July 28, 2008

Boeckman ready to lead and teach

Despite being the highest rated of all of the returning Big Ten signal callers there still seems to be a bit of a fog that remains around Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman in the eyes of many Buckeye fans. The then junior quarterback put up respectable numbers most of the season in completing 64-percent of his passes for more than 2300 yards and tossing 25 touchdown strikes in an offense that saw a great deal of its production on the ground. The problem comes from a stretch of three final games that saw six (of 14 for the season) interceptions against two lone passing touchdowns.

Now Boeckman is entering his sixth season in the scarlet and gray (a grayshirt season, redshirt season and entering his fourth year of play) and it would be safe to say that the St. Henry (Ohio) native is another year older and another year wiser.

Boeckman never really had that Sportscenter kind of game where he went off for more than 300 yards passing and four touchdowns. The team didn't need that from him with so many other weapons and Todd wasn't called out to do that. The closest thing that Todd had to one of those days was an outing at Penn State where the Buckeyes rolled behind Todd's 19-26 for 253 yards and three scores before Jim Tressel called off the dogs.

While that was the highlight during week nine everything started to go downhill from there and after a pedestrian outing against Wisconsin (17-28, 166, 2 TD) things started to come unglued against Illinois, Michigan and LSU. How has Todd matured this offseason in preparation for his final year with the Bucks?

"I think last year I was looking over my shoulder and seeing how the other guys were doing and worrying about them and I think that might have hindered me a little bit from what I wanted to do and accomplish," Boeckman said. "This year I am more confident and I don't think that you can teach experience and I just don't feel as much pressure on my shoulders as I did last year and I am just trying to be more of that vocal leader."

With the departure of backups Antonio Henton and Rob Schoenhoft there will be more eyes on Todd and people wondering what kind of role that true freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor might be able to make. The talk has seen Pryor playing a Tim Tebow-esque kind of role behind Boeckman with a package or two in his repertoire under special circumstances. Is Boeckman concerned about the possibility of splitting time?

"It is not a big deal," Boeckman said. "I knew coming in he is a great player and a great quarterback and he can do so many great things for us and I hope that he can. History speaks for itself in the last two years with LSU and Florida using that two quarterback rotation and if that works out for us and helps us win some games then I am all for it."

It has been a long time since Boeckman made his debut back in 2005 against the Redhawks of Miami (OhIo) in the season opener (5-7, 67 yards, 1 TD). Todd remembers the butterflies that he felt when he first stepped on the field for live action against another team and the uncertainty leading up to it.

"I just guess that first game and when you get hit in the mouth… you just kind of realize that you are finally here and you are doing it," Boeckman said.

While Pryor looks to get his career started it will be Boeckman who will be looking to leave his legacy and with any luck a return trip to the BCS Championship game in January of 2009. The Bucks know that the path won't be easy despite the prognosticators already placing the team in Miami for the New Year. With a monster non-conference game at USC looming the barometer of the Ohio State season could be determined early, at least in the eyes of the public.

There is no way that the USC game could mean more than the finale against archrival Michigan, could it?

"Well Michigan is always the top just because it is Michigan and at Ohio State it is one of the games you're looking forward to on your schedule," Bockeman said. "Going out to USC is going to be something else and it is going to be a special football game for us because of how great of a team they have been in the last five or ten years and I am excited for it."

The November finale is not even a blip on the radar at this point with 11 games lined up before it but what does Boeckman know about the adversary to the North?

"I know they have a new coach and a whole new system but it is still Michigan," Boeckman said. "They still have the great talent there with athletes and you just never know. Before you know it they could be winning all of their games and coming into Columbus but you just never know."

With the Bucks sitting at 6-1 against the Wolverines under Jim Tressel it seems as if the pendulum has swung in favor of Ohio State for the time being. Is this a trend that should continue this year?

"I hope so," Boeckman said. "(Coach) Tressel has been putting some great game plans together and I think it just starts with the players. You have to have the right players and the right system and they have to be prepared and know the whole situation. I think (the staff) has done a great job of preparing us and putting the game plans together."

Preparation for the 2008 season gets underway when the team reports on August 3rd and even with USC and Michigan on the schedule the first test will come less than four weeks later when the season starts against Youngstown State and all of the hypothetical scenarios mean nothing when the games count.

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