Back in the spring, the argument could have been made that redshirt freshman Tuf Borland was Ohio State’s No. 4 middle linebacker.
Chris Worley moved over from Sam and was the Buckeye starter at middle linebacker. Borland was in the mix to back him up along with true freshman Baron Browning and redshirt sophomore Justin Hilliard. How the situation was going to shake out behind Worley was anybody’s guess.
Eventually, Borland came out the winner to be Worley’s top understudy.
As the season began, Borland didn’t see much time on defense against Indiana or Oklahoma, but was told during the middle of week three to expect his playing time on defense to make a large jump. These plans coincided with a foot injury to Chris Worley, but were completely independent of Borland seeing the field more.
In the third game of the season, Borland led the Buckeyes with 12 tackles, most of which came in the second half. It helped that Ohio State was playing the running game of Army, but his performance leading up to the game gave his coaches confidence. His performance during the game confirmed their beliefs.
Borland would then start the next four games as Ohio State’s middle linebacker, and that is where he has been even after Worley’s full return from his injury.
For some players, being Ohio State’s middle linebacker might change them a bit.
For Borland, no such change has occurred.
“If you saw Tuf before this you would see how hard he worked and it is all just paying off right now for him,” said safety Jordan Fuller. “I am just really happy. He has not let any of the hype get to him, he is the same guy, just hard-working.”
While some may have been concerned with Borland’s move to the middle, Fuller had no reservations.
“Really, I just have all the faith in the world in Tuf,” he said. “He is one of my roommates, he is one of the hardest workers that I know. He is all business. When he went into the middle, I was happy for him and I knew that our defense would either be the same or get better with him there. I was confident.”
As Borland’s roommate, Fuller has seen his roommate prepare every day for the position he now mans. And that’s not just on the field, but off the field as well. As the Buckeyes’ middle linebacker, there are more responsibilities than just tackling the football. The Mike must be a leader, a signal caller, and yes, also a very, very good tackler.
Borland has put in the work, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“We will get home from practice, I live with four guys, three of us will be in the living room and chilling but Tuf will be in his room doing homework and watching film,” Fuller said. “He is just very focused. You can tell that.”
Of course, Fuller should have known from the very first time he was introduced to a linebacker named “Tuf” that this is how things would go.
“I thought that was the most football name that I have ever heard in my life. That is my guy,” he said.
“What you see is what you get.”