• Follow us on Twitter @buckeyeplanet and @bp_recruiting, like us on Facebook! Enjoy a post or article, recommend it to others! BP is only as strong as its community, and we only promote by word of mouth, so share away!
  • Consider registering! Fewer and higher quality ads, no emails you don't want, access to all the forums, download game torrents, private messages, polls, Sportsbook, etc. Even if you just want to lurk, there are a lot of good reasons to register!


2 time Reigning BuckeyePlanet Poker Champion
The Hawk and the Falcon – Coming into the Buckeyes' national championship season in 2002, much fanfare surrounded a tremendous recruiting class. Ex-de facto running back Maurice Clarett created a buzz around campus with his power running style and captivated most of the attention (hey, whatever happened to that guy, haven’t heard much from him lately?).

Fellow recruit Mike D’Andrea was a highly touted linebacker, perhaps, the most sought after in the state of Ohio. But, there were two ‘recruits’, one in that class and one to come later (the proverbial ‘player to be named later’ – college style) that would be the heart and soul of the Buckeye defense in 2004.

The recruit that was lost in the shuffle, so to speak, was a linebacker out of Centerville, Ohio, who missed most of senior year of high school with an injury, with a most apropos name – A.J. Hawk.

By the end of fall camp, Hawk was the freshman linebacker making the most noise, pushing for playing time, even with guys like Cie Grant and Matt Wilhelm in the starting lineup. Upon their graduation, Hawk stepped in for Grant at OLB and never missed a beat. He was thoroughly dominating throughout the season, in particular, in the Fiesta Bowl, where he was the best football player on that field.

The other ‘recruit’, well, maybe recruit is not the best word to use, but ‘prospective student athlete’ was already in college. 2002 was the breakout season for Anthony Schlegel at the Air Force Academy, where he was the linchpin of the Falcons defense (MVP of the Barry Bonds San Francisco Bowl against Virginia Tech that season).

However, by the end of his sophomore year, Schlegel wanted to get away from the Academy and move on to a place where football is king. Well, he picked the perfect place for him – blue collar, tough and nasty – that's what the Buckeye fans expect out of their linebackers. That's what Schlegel will give to them.

In combining with Hawk, the two of them will form a synergistic combination that might make them the best linebacking duo in the Big Ten by year-end (well, add in Bobby Carpenter at Sam linebacker and the Buckeyes may have the best trio in the country). Schlegel’s arrival in the middle allows Hawk to stay on the outside at his Will position, where his speed and quickness are maximized in stopping sweeps/outside zone runs and options and being sound in pass coverage.

Furthermore, Hawk is a strong blitzer off the edge, or in the B gaps, and with Schlegel there to take more of the run responsibility, Hawk can be let loose. Big Ten teams may want to challenge Schlegel on the inside to see whether he can handle ‘life with the big boys’, but that plays right into his hands. Plus, Hawk can help Schlegel understand teams’ tendencies with his experience. There are really no secrets in the Big Ten, I formation power combined with outside and inside zone run schemes – Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin – you know what you are getting.

Plus, there was a team in maize and blue that put up some quality rushing stats last year in Ann Arbor. Hmm, think that the Hawk and the Falcon aren’t looking forward to that game?<?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = O /><O:P> </O:P>

Conclusion: Don’t feel sorry for Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes. The cupboard is far from bare, even with 14 Buckeyes getting drafted into the NFL. The two toughest positions to replace are going to be the defensive line and the quarterback position. Simon Fraser returns at defensive end, and he’s pretty good (duh), but the interior positions have to be stabilized to protect Schlegel, Hawk and Carpenter (as a side note, keep an eye on how the loss of defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio affects the progress and growth of the Buckeye ‘D’). However, the QB spot is destined to be another Stanley Jackson/Joe Germaine competition with Justin Zwick and Troy Smith battling for that number one spot (by the way, if one announcer makes the following comment during the year “You just didn’t know how valuable Craig Krenzel was until he was gone!” – the favorite Ken Dorsey line, the television is going off). Zwick has the top spot at the end of spring, but Smith is not far off the pace. The schedule has its bumps in the road, but there’s no Minnesota and the other two conference powers Wisconsin and Michigan come to the ‘Shoe. Although facing a Philip Rivers-less Wolfpack squad may seem less daunting, coming to Raleigh early in the year can be dangerous with the weapons State still has on offense (read: 1998 FSU). New Year’s Day? Yep. Miami? Maybe next year, but then again, that is what was said in 2002.