The Dubgate Says Hello, Linebacker

By Jason Priestas on October 13, 2012 at 6:00a
Zach Boren will see some action at linebacker tonight in Bloomington

Last night, the internet, or at least the Buckeye corner of it, was buzzing with rumors of fullback Zach Boren, playing—perhaps even starting—at linebacker against Indiana.

Quite the stunner. If true, Boren will become the first real two-way contributor for Ohio State since Chris Gamble played extensively at cornerback and wide receiver in 2003.

We reached out to a couple of sources and were told that Boren will indeed see playing time at middle linebacker tonight. How much? That's hard to say.

Ohio State will counter Indiana's pass-first offense with a heavy diet of nickel packages, which means the Buckeyes won't even have a middle linebacker on the field for most of the game. Further, we don't know if Boren will be the man in the middle for OSU's base defense or whether the staff is looking to start him off in short yardage or similar situations with an expanded role as the season progresses.

Despite being a three year starter on offense, Boren did enter the program as a linebacker, so this isn't like asking Johnathan Hankins to play quarterback (though he could, and he'd go 28-33). It does put an exclamation point on the state of OSU's linebackers, however. The unit has been criticized for its tackling—or rather, the lack thereof—and the group took another blow when Etienne Sabino broke his fibula against Nebraska.

Storm Klein and Curtis Grant, the starter and backup, respectively, on Monday's depth chart, have each fumbled opportunities to seize the spot. With Sabino out, that leaves Ryan Shazier as the only linebacker of consequence, really.

This should be fun to watch. While he was seeing reps with the defense in practice this week, Urban Meyer went out of his way to heap praise on his leadership. If Boren at linebacker makes this team a better team, then that's good enough for me.

The battle to determine who will represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game will take place today in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Welcome to B1gzarro world.

With division leaders Ohio State and Penn State ineligible and Indiana and Illinois winless, the high noon clash between Wisconsin and Purdue will go a long way towards settling which team will make the trip to Indianapolis.

I've been bearish on the Badgers since Bret Bielema's entire staff peaced out on him in January, but the drubbing Purdue suffered at home against Michigan last week leaves me feeling less than confident in the Boilermakers to deliver the kill shot.

Here's your full slate of Big Ten action today:

12:00pm Iowa at Michigan State ESPN WatchESPN IOWA (-7.5)
12:00pm Northwestern at Minnesota ESPN2 WatchESPN NU (-3.5)
12:00pm Wisconsin at Purdue BTN BTN2GO PUR (-1)
3:30pm Illinois at Michigan ABC WatchESPN UM (-25)
8:00pm #8 Ohio State at Indiana BTN BTN2GO OSU (-17.5)



Comments Show All Comments

JozyMozy's picture

Boren?? I...what? Woah.

Hasbro's picture

THANK YOU Rich Rod for chasing the Boren family away from Michigan University!

M Man's picture

This is interesting.  By all accounts that I know of, nobody "chased" the Borens away from Ann Arbor.  And Zach wanted, more than anything, to go to Michigan.  But almost nobody had seriously projected Zach at linebacker as a 2-star out of Pickerington Central, and the Rodriguez offense didn't have any place for a fullback.  Boren's parents Mike and Hope pulled Justin out of Michigan in a rage as soon as they heard that Zach wasn't getting a Michigan offer letter.
Had Michigan recruited Zach Boren as a LB, he'd be coming in as a fifth(?!) linebacking recruit behind four other 4-stars (Kenny Demens, J.B. Fitzgerald, Marcus Witherspoon and Taylor Hill).
As I always write on the subject of Zach Boren; Zach and the Borens have clearly had the last laugh.  Zach is just your prototypical Ohio State football player, and a richly deserving captain.  His playing at linebacker (his primary position at Pickerington Central) would have to be seen as much of a personal triumph for Zach as a serious contribution to the OSU defense.

doodah_man's picture

That. And thank you M Man for contributing on this site. I have always appreciated your respectful and informative comments. Stay with us.

