‘Night and Day’ Difference for Tuf Borland, Just ‘Watch the Tape’

Tuf Borland Michigan 2018

One year ago at this time, Ohio State middle linebacker Tuf Borland was furiously working his way back from an Achilles injury that he suffered in the spring.

When it happened, then-head coach Urban Meyer remarked that Borland was a fast healer and would be back sooner than people expected.

He was correct. An injury that would have kept most players out until midseason couldn’t even keep Borland out of the season opener.

Despite spending most of his spring and summer rehabbing and only practicing sporadically, Borland earned his team’s respect and was voted a captain as a redshirt sophomore.

One year later, Borland is completely healthy and once again a team captain.

But questions still remain.

Borland may have been a fast healer, but it was clear at times during the season that he wasn’t entirely healthy. The labored gait here and there was impossible to miss.

Despite the issues, Borland finished third on the team with 67 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss.

This summer, he has once again established himself as the team’s middle linebacker. His position coach Al Washington will cite a number of different reasons for that, but health cannot be ignored.

“It’s night and day,” Borland said. “I feel a huge difference. Just excited for the upcoming season.”

Last year while Borland was rehabbing and then practicing and then playing, so much of what was happening was the first time his Achilles tendon had gone through that particular test. That’s a considerable weight to put on somebody’s figurative shoulders and literal tendons.

That weight now for Borland has been lifted.

“Just to go through a whole winter, whole spring, whole summer, all the workouts, everything with the team, that instills some confidence in you that you can play at a high level and I feel exactly that,” he said.

Despite the healthy Achilles, Borland missed most of spring for precautionary reasons after taking a helmet to the knee. As such, Al Washington didn’t get to see much of him in the spring.

After three weeks of fall camp, however, he’s seen enough to know why his teammates and coaches like him as much as they do.

“I see why he is a captain and I see why he was on a watch list. The Butkus watch list, I think it was,” Washington said. “He is an ultra-competitive kid. He’s gotten better from practice one to now. He’s a perfectionist. So that’s what I’ve seen because I didn’t know. This spring I didn’t get a chance to see him really. Love that kid.”

Not being 100% and being asked to lead a defense is a tall task, and one that didn’t always go perfectly for Borland last year. He received criticism from media and fans alike, and he rarely had to look far to find an unkind word.

That continues to this day, despite the Buckeyes having not yet played a single game this year.

Borland says he doesn’t let it get to him.

“No, I think that comes with the territory of being an athlete at Ohio State,” he said. “You’re on the biggest stage. People are going to come at you. People are going to say things, but it’s part of the job. As you progress to higher levels, you just kind of got to put that aside and just do your job.”

This is something that Washington has talked to his players about on a daily basis.

“The criticism and the compliments, it’s about what you think,” Washington said. “You look in the mirror. And you know if you’re putting in the work. That’s the beautiful thing about right now with these guys, you got to learn how to create the mindset you want to have. And so when people criticize, I hear it all time, I don’t pay it any mind. You know, we come to work. And you look at your body of work and practice, and you evaluate that.

“And I like that he is soft spoken, because his actions speak louder anyway. Right? You think about that. He’s a soft spoken leader. Captain, they voted. So that’s what you want. I’m excited for him. He’s feeling good. And to the kid’s credit, he’s worked himself to that point. And he’s gonna continue to work. We still got a lot of work to do.”

Based on Borland’s struggles last season, it was expected that he would be pushed for the starting job during camp. According to Washington, he absolutely has been pushed, but he is still ahead of junior Baron Browning and Teradja Mitchell because of one single reason.

The tape.

“Yeah, you know, when people say I want to see this and that, you know what, how about this? How about let’s see them all,” Washington said.

“You asked the question ‘how does Tuf do it?’ You watch the tape. You come in with me and watch the tape. You understand what I’m saying? There’s a reason. That kid is a warrior and he gets to the ball. And so, you know, Teradja and Baron, those guys are gonna play too. We’re all together. You know, so, when people say [somebody should be playing instead of Borland], I feel like they’re not living in our [world.] But you know, it’s all good.”

9 Responses

  1. Is it me, or is this the sixty third attempt to re-hash this topic on O-Zone? Jeesh, the season can’t get here soon enough…
    Once more into the breach on LB play and Tuf Borland, I guess… Last year was a perfect storm of poor scheme, poor LB coaching, injury, and (likely) a dose of Urban Meyer homering all at once. The result was a disaster. Yes, fans “have to” accept the decisions of the coaches, of course. However, we don’t have to accept the nonsensical reasoning that kept Tuf out there last year. As someone who completely tore an Achilles- and yes, I know the history lesson behind the term- I can tell you there is no worse injury for a footballer outside of permanent paralysis. Suffering five real concussions would be less devastating than one torn Achilles. I don’t have to speculate or second guess, I lived it. That is the experience which tells me it was foolhardy and reckless for the staff to let him play, and that Tuf needed to take a back seat last year by acknowledging the drastic limits of the injury. It’s likely unfair, but lots of scarlet and gray eyes will be watching 32 (and 20) at LB. The excuses and reasons are all gone now.

