Big Ten Q&A: Jim Heacock, Part II

Here's the second half of my interview with Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.

You mentioned the safety spot being a critical area. Jermale [Hines] played a lot there last year. Is he a guy you really lean on now to take the next step?

Jim Heacock: No question. Jermale had a good year last year, maybe underrated a little bit. When you look at the bowl game and what he did, playing out there, I thought he did really well. And he's really had a great offseason, so yes, he's got to step up and be the leader of that safety group. And then Orhian Johnson played some last year. He actually filled in when Kurt [Coleman] didn't play in the Indiana game, and he's had a good offseason. And any chance of getting Tyler Moeller back, which we won't know until the fall, but he's a guy that could help. Coming out of last spring, we felt like he was one of our better safeties, and then, of course, he had the offseason injury and didn't play. So he's another guy that could be a piece for us.

As far as that third linebacker spot, is [Etienne] Sabino the guy you look for there, or are there others competing?

JH: There's some good, talented young guys at that spot. Sabino is a guy who has played a bit; we got him in the mix last year. Andrew Sweat is a guy who was coming on real well last year, and then had to have a little knee surgery and was out at the end of the year. He's been out a while, but he looks like he's coming back strong, so he's going to be a factor. And then we've got four or five of those young guys -- Storm Klein, Jordan Whiting, Dorian Bell -- who we think are going to get in the mix. So it looks like we'll be able to develop some depth there.

What are your ultimate goals for the group coming out of the spring? Would you like to have a rough draft of the depth chart?

JH: I always like to come out of the spring and say you're two deep. You'd like to say you've got 22 players who you feel like you can play with in the fall. And then we can get after it in the offseason. That's a goal. And then you always want to see leadership. There's a new group of seniors in town, and you've got to develop those guys and see how they develop and see how they mature and how they handle a leadership role. You're always looking to see the little things. Are they taking care of business, doing good things off the field? You hope the direction is maturity, and they're gearing up and pointing toward a good fall.

And as far as those leaders, is it the usual suspects?

JH: Yeah, I think so. Cam [Heyward] and Ross [Homan]. Brian Rolle looks like he's going to develop into a good leader. And that's something, as we go through spring, we'll get a little bit better feel for that. They've become seniors, and as they become seniors with Coach [Jim] Tressel, there's a lot of expectations put on our seniors. He expects the seniors to do a great job of leading. That's something that as we go through spring, we'll get a little bit better feel of what kind of leadership we're having.

Will anyone on the defensive side miss spring or be severely limited?

JH: Off hand, I can't think of anybody. We've had some guys who had offseason surgeries and some minor things, but I'm assuming all of them will be back and be practicing.