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

zenshade's picture

I'll second that M Man.  Thanks for your insightful contributions.  I wonder, is this the situation that started the ball rolling in putting Rodriguez behind the 8-ball with Lloyd Carr and other "Michigan Men"?
You just know there's no way in hell Hoke would have let any of the Borens get away. (Part of why I think Hoke was a very good hire, even if his coaching history isn't all that impressive).  I don't care what your program is running, there is ALWAYS a need for tough ass leaders willing to do whatever the team needs  That family is special, even if the dad does have a big EGO. (He can't help it - he went to UM after all. LOL. Just kidding ;).
I mean, you look at Jacoby Boren, a 2 star recruit, maybe 3 star, and he comes right in as an early freshman enrollee in spring practice and flat chases off the 5-star, top-rated center in the country, Brian Bobek, who already had a full season of practice under his belt.
I think at this point, Urban Meyer has seen enough of the Borens that he'd probably offer any remaining siblings by the sixth grade.  Lloyd Carr and other Michigan men probably already knew that and Rodriguez was too dumb to listen to them, much to his detriment.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

No matter how it happened, it sure is nice to have the Borens with the goods guys now!

zenshade's picture

Zach Boren was also a 2 star recruit.  The recruiting services always miss the boat on this type of player - the FB/TE/LB hybrid type positions that can block really well.  They also never evaluate leadership, heart and toughness, all of which Zach Boren has in abundance.  These types of players are essential to any good team.
There's no doubt in my mind that Zach Boren has been at least a 4 star contributor to the Ohio State program.  Looking forward to Jacoby Boren making the same kind of contribution at the center position.

CowCat's picture

The Boren family saga is a classic in the history of THE GAME.
I hope Zach gets a pick 6 and a rushing TD in THE GAME.  (with reespekk to MMAN).

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Abe Froman's picture

I like it.  Middle linebacker needs to be athletic, smart and well..... built like a fullback.  Now about Roby on offense.....

Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

Sgt. Elias's picture

I'm eleventy-w yrs old and what is this?

"Okay -- I've got an El Camino full of rampage here." 

dubjayfootball90's picture

wow, I just woke up, and got a great laugh from this. Thank you, Sir.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

DetroitBuckeye's picture

Very cool, I hope he plays a lot as it would be very interesting to see.  Who knows, maybe we have a gem.  We probably will not be lucky enough to have him be an owen marecic, if he can fill in though it would help a lot.

Bucks's picture

Me no understand. Read again after coffee.

GoBucks713's picture

Sometimes you have to put your best athletes on the field, and so far it seems that Urban isn't afraid to do just that. JB was a greatly underutilized player for years under the last two staffs, I say put him in everywhere you can. This kid is a gamer, so let him do what he can for the University he loves most.

-The Aristocrats!

QBYBuckeye's picture

I remember seeing him make a tackle during an INT return or a punt return and thinking he looked like a linebacker. Zach would love the opportunity, I'm sure.  A Star is Boren?

New York Buckeye

ThatOhioStateGirl's picture

"A Star is Boren"-- Haha that is absolutely perfect. You should write newspaper headlines!

Indomitable in victory, insufferable in defeat.

klfeck's picture

Sounds like a good dry goods shirt



Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

QBYBuckeye's picture

The alternative was "a Boren again Buckeye."

New York Buckeye

BuckeyeVet's picture

A well played turn of phrase! Up vote for you.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

dubjayfootball90's picture

I wonder if he is gonna be in on defense when they use their blitz packages.... Could you imagine Simon, Hankins and Broen, sitting on the sideline, and Meyer saying, "Ok, third and five, stop them here. Whoever has the ball, destory them."..... Oh man, I am excited to see Boren play LB.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

AGL's picture

Saw somewhere that Josh Perry is  starting,  either ozone or tbbc


Ross Fulton's picture

We will have to see how this plays out but Boren is certainly playing LB right now...

Nutbuck1959's picture

I have no doubt that Boren can contribute at LB.....Can you imagine growing up in that family? You'd have to be tough!

