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8/26/2008 10:15 AM
QB Todd Boeckman  (United States)
In command: Boeckman's growth in confidence creates comfort zone for Buckeyes
Tuesday,  August 26, 2008 3:14 AM
<p>Todd Boeckman finished last season as the Big Ten's most efficient passer in his first season as Ohio State's starting quarterback.</p>

Todd Boeckman finished last season as the Big Ten's most efficient passer in his first season as Ohio State's starting quarterback.

With a season's experience as starting quarterback and going into what amounts to his sixth year at Ohio State, there's something different about Todd Boeckman.

His father can see it.

"The biggest difference from last year to this year is just, very simply, you can see the confidence he has," Tim Boeckman said.

Boeckman's teammates can see it.

"Todd's the leader, his confidence running the offense is obvious, and you can see the rest of the offense feeding off of that," linebacker James Laurinaitis said.

 His coach can see it, too.

"Todd Boeckman has great command of what we're trying to do," Jim Tressel said.

With the 2008 season kicking off Saturday at home against Youngstown State, what the Buckeyes are trying to do, above all, is win a fourth straight Big Ten title and make a third straight trip to the national championship game. As a first-year starter a year ago, Boeckman directed them to both, though he and the Buckeyes were bushwhacked by LSU in the title game.

Even if Boeckman seemed to fade some down the stretch, he still finished the season as the Big Ten's most efficient passer. Tressel knows having such a player return to lead a veteran-laden offense is like having a six-year certificate of deposit reach maturity.

Joe Bauserman is the still-learning, redshirt-freshman backup. Terrelle Pryor is the freshman phenom whose talents and progress through training camp have caused Tressel to forecast that he will earn playing time.

But Boeckman, 24, the old man of the offense, is the returning starter. Tressel has no plans to waste such equity.

"It's fun to watch him in practice," Tressel said. "He has a thorough understanding of what we're doing. He can sit there and talk with Joe Bauserman and Terrelle Pryor about this and that.

"It is great to have that kind of comfort zone at the quarterback position. You always love going into a season with a veteran quarterback."

In the case of Boeckman, from tiny St. Henry, Ohio, it has been a long time coming. But it started with "his passion to come to Ohio State," Tressel said.

Tressel offered Boeckman a scholarship the summer of 2002. Then the coaching staff revised its QB ratings and went after Brady Quinn of Dublin Coffman, putting the offer to Boeckman on hold.

"He didn't even blink," Tressel said. "Then, as the recruiting unfolded and Brady went to Notre Dame, we kind of were unsure whether we wanted to bring in a quarterback with that class.

"So we started talking to him about gray-shirting (not enrolling full time in fall 2003 so he could still take five years to play four seasons). And he didn't blink, because he wanted to play at Ohio State, and he had every bit of confidence he could."

Maybe Boeckman could see the future, even if Tressel could not.

"What I remember about him is he had a tunnel vision about what he wanted to accomplish, and not much hoopla," Tressel said. "He was never one to moan or groan, but he was going to do what he wanted to do."

He didn't want to be just another face on campus.

"I always wanted to be the quarterback; I knew I could throw it around a little bit when I was younger," Boeckman said. "Then just watching Bobby Hoying, Joe Germaine, Steve Bellisari -- I always wanted to be in that situation, and I've been fortunate enough to get to be here."

Watching St. Henry's hometown hero Hoying start at OSU from 1993 to '95, directing one of the more potent offenses in school history, told Boeckman the dream was doable. But, as Tressel pointed out, the reality was Boeckman would have to wait for an offer, wait to enroll, wait through a redshirt-freshman year to even compete, then wait as the Troy Smith era played out.

"He has overcome a lot of things to get to this point," said Tim Boeckman, who was his son's high school coach. "Now you can see his maturity.

"Going through a year as a starter and being able to deal with the press, the weekly grind, the game day and so forth, I can just see a much more relaxed person. He has realized the leadership role he needs to play."

Yet Todd Boeckman said he knows not to take anything for granted. Bauserman and Pryor have obvious talents. As much as Tressel likes experience, he also expects his quarterback to move the ball and keep mistakes to a minimum.

"He always says the best player is going to play," Todd Boeckman said. "With me being comfortable with the system, knowing how to handle myself, and knowing where all the guys are going to be and should be out there on the field, that helps out even more."

What Tressel has always liked about Boeckman is his passion for Ohio State. There's an intrinsic value in having a player such as that lead your team.

"He is going to lay it on the line for Ohio State. He did it as an 18-year-old, and he's doing it now as a 35-year-old or whatever it is," said a smiling Tressel, his affection for Boeckman showing through. "That's why you root for him so hard."

Case continued

Defensive tackle Doug Worthington's contesting of a DUI charge from July 26 was continued after a pre-trial hearing yesterday in Franklin County Municipal Court. No trial date was set.

Worthington is listed as a backup on the depth chart, but it's not clear whether he will be allowed to play in the opener on Saturday.

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