Former Ohio State Linebackers Anthony Schlegel, James Laurinaitis, Bobby Carpenter and A.J. Hawk Remember Their Favorite Plays As Buckeyes

By Andy Anders on April 17, 2024 at 10:10 am
Anthony Schlegel, James Laurinaitis and A.J. Hawk

It’s striking to see Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Schlegel, James Laurinaitis, and A.J. Hawk sit on a stage and recount their times as football players.

Each started and concluded their career as an Ohio State linebacker within a seven-season window from 2002 through 2008. Each is still around the game of football in some form or fashion; Laurinaitis and Schlegel as coaches, Hawk and Carpenter as media personalities.

Yet, as with any group of four people, the four each share a unique perspective, and that much was made clear when moderator and former OSU wide receiver turned ESPN analyst Joey Galloway asked the quartet what their favorite play they made in college was during last week’s Ohio State coaches’ clinic.

It’s fitting for Schlegel that his selection wasn’t anything that put a tick next to his name in the box score, but rather someone else’s.

Schlegel didn’t choose a play in the sense of a specific moment in a specific game but rather a “play” in terms of a play call, a blitz concept that he, Carpenter and Hawk used to run together when they were co-starters for the Buckeyes in 2004 and 2005.

Self-described as the “most unathletic” of the bunch, Schlegel served as the offensive line occupier for a call dubbed “Field Alaska Magic.” It was a stunt where Schlegel would crash down the line of scrimmage, allowing Hawk to loop overtop and often become a free rusher on the quarterback.

“(Coach would say) ‘Schlegel, run into the guard and center, blow it up, A.J. (will) wrap around and make a sack because, obviously, you can’t,” Schlegel said. “So that was my greatest play. And again, we talked about it, there’s roles that we all have to play. Know your freaking role. Go smash your skull into somebody else and let the players make the play.”

Carpenter pointed out lightheartedly afterward that there was a time when Schlegel got to be the looper with Hawk crashing to free him up against Texas in 2005, but Longhorn legend Vince Young evaded him. Texas won the game 25-22 en route to a national championship.

“Schlegs got to wrap and he was free, free as a bird,” Carpenter said. “And Vince just sidestepped him.”

“It happens. He (almost) won a Heisman Trophy, Bobby, thank you very much,” Schlegel retorted, receiving a laugh from the coaches in the room.

Young finished runner-up for the Heisman behind USC running back Reggie Bush in 2005.

Much like his role on Field Alaska Magic, Schlegel has since supported others on the field by becoming a strength and conditioning coach. He’s currently working with the Buckeyes’ staff after previously serving as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for Ohio State from 2011 through 2015. He ran the Jacksonville Jaguars’ strength and conditioning program for Urban Meyer in 2021.

Schlegel still got a chance to dish out a big hit or two after his playing days, though.

Laurinaitis’ favorite play came as a result of a mistake he made on the field, one at Texas in 2006.

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock dialed up a double A-gap pressure with Laurinaitis and fellow linebacker Marcus Freeman on a blitz call through the middle of the line. Whoever the Longhorns’ center blocked was supposed to drop back in coverage while the other kept on ahead into the backfield.

“I tell the guys all the time, we don’t have enough time to be coaching effort,” Laurinaitis said. “You can’t be coaching effort at Ohio State. There’s a standard that these guys showed me when I was a freshman of the way that you practiced, and so if you practice that way, you’ll play that way. That’s the way that I was groomed by the way these three practiced because these guys went hard.”

With Texas at Ohio State’s 7-yard line on second-and-goal, quarterback Colt McCoy hit wide receiver Billy Pittman on a quick whip route. Laurinaitis ran to the ball after his mistake, separated Pittman from the rock and cornerback Donald Washington picked up the loose change to keep the Longhorns off the scoreboard. Ohio State won the contest, 24-7.

“OK, you have a mental error, who cares, the ball is still going, you run,” Laurinaitis said. “It’s a play that took absolutely zero talent on my end. It was just hustle. It’s everything that we preach here, everything that Coach Day preaches, it’s 4 to 6, A to B, plus two.”

The play occurred at 8:50 of the following video:

Carpenter’s favorite play came as a result of confusion, as well. He was playing defensive end for a 4th-and-short play against Michigan State in 2005 as Ohio State trailed, having already lost to Texas and Penn State thus far that season.

“On the edge, we have double edge rushers unless guys are moving and motioning out,” Carpenter said. “So (the outside linebacker) would give a ‘Bull’ call to the end if you had an (additional) edge rusher. ‘Bull’ call meant you bull-rushed the tackle, there’s an edge rusher outside of you. No bull meant you’re contain. ... As any defensive coach will tell you, contain is very important.”

Contain was especially important against Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards in his college career and presented a threat to keep the ball in the short-yardage situation.

Sure enough, Michigan State elected for a pass play to put the ball in Stanton’s hands. Carpenter didn’t know whether he had a “Bull” call or not and decided to act as if he did, and when Whitner didn’t rush, Ohio State was left without a defender keeping contain.

Stanton was flushed from the pocket and scrambled to Carpenter’s side. Carpenter shed his block and chased the quarterback down the line of scrimmage, coming up with the first-down-preventing tackle.

“(Luke Fickell) said, ‘What were you doing right there? I said, ‘I was setting him up,’” Carpenter recalled, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “I just took a beeline right down the line, ‘I’m gonna get him right before that pylon.’ And I was able to get him before he got (the first down). It was total panic but then total jubilation.”

Hawk’s favorite play was the least impactful of the bunch, but also perhaps the most revealing about who he was as a player.

He and Carpenter were freshmen on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team. In the first game of that season against Texas Tech, Hawk got to play his first snaps as a Buckeye in garbage time as the Buckeyes wound down a 45-21 victory.

Hawk lit up Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury – the second future head football coach to be named in this story, joining Freeman – as he tried to scramble toward Ohio State’s sideline. Hawk has the picture framed and hanging up in his home.

“He got rid of the ball and I blasted him. I took, probably, three steps,” Hawk said with a laugh from the crowd. “I got him right in the chin back when you could do that. It was the first time I heard the stadium say, ‘Oooh.’ Kind of gasp. And that did something to me. It was the best feeling ever.”

Few linebackers in Ohio State history developed Hawk’s fearsome reputation for big hits in his college career – though one of them was on stage with him in Laurinaitis. He and Laurinaitis both won Butkus Awards as the best linebacker in college football before their careers ended.

That hit was where it all started for Hawk, in any case.

“It gave me a ton of confidence, it honestly did,” Hawk said. “Felt like I could play, even though I hit a defenseless guy falling out of bounds. It made me feel good about (where I was).”

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