LouGroza's picture

This news definitely puts a twist on the game this evening. It popped into my head that Urban, being the master motivator that he is, could be using this to push the current LBs. Maybe not, just a thought. But I could see him getting asked about it just prior to the game and saying it probably will not happen. All along using it as a motivating tool. And if not, no doubt Zach can do it. He is one tough SOB.

bukyze's picture

I dunno about this, but against Indiana, which we SHOULD win somewhat handily (I've chosen to forget about UAB, Cal, and UCF), why not, and see what he can do?  I wouldn't mind him blowing up some of their 175# WR's coming across the middle on quick slants.

Geraffi's picture

There was some buzz about this last season (if you haven't suppressed the images). I don't recall if it was reported by the beloved 11Dub staff, or if I heard it during ge coverage, but I think Boren asked Fick (or was asked by Fick) if he could play LB. Anyone else remember this or is it a figment of my imagination due to the suppression of the 2011 season?

Normal Buck's picture

I recall nothing of 2011 prior to November 28th.

shadedred's picture

I was thinking the same thing. Not sure if I am getting confused about another player, but I thought it was Boren last season.

Grayskullsession's picture

I think Boren has been moved to LB but I dont think he is starting unless something happened to Shazier or Klien.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

AltaBuck's picture

Perhaps Urban just wants Zach to get some live game reps in at Mike as a contigency if another LB is injured. Plus, short yardage situations vs pro style offenses (PSU, Wiscy). I would love to see Boren and Simon combo McMoxie. That would make my day.

I am Groot - Groot

BuckeyeEd's picture

could not agree more Bro....Skype me if you get the Chance.

otrain2416's picture

Dang this is crazy. I'd love to see him do well. Definately says a lot about our depth at LB

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

BuckeyeEd's picture

Great Move...He will Be Starting and Feared above all others (OK, all but Simon) when TSUN comes to town. He will also be a great asset against the run when we travel to Madison and State College. I predict he will also start in the NFL on the "D" Side. Great Move!! 12-0 Baby.

smithwessonBuckeye's picture

When I heard about this last night I just assumed Luke Fickell was learning how to troll.

BLeezy17's picture

Very interesting development. I'll try and keep a lookout for Boren at LB during the game. Interested to see how it plays out.

partisan's picture

Personally I've always thought that Simon would be our best chance at MLB if grant/klein keep whiffing.  He's probably going to move to LB in the NFL anyway.  

OSUBias's picture

Simon is great at being a lineman, but he would be absolutely horrible at MLB. He has pretty limited lateral quickness and, honestly, is flat out too slow to play the position.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

cplunk's picture

^ This.
If Simon moves to LB in the NFL, he will move to the practice squad at the same time, then to out of the NFL shortly thereafter.
Simon is a beast, but MLD is a completely different skillset than his. He may play there some this year just because our LBs are not good and our competition is generally weak, but that is out of desparation.

CALPOPPY's picture

Being a Fullback, Boren can play both sides of the ball. You wouldn't expect this from a Halfback, though. I know football good. I haz smart.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

Buckeyejason's picture

I know he was a stud all-state LB in h.s....but huh? That was 5 years ago! I don't know about this move...maron a mi give Connor Crowell/Cam Williams/ or Luke Roberts a shot before trying this!
This doesn't look good for Curtis Grant...


buckeyedude's picture

This doens't look good for any of our LBs. I think Meyer wants some senior leadership back there, and maybe more depth. Zach may be just what is needed.



OSUBias's picture

If he does play, I wonder how this will impact his playing on offense? Is he truly going to go both ways, or are they going to move him from o to d? I really hope it's both ways, because he is an integral part of our running game as the lead blocker. He's just owning the LB's he's lined up to block.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I love it! Boren is so passionate about his team on and off the field. Every time they show him on the sideline, he's in Urban's ear with suggestions/observations. If he can bring that to the defense a well, I say go for it!

