Most Important Buckeyes: No. 3
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There were a lot of important players who made 2012 a season to remember for the Buckeyes. So many individual contributions pieced together to make a perfect season, a perfect team, a perfect start to Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State.
From Chris Fields’ catch against Purdue to Ryan Shazier’s strip of Montee Ball in Madison to Jake Stoneburner’s touchdown at Penn State, there were so many big plays and big moments that made it all possible.
Photo by Dn Harker
Yet the most memorable, or at least meaningful, event of the 2012 season may have happened on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday. That was the day Zach Boren made history.
What Made Him Important?
Where would the 2012 Buckeyes have been without their senior co-captain? One middle linebacker short of a defense, for starters. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell tried Curtis Grant. He tried Storm Klein. He even tried Conner Crowell, but for the second year in a row, Ohio State’s defense was noticeably devoid of a productive leader in the middle of the defense.
Boren changed all that in week seven when he flipped over to defense after more than three years as Ohio State’s starting fullback. With Meyer’s confidence and Fickell’s tutelage, Boren made an unprecedented midseason switch.
An old school fullback with a talent for opening holes, Boren had been perfect for the old OSU offense, but his position hardly exists in Meyer’s more wide-open attack. Instead of diminishing his role in the offense, Meyer actually expanded it. He scored the first rushing touchdown of his four-year career and finished with 40 yards and two scores on 11 carries before making the switch over to defense.
On that side of the ball, Boren finished with 50 tackles in just six games. He became the leader of the defense and brought a settling factor to the linebacking corps, which allowed Shazier to use his speed and ability on the outside.
With Boren, Ohio State ranked second nationally in total defense in the month of November, allowing just 269.7 yards per game.
What Would the Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
Photo by Jim Davidson
Didn’t we just cover that? They would have been out of options, that’s where they would have been without Zach Boren this season. The defense would have continued to struggle, Ryan Shazier would have continued to run himself out of position trying desperately to make up for the team’s lack of a middle linebacker and Ohio State would not have won those hard-fought games against Wisconsin and Michigan in the month of November.
How do we know that? Well, we don’t really know that for sure but we can presume the defense that gave up 28 points to Cal and 49 points to Indiana wasn’t going to keep the Badgers to 14 and Wolverines to 21 points. Yes, Boren played in that game at Bloomington, but that was his first game as a linebacker since high school.
What do you expect from the guy?
Photo by Jim Davidson
If not for Boren’s emergence at the middle linebacker position, the defensive coaches would have had a conundrum on their hands. Curtis Grant clearly wasn’t going to be the answer. Storm Klein was playing through a back injury after missing all of fall camp, and Conner Crowell’s ankle is so bad that he’s done playing football altogether at Ohio State.
Who else is out there? Maybe they would have gone with a true freshman like Camren Williams or Joshua Perry, but it’s pretty self-explanatory why Zach Boren is No. 3 on out postseason countdown of the 20 Most Important Buckeyes for an undefeated 2012 season.
How Does It Compare to Preseason Expectations?
Back in the preseason Boren was a fullback. He still ranked No. 11 on our preseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes, which says a lot about Boren as a player and as a leader.
The latter is a role he had to grow into during his final season at Ohio State, and first under new head coach Urban Meyer. Few could have predicted such a move in the preseason, but looking back, even fewer can imagine an undefeated outcome without it.
Most Important Countdown:
No. 4 Ryan Shazier
No. 5 Carlos Hyde
No. 6 Johnathan Hankins
No. 7 Bradley Roby
No. 8 Reid Fragel
No. 9 Philly Brown
No. 10 Jack Mewhort
No. 11 Devin Smith
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton
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