January 6, 2008

Functional over flash?

NEW ORLEANS- If Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman didn't stand 6-foot-5 he likely wouldn't stand out in a crowd. Now the St. Henry (Ohio) product is on the eve of being a starting quarterback in the BCS Championship game on Monday night.

Boeckman has seen firsthand what happens in a national championship game when things go wrong, very wrong. It is never easy being the guy who is replacing the guy but Todd had to get through that quickly when he was announced as the starter during fall practice.

"(Troy Smith) did so many great things at Ohio State, won the Heisman, set a lot of records, his winning percentage is unbelievable and I knew it was tough coming in and I had to do the little things right to step up and stay focused at all times," Boeckman said. "I knew I couldn't make too many mistakes because he did so many things with his legs that I wasn't capable of doing. I had to come in there and do my job and I think the guys around me helped me out also."

But Todd is not Troy and nobody would ever get the two confused. Both Ohio State quarterbacks had similar statistics midway through the season but each of them went in different directions to get to that point. Head coach Jim Tressel is not asking for Todd to be the next Troy but rather just be Todd and play a sound and smart game.

"What I've appreciated about Todd is that Todd held true to who he is," Tressel said. "He knows that he's not Troy Smith. I think he feels down deeply he can do some things that maybe Troy couldn't. But he knows for sure that he can't do some things that Troy did."

When the offense is clicking it almost seems as if Boeckman just blends in with the landscape but when things are going poorly with the offense the bulls-eye between the 1 and the 7 on his chest. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman is quick to point out that Todd has a role to play as the triggerman.

"You can always say that there's a lot of people around him," Bollman said. "A quarterback maybe doesn't have to make a play, but I don't know you can really do that either because sooner or later in a football game a quarterback has got to make a play. He's got to make a great throw or make a great decision which is the No. 1 thing."

The decision making has not been perfect for Todd this year and the staff would love get a couple mulligans for Boeckman.

"I'm sure throughout the season he's had a throw here or there that we'd like for him to take back and that he would like to take back," Bollman said. "But he's done a really good job, continually improving and done a good job in bowl preparation."

Does Todd have to play a perfect game on offense for the Buckeyes to have a chance to win?

"I don't know if it is all on me because I know we have a great defense behind us," Boeckman said. "Our offensive line is doing a great job this year and obviously Beanie (Wells) has been carrying the load for quite a while. Our receivers are stepping up so it I just go out there and do my job and don't make any mistakes I think we will be alright."

Things have come a long way in the 360-some odd days since one of the darkest days in Ohio State football recent history.

"It started on January 9th of last year," fullback Dionte Johnson said. "Him and (Brian Robiskie) got together and once we found out who was leaving and who wasn't; that it was their team and it was their time to get the receivers together and get the quarterback position together and just be focused from there. It's been a long process and he's come a long way but it shows. It shows the work ethic back then."

"After last year and that tough loss we don't want to have that feeling again and we are going in there preparing hard and doing the right things on and off the field," Boeckman said. "(Because of last year) I think we're working that much harder."


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