BuckeyeinExile's picture

I think somebody was right earlier when they said this was just Meyer trying to motivate the guys already there. This could also be aimed at recruits as there are some pretty good linebackers we are after that have not committed as of yet (Mitchell). It is probably a bit of both. And if that isn't the case I have to say that I am definately on the bandwagon of being way more excited than dismayed about this idea if it is in fact true. Boren and Simon will be leaving some big shoes to fill as far as leadership is concerned when they graduate.

BuckeyeinExile's picture

Another thing that may have something to do with this is the progression of Rod Smith. If you can have Hyde and Smith in the backfield not to mention MillerTime, with the chance that anyone of them gets the ball, how scary is that to a defense? Especially a defense that has the run stopping capabilities (or lack thereof) of Indiana. With those three there perhaps Boren won't be needed as much on offense unlike the beginning of the season when he was looking like on of the only viable options. This is all purely speculation on my part of course.

buckeyepastor's picture

This speaks volumes for Boren's ability, but DAMN IT, we shouldn't have to do this.   I realize we're thin at LB, but one injured starter should not require this to happen and it says something a little troubling about the players we've got.  Perry and Perkins are young, but I would have expected them to at lesat be competent to step in.  I think Boren will do well, I'm just sad that he even has to.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

buckeyedude's picture

At least we don't have to do like they did at TTUN when RichRod was there and ask the student body to "come try out for the football team. We need players!"



Jugdish's picture

I think this a ploy by Urb and his psychology. Boren hasn't played LB in college so there is too much to learn. Urb is making a statement to the other LBs to step it up or they won't play. If this game were against Wisky or someone else challenging, I don't think Boren would get the chance at LB. Urban likes Zach football toughness and what he brings to the game, but I think Zach will be a little out of position. I really thought that Josh Perry would play much more today, even at MLB.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

BUCKfutter's picture

absolutely spot on. this is a motivational ploy for one LB in particular, whose name rhymes with Grant. this isn't a move centered around today, it's a move centered around the next two years.
otherwise, say hello to zach "gamble" boren

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

dsbgobux's picture

Urban always says that the best players will be on the field no matter what. I think this move proves that. This definitely could be a result of the improvement of Hyde and smith shifting focus away from FB. If Boren on D can help light them up I'm all for it.

Buckeye in PA purgatory

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

This is why Ohio State is the real linebacker u. Even our fullback is good enough to play big time college linebacker!

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

This is just a stupid, stupid idea.  I have not doubt he would be a more sure tackler than some of the othr guys, but he can't possibly cover enough space to play LB, especially MLB.
I  believe the coaches have insinuated he'll play - 11 warriors has my respect as a journalistic outfit - but this is just not actually going to happen against Indiana.  Maybe he'll get some PT against some more traditional offenses, in short yardage situations, but not tonight.
Indiana will move the ball against us pretty easily and the game will be close for most of the night ...I just don't see him getting a shot this evening.

buckeye76BHop's picture

If this is true...I agree with Jason above.  This could spell the end for Curtis Grant...that could be an additional player who transfers or leaves the team bc he's "lost the love for the game."  That would make 4 or 5 that are leaving the program and opening up more scholarships.  Fine by me...if they're not good enough, then find another team that likes mediocrity.  Even though I find trying Boren at LB strange, it appears as writing on the wall for Grant.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

buckeyedude's picture

Holy Buckeye!
Vas is das?! Now? In the middle of the season?
This is what I like about Urban. If something isn't working, don't keep doing the same damn thing over, and over, and over again and expect different results.
I say, "Why not?"
And, great line QBYBUCKEYE!



toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

Boren might as well play some at linebacker. He's done it before. He's used sparingly at fullback. We need help at LB and if he can handle it, let him play there.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Sweet, When Boren isn't dishing out "grown ass man blocks" he can show Curtis Grant what a linebacker stance looks like.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

Northbrook's picture

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war and all that good stuff.

onetwentyeight's picture

Can't help but think VraBRO had a hand in this idea ... should be fascinating. 

huber57's picture

If Hankins played WR, he'd have 300 yards receiving.  If he played QB and WR that would give him 600 yards of offense!  BOOM!

