Ohio State middle linebacker Tuf Borland burst onto the scene in 2017 with a huge day against Army.
He hadn’t recorded a tackle in the Buckeyes’ first two games that year, but when starting linebacker Chris Worley went down with a sprained foot, Borland answered the bell. He finished that day with 12 tackles and a permanent role in the Ohio State defensive game plan.
Borland was named a captain during the offseason, but an Achilles injury suffered during spring practice derailed his 2018 before it started.
He played only 10 snaps in the season opener against Oregon State, and slowly got back on track, gaining playing time throughout the first month of the season.
But at times, Borland didn’t look quite as fast as he did before the injury.
He was generally solid in the run game, but occasionally struggled when asked to track down opponents in space.
Borland has downplayed talk that the injury hampered his play, but Thursday, he acknowledged that it may have had an impact.
“I think when you have an injury like that, you sit out a bunch of times, it’s going to show. You’re going to be rusty,” Borland said.
His play did seem to improve as the year went along and he knocked off some of that rust.
Borland had four tackles for loss against Maryland, and then had his first double-digit tackle game of the year in the 62-39 win over Michigan.
That would seemingly bode well for his chances to have a good game against Washington, since Borland said he saw schematic similarities between the Wolverines and Huskies and knows the keys to a solid day against that type of offense.
“I think you just need to be a little more patient. Not burying yourself in a block. Staying free and then being gap-disciplined. At the end of the day, you take away all the running lanes, there’s not going to be anywhere to go,” he said.
After the Rose Bowl ends, Borland acknowledged that another off-season should help him physically after that Achilles injury.
“I think going through an extra winter, an extra spring, going into next year is going to help a lot,” Borland said. “I might not really notice it on the field or on film, because personally I feel like 100 percent, but going into next year, we’ll see.”