June 14, 2010

Intense practice key for Heyward, team

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State senior defensive end Cameron Heyward said late last week that improving his conditioning and his stamina was his top priority heading into the fall.

Ironically enough, that comes from a guy that seemingly has an endless motor in practice and games. Heyward's intensity is something his teammates and coaches specifically notice about him.

"Cam is a great player and he's one of those guys that will just run in and demolish people all the time," said fellow senior defensive lineman Dexter Larimore. "That's what he's really good at, just coming in and playing hard."

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel looked into the NFL study for Heyward after his junior season and the coach found other defensive linemen that were being drafted in the first round played roughly 90 percent of the snaps for their teams last year.

Heyward, conversely, played roughly 60 percent of the plays for the Buckeyes last year.

Player like Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy were productive over long periods of time, Heyward noted, and the senior defensive end is striving to increase his productivity over an increased play load.

"For me individually I have to get better in conditioning," said Heyward, who was just recently named a Playboy Preseason All-American. "The main thing for me is that I can get tired out there. I don't plan on taking plays off, but I still have to have to production."

Taking plays off is the last thing coaching staff is worried about with Heyward, who has earned quite the reputation around his teammates for a guy that plays each play like it is his last, regardless of whether it is in practice or in the game.

Heyward credited his play by the tough, physical practices the Buckeyes have and each offensive lineman on Ohio State's offense knows they are going to have their hands full if they draw Heyward as an assignment for that given play.

"I am trying to get them better. I think it just starts in practice. A lot of teams don't do practice like we do," Heyward said. "We yell at each other. If somebody is making a mistake, we are going to make it known. You don't have to be the most liked person in the world and we know what it takes to get to that next level."

Heyward has been no stranger to get into little fights during practice and it has happened on multiple occasions when media has been invited in to watch practice.

While the exact reason for the altercations are often tough to pickup from the sideline, Heyward's intensity before, during, and after the play has clearly been felt.

"I think I have always done that. They used to get mad at me because I would run hard," Heyward said. "I think it gets me in better condition. I may not be the most skilled guy out there, but I am going to give it all I got."

Heyward, however, said those squabbles is part of becoming a closer team and gauging the character of the men he will play next to on Saturdays.

While there are times Heyward isn't particularly upset with his counterpart, he often engages in intense situations to see how his teammates react.

"We love to fight each other. A lot of guys took the challenge of making practice more physical even though it has wear and tear on your body, we grind it out there," Heyward said. "Guys are constantly getting beat up, but it is for the betterment of the team and when you have a bunch of guys working hard and making it game-like situations it is only going to prepare you for game-like situation.

"You want to see what you got out of a person," he continued. "If you have a guy that is just going to let you beat him every time then you are in the wrong place."

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

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