Why does Dublin have so many round-abouts? Because everyone in Dublin thinks they have the right-of-way.

AAStagg's picture

There's a lovefest for the M Man today, which is fine, but the story about how scUM lost the Boren family doesn't add up.  It's not what we heard at this end -- from those who would know best, every member of the Boren family, in numerous individual interviews over the years since their scUM Exodus.  Had more to do with the crass, hillbilly coaching style of DickRod and his so-called staff.
Not surprised scUM would spin a tale of self-centered, over-bearing parents forcing their reluctant son to abandon his happy life in Ann Arbor -- throwing Mike Boren under the bus in the process.  When you think your's doesn't stink, then discover you've stepped in a big pile of it, it rocks your world view.  Makes it hard to see the plain, simple truth. 
You're wrong, M Man, but it's understandable.  We'd be flustered too if we'd lost the Borens.

Keep calm.  It's only a game.

M Man's picture

Boren family press release: 

"I regret leaving behind my [UM] friends and teammates, but I need to stand up for what I know is right.
"I wore the winged helmet with pride, whether we won or lost, whether things were going well or times were tough. Michigan football was a family, built on mutual respect and support for each other from coach [Lloyd] Carr on down. We knew it took the entire family, a team effort, and we all worked together.
"I have great trouble accepting that those family values have eroded in just a few months. That same helmet, that I was raised on and proudly claimed for the last two years, now brings a completely different emotion to me, one that interferes with practicing and playing my best and mentally preparing for what is required.
"I wish my teammates the best and will always be proud to have been a part of Michigan football over the past two years."

No Boren has ever explained that.  "...erosion of family values..." !?!?
Mike Boren:

"I will not have my two sons playing for two different universities."

I guess not, Mike.  (Mike Boren has never explained that quote either, apart from what I think is the obvious conclusion.)
John U. Bacon in Three and Out, p.99:

"A couple years later, it came to light that Boren's real beef with the Wolverines was their failure to offer his little brother Zach, a scholarship.  But that revelation came too late to prevent another dent in Rodriguez's reputation."

By the way, I never attacked Justin Boren -- who I suggested early on would be one of the best guards Ohio State had seen in years -- and I have all along been the first to say that Zach Boren has made a huge success of himself at OSU.  I have also tried to point out the nuance in the Boren story.  Justin wasn't real happy at Michigan, from much of the evidence that pre-dates anybody even thinking about the possibility of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.  Justin went home to Pickerington most non-football weekends. 
But the simple timing of Justin's departure from Michigan was within about 48 hours from when the official offer letters for the Zach's recruiting class went out, in the off-season, with nothing else going on.  (There had been no offer letter for Zach in the family mailbox.)  The quasi-official Boren family press release announcing his departure wasn't made by Justin.  It was, by all accounts, crafted by his parents.
This wholly unremarkable series of events wasn't even the first time that Mike Boren had pulled one of his sons out of a school's football program.  He had pulled Zach out of Pickerington North to enroll him at Pickerington Central the year before.

ARMYBUCK's picture

Im actually really excited to see Boren at linebacker.   It cant hurt.  For some reason he just kind of seems to fit that linebacker mentality.  If he is just in position and technically sound at tackling it can only be an improvement.  This shouldnt be happening at Ohio State but you gotta do what ya gotta do!

zenshade's picture

My thoughts exactly.  If Boren can be a steady rock in the middle of the 4-3 that doesn't miss assignments, get out of position or miss tackles, that may well drastically improve the defense when we get Shazier and Sabino back down the stretch.  Especially considering we'll be playing conventional style offenses in Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan. 

bigbill992001's picture

I dont question Zack's heart ot tuffness.    And, maybe a little experimenting with an IU wouldnt be the worst thing.    But, this just smacks of desperation, imo.    We'll see.    Go get 'em, Zach!