After the Wait, It's Finally Boeckman's Turn
By John Porentas
Unless something really weird happens between now and next Saturday Todd Boeckman is going to be the starter at quarterback for Ohio State in the opener against Youngstown State. There is very little chance that you will mistake him for Troy Smith when he takes that first snap.
The obvious observation is that Boeckman and Smith are very different physically. Smith has a shortish (sorry Troy) compact body that is wired for athleticism. Boeckman is all of 6-5, maybe close to 6-6, and while not a bad athlete, isn't going to overwhelm you with his ability to be an extra ball carrier in the OSU backfield as Smith often did.
The physical differences are obvious, but what is also obvious is that the two have some major differences in their personalities and personal style.
Smith was known in the OSU locker room as the guy with the perpetual smile and the guy who always was ready for a laugh. Boeckman isn't likely to crack up the huddle with a comment. As a matter of fact, he's likely not to get the joke when somebody like quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels tells one.
"Todd is a lot more serious," said Daniels.
"He'll laugh, but you're going to have to pry the laugh out of him, where Troy was a lot more fun-loving and had a lot more vibrant personality."
Smith was the life of the party. Boeckman is more likely not to attend the party. That doesn't mean, however, that he is a recluse or laconic. As a matter of fact listening to Boeckman talk is rather energizing. The words come a mile a minute in staccato fashion and he talks with great, great enthusiasm, and the thing he talks most enthusiastically about is football and being the quarterback of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
"It's been my dream ever since I've been here to lead this team. I'm doing what I can and hopefully I will be that guy," Boeckman rattled off during fall camp.
For whatever differences Smith and Boeckman have in personality and style, they have one overriding trait in common. Both have a passion to be an excellent quarterback.
"He's very much enthused about his job," said Daniels.
"This is something that's very, very important to Todd Boeckman. To Todd, this is something that he's looked forward to for years. He planned on it to be the starting quarterback at Ohio State."
And if there is one thing that is already clear about Boeckman, it's that he can stick to a plan. Boeckman is finally going to get that chance on Saturday, but only after a long, long wait.
Boeckman graduated from high school in 2003. His last start as a quarterback came in high school in the 2002 season, the year the Buckeyes won the national championship. In the years that Boeckman has been at Ohio State Craig Krenzel, Scott McMullen, Justin Zwick and Troy Smith have all had starts as the OSU quarterback. Boeckman waited in the wings patiently while they all got their chance at the helm, but he wasn't just biding his time. He was paying attention to how those players handled the challenge of being the quarterback at Ohio State and now says that all that time spent watching has not been wasted.
"I've been here and I've seen how Craig Krenzel handled himself, how Troy Smith handled himself. I know how they did it and I'm just ready to go out there and hopefully I get my shot," Boeckman said.
Boeckman will be following in the footsteps of a quarterback that was a playmaker in his years at the helm of the Buckeyes. Smith made plays with his feet, his arm, and with his head as he matured into an excellent decision-making quarterback. While Boeckman isn't likely to make the kind of athletic plays that Smith made, OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman expects him to me more than just a facilitator who gets the ball to the real skill on the field and simply avoids mistakes.
"He's got to get the ball to the right people and do those things, but it's just the nature of that position that if it's going to be successful the guy has to make some plays," Bollman said.
It has been reported that Boeckman was the fastest of the OSU quarterbacks last season. Boeckman, however, pretty much debunked that notion this fall. Boeckman said that his best 40 time is in the 4.7+ range, something a bit slower that Smith and certainly slower than Antonio Henton. That is not, however to say, slow, and Boeckman says he is ready to make plays with his feet if that is what is needed.
"I wouldn't say a scrambling quarterback but if the pocket breaks down a little bit and I see an opening I'm going to take it," he said.
"I'm not afraid to run the ball. I'm not afraid to take a hit. That's one thing you can't be afraid of is taking a hit because you know it's going to happen out there," Boeckman said.
Boeckman is, however, more likely to make plays with his arm. Jim Tressel described him as the best quarterback he has had at Ohio State at throwing the deep ball. Tressel got no argument on that issue from his quarterbacks coach.
"He's done a great job of that. This is something that I could see it coming over the last year or so because his arm has gotten stronger and stronger," said Daniels.
"The thing about him is, the thing we notice more than anything else, is he is really accurate with the long pass.
"He'll look for the bomb in the right situation and depending on what we have called. He does a good job of reading it," Daniels said.
The idea of having a deep threat to go with a strong running game this season has Bollman smiling. It is also bringing some smiles in the the OSU wide receiver meeting room as well.
"It's nice to get a step or two beyond a guy and have a nice soft ball come in. That's nice. He's done a tremendous job," said wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell.
Boeckman has the confidence of the coaches that he will be able to make plays with his arm. Bollman says there is one other way he can be a playmaker as well.
"Part of making plays at that position is being consistent," Bollman said.
"The more apt a guy is to not be on a roller coaster, the better off we're going to be."
Boeckman's physical skill set will be different from that of Smith, as will be his personality. The one thing that he will have to have in common with Smith is the ability to be the leader of the offense. Daniels thinks he has that aspect of being a quarterback headed in the right direction.
"He's a very, very conscientious young man," said Daniels.
"I think for the most part the players really like him, I think they respect him, I think he has gained a lot of respect from the players and from the team through this camp."
The job is now Boeckman's to keep or lose. OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel, himself a former quarterback, has expectation of Boeckman, but also understands that he will most likely be a work in progress, particularly in the early stages of the season. Overall, he likes what he has seen of Boeckman this fall.
"I thought his first couple of practices were average, and I thought 'Gosh, he's waited all this time,' but I think it was all of the excitement. I bet he didn't sleep for two days before camp started," said Tressel.
"He settled himself down and I think after those first couple his practices have been very solid.
" I see him getting better and better.
"He's got a long way to go, he knows it, but I think he learns. You have to get in and error in order to learn and succeed in order to learn," Tressel said.
Starting this Saturday, it will be Todd Boeckman's turn to do just that.
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