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Published: Tuesday, 9/20/2005

OSU stays stingy under Heacock

COLUMBUS - For a decade now, Jim Heacock has called the Horseshoe his home.

He is the only holdover remaining from former Ohio State coach John Cooper's staff.

Heacock has been employed along the banks of the Olentangy River since 1996 - five years before current coach Jim Tressel came on board.

Heacock's specialty is defense.

He stresses attitude and effort.

He is up-front with his players, whether it's congratulating them for a good play, pushing them harder or lashing out at them.

Heacock worked with the Buckeyes' linemen the last nine seasons, and produced several standouts, including All-American Will Smith.

In April, when Mark Snyder left to become head coach at Marshall, Heacock was promoted to defensive coordinator.

The year before, Snyder had taken over for Mark Dantonio after he was hired as head coach at Cincinnati.

Heacock, a 33-year veteran who landed his first coaching job as a graduate assistant under Don Nehlen at Bowling Green in 1972, is OSU's third defensive coordinator in three years.

Yet he still has a star-studded group of linebackers who can both attack and sack, and they are the strength of a team that many thought would have more offensive firepower.

Heacock also has solid players up front and a super-quick secondary.

"All of us coordinators, we all have our own style we like to play. But that being said, not much has changed," Heacock said. "We're still an attacking defense. We like to get after the other team."

Through three games, No. 8 Ohio State's defense ranks ninth in the country against the run, allowing 57.7 yards per game, and 26th in total defense.

However, Iowa quarterback Drew Tate figures to give the Buckeyes their biggest workout yet on Saturday in their Big Ten opener.

"We'll have to be at our best," Heacock said.

A week after allowing a game-winning, 24-yard touchdown reception by Texas' Limas Sweed with 2:37 to play, the Buckeyes' defense got scorched for an 80-yard scoring pass 11 seconds into last Saturday's game.

After that, the Buckeyes buckled down, holding San Diego State to 99 yards and two first downs over their final 40 plays.

"This is a fun bunch of guys to be around," Heacock said. "We have a number of playmakers. I love them all."

Heacock, whose younger brother Jon succeeded Tressel as head coach at Youngstown State, has watched the Buckeyes' defense evolve for quite some time.

Five years ago, OSU set a school record for tackles for loss (117) and sacks (47).

In 2002, the Buckeyes recorded 49 1/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 24 1/2 sacks en route to a 14-0 record and their first national championship in 34 years.

In 2003, Heacock's beefy bunch up front led the nation in run defense, allowing 62.3 yards per game and 2.0 yards per carry.

A year ago, OSU finished fifth in scoring defense, yielding 18.2 points per game.

Now that he's in charge, Heacock hasn't slacked off, nor has his defense.

"It really hasn't meant that much of a difference for us," All-American linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "Scheme-wise, we're still doing the same things we did before."

Until Heacock witnesses a major hiccup, he won't be in a real big rush to change anything.

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