Boren To Start at LB Against Purdue
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — That didn’t take long.
One week after playing the first snaps of his Ohio State career on the defensive side of the football, Zach Boren will likely suit up and start at linebacker against Purdue this week for Urban Meyer and the undefeated Buckeyes.
“I don’t think that’s been finalized yet, but I think Zach will probably start,” Meyer said after Wednesday’s practice.
“And then we’ve got (Ryan) Shazier and … who else do we have over there? Oh, Storm (Klein).”
Klein was the player who started in place of an injured Etienne Sabino last week, when the Buckeyes played almost entirely nickel defense against Indiana’s spread passing attack.
Boren, who moved over from offense on Tuesday after Meyer realized how shorthanded he really was at linebacker, came in on the second defensive series, and actually led the Buckeyes with eight tackles against Indiana.
“I’m just glad he’s over there,” Meyer said Wednesday.
“He brings confidence, he brings toughness and our players love him. He’s as unselfish a player as we have.”
Meyer said he was looking for some much-needed toughness on defense, when he spotted Boren warming up with the fullback and tight ends last week in practice. Boren was an all-state linebacker in high school, but had not played the position since his final days at Pickering Central.
With Sabino out presumably until at least the bye-week (Meyer said he was running in a pool on Wednesday), the Buckeyes were also without number of young guys who were battling injuries – Joshua Perry, Camren Williams and Conner Crowell all missed practice time last week.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Then there is Curtis Grant, a 5-star prospect in the class of 2011 who just hasn’t been able to figure it out in his second year at Ohio State.
“I think that he’s … the honest evaluation is that he still has a ways to go,” Meyer said of Grant, who was this team’s starting middle linebacker at the beginning of the year.
“And that’s one thing I really push our coaches is to be as honest as they can. You know, don’t leave anything behind door No. 2.”
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and his staff are working tirelessly to get Grant up to speed, but it’s hard to tell exactly when things will eventually start to click for a young guy in a new program.
“There’s a great example of a guy that’s just in his second year. He’s been here a year-and-a-half and he’s still trying to figure it out,” Fickell said.
“Sometimes it takes time.”
Time is something the Buckeyes don’t have a lot of right now, especially if they want to keep their undefeated season rolling. It’s about all Grant has at the moment, and Meyer says he’s using it productively, despite the fact he no longer appears to be a factor in their plans on the defensive side of the ball in 2012.
“The good thing is I see Curtis out there grinding and working,” Meyer said Wednesday.
“He knows his weaknesses and he’s trying to get better. I like his attitude.”
On Monday, Meyer called Boren’s move to defense “temporarily permanent,” and now the Buckeyes could be on the verge of trying some different things with fifth-year senior Nathan Williams as well.
“Potentially in the 3-4 if we do some odd stuff, which he’s already done some this year,” Meyer said.
“The one really good thing is Noah Spence played well enough that we really trust him on the field now. And that frees up Nate to help us if we do some of that 3-4 stuff.”
Boren is still likely to be out there in the nickel with Shazier, but that doesn’t mean his days of playing offense are officially over at Ohio State.
“Maybe once Sabino gets back,” Meyer said of the possibility Boren could play a little on both sides of the ball.
“I’ve been thinking about that; I’d love to hand him the ball and reward him sometime down the road or something.”
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