  2. On the 31st there will be millions of eyes on Ohio State football. We’ll all get a sense about the state of Tuf Borlands wheels Last year may be the past, but after a season like he had people are going to be watching him under a microscope. Yep, goes with the territory.

    I couldn’t care less about stats. His numbers appeared decent, but they appeared decent on one of the worst defenses in Ohio State history. Yep, scheme put Tuf on the LOS so we should anticipate LOS tackles. The Buckeyes were gashed in the middle zones repeatedly on Saturdays last year because nobody was home there, and even when they were home they couldn’t make plays there because they couldn’t get off blocks, were misaligned and, were physically unable to do anything but sniff the fumes of guys blowing past them. That holds true for all the linebackers, until about mid season when Malik Harrison exploded.

    We’ll see immediately if the linebacker unit is major college ball level. Or I should say, by the final gun of the second game when they actually face a real test. The FANS didn’t cause the linebacker problems last year, the players did. If they don’t want the criticism, play better. In Tuf’s case, he was a liability last year because it was obvious that he was “injured.” The problem with him playing last year……as a Captain…..was that he allowed himself to play in that condition. It hurt the team. I would have been shocked if he could have run a 6 second 40 on that injured wheel. A leader shouldn’t put himself above the team, and if his performance was what it was and the Buckeyes didn’t have a better option to go with until Tuf was actually ready to play, we have more problems than our complaints to worry about.

    Be fun and interesting to see how much he’s back from that injury. Davis COULDN’T fix the problem simply because he didn’t know how to. Schiano did him no favors with a horrendous scheme implementation. Now we have Al Washington. We’ll see how it goes. I personally trust his judgment, so whoever goes out to start is fine by me…….BUT….it won’t change the fact that the microscope is going to be on that unit.

  3. A.A. my friend good to see you on here and listen to your voice of reason. I would be in agreement that the defensive play-calling was suspect at best. I will be interested to see what changes take place this year and with this staff! Go Bucks!

  4. Last year and recently lots of people have commented here confidently, whom I suspect have no medical background nor personal experience with a major tendon injury like an Achilles. Just some context- it’s called the “Achilles” tendon because an injury to it once felled the greatest warrior in classical literature. Note, Homer did not choose an ACL or Tommy John surgery to sideline Achilles.

    Since we’re all proud of our opinions, here’s my medical 2-cents worth. Take a double dose of your chill pills. Recite this mantra repeatedly for 10 minutes, “There’s nothing I can do about this anyway”.

    Then enjoy The OSU 2019 football season. One more thing. Keep an opened mind when Mr Borland proves you wrong in his second season off a major injury. Or revel in your superior medical and sports insights over the coaches who name Mr Borland the starter and players who voted him captain.

    Because I’m rationale, objective and an avid Buckeye fan, I didn’t like last year’s LB play either. But it’s a new staff scheming. It’s a new year competing. And it’s a new season for Mr Borland whose 2018 season was severely hindered. I’m hoping he kicks some A$$ in 2019. If he doesn’t, I wish him the very best. And I hope the guys who sub in find the appropriate a$$ and kick it!

  5. Unbelievable! They can sell this all they want… not buying any of it until I see it come game time. We may not make it to game one without Mitchell and Browning heading to the portal. Unless Borland/Werner have done a 180, there will be hard feelings about having to sit behind them for a second year.

    1. There were plenty of examples last season about why the LB play was so poor and from what I saw it was mostly technique and tactics. You can fix those. If it’s then also health, you can also heal. So really. . . even if only two out of those three are much improved, it should show on the field. I believe it.

    2. His teammates think Borland is worthy – you don’t vote for a scrub as a team captain. Furthermore even you have to like the kid’s attitude, putting up with comments like yours and still going to work every day. I haven’t jumped into the LB comments much but I have wondered what you guys were seeing that I wasn’t. Borland made plays despite a crap system run by Schiano that set him up to fail. I’m not AS sure of Pete Werner but he also had a few worthy highlights as well as the duds we remember. Will you be man enough to own up and eat your crow when Borland succeeds?

      1. If he succeeds I will certainly acknowledge that and say he proved me wrong. Easy enough. Being voted a captain is not a matter of being a scrub or not…its most about being responsible, reliable, and a leader on and off the field (see C.J. Saunders).

        Will you be man enough to won up and say Mr. Perry you were right if Borland and Werner turn out to not be our best options at LB?

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