Boeckman Settling Into Starting Role
Surrounded by a veritable army of tape recorders, video cameras and notepads, Todd Boeckman was a picture of serenity. If he's half as relaxed when he is surrounded by defensive linemen, linebackers and blitzing safeties, it should be a pretty good season for the Ohio State starting quarterback. The returning starter for the Buckeyes who earned all-Big Ten honors one season ago is poised to resume taking the team's snaps under center when the 2008 season begins. And yes, he knows who Terrelle Pryor is. "I've heard he's a great athlete," Boeckman said. "We'll get him here and get him in the film room, see how he handles that first of all. I'm excited to see what he can do." So, too, is the entire nation, it seems. While the recruiting saga for the nation's No. 1 high school prospect came to an end when Pryor signed his national letter of intent March 19, the saga that is Pryor's college career is just beginning. But while many are willing to immediately hand over the keys to the kingdom once Pryor arrives on campus, the fact remains that the Buckeyes are returning a quarterback who threw for 2,379 yards – the fifth-best single-season mark in OSU history – and 25 touchdowns in his first season as the starter. As such, don't expect him to turn things over to a freshman so quickly. Judging solely by his demeanor and candor, it doesn't seem like anyone would want him to. In his first meeting with the media following the team's loss to LSU in the national championship – a loss that took him weeks to move past, he said – Boeckman seemed buoyant, upbeat and, above all, confident in his ability to grow from his mistakes of the 2007 season. Chief among them are his 14 interceptions. Asked which one pass from last season he would take back given the chance, he laughed and replied, "Well, there are about 14 of them I would take back." It's the sign of an established veteran preparing to return for one more season leading a powerful offense with a bevy of talented players. "He's approached the game a lot differently than he has in the past," said Nick Siciliano, the team's offensive quality control coach who is handling the quarterbacks while Joe Daniels continues to recover from surgery. "He's been in here working his butt off every day. He studies extra film, he works hard in the weight room and I just think he's doing a tremendous job trying to be a leader of this football team." That has all paid off in an increased level of confidence, Siciliano said. "I think some confidence comes with a little bit of security," he said. "He has to keep working to get better, but any time you step in and play at Ohio State and do well you're going to get a little more confident." This spring, Boeckman is solely taking the reps as the team's No. 1 quarterback while Antonio Henton and Joe Bauserman continue to battle it out to be his primary backup – at least until Pryor arrives on campus. But there is still plenty for the senior to work on, and he knows it. When asked which areas he would like to improve in, Boeckman simply said "everything." However, he cited the fact that he was too quick on his feet as the season wore on last year and also mentioned that he needs to work on his checkdowns. Playing for a coach that shows loyalty to his seniors, Boeckman figures to be the team's starter when Youngstown State comes to Columbus on Sept. 1. What remains to be seen is which other quarterbacks will see playing time. Henton finished last season as the No. 2 quarterback, prompting Robby Schoenhoft to transfer to Delaware. In addition, the coaches have raved about the progress Bauserman has demonstrated since coming to the program last fall. Their battle figures to continue into the fall. But this is Boeckman's team, provided he does not mess it all up. With the game slowing down for him and his experience level continuing to increase, Boeckman could be in for a big year. "I just feel more like a leader, more capable of handling this offense," he said. "I know pretty much everything that we're putting in now and how to handle myself. I feel so much more confident than I did compared year." The fact remains that there is still plenty of time for things to change, however. Lots of pressure will rest on the broad shoulders of Pryor, as it will on Boeckman's shoulder pads as well. But if the growth Boeckman has displayed in facing the media in the last year is matched by a growing comfort level on the field, being under center will be a second home for him. If Pryor can find a way to crack the lineup and make a splash himself, it all adds up to bad news for Big Ten teams.