as someone, you want to be better. I know that's a big challenge, but I am up for it."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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