Better Know a Buckeye: Tuf Borland

By Vico on March 18, 2016 at 10:10 am
Tuf Borland playing for Bolingbrook
Photo via 247sports

Our "Better Know a Buckeye" series continues with its sixth installment. We profile Tuf Borland, an outside linebacker from Bolingbrook, Illinois.

Tuf Borland

  • Size: 6-1/228
  • Position: LB
  • (Hometown) School: Bolingbrook, IL (Bolingbrook)
  • 247 Composite: ★★★★
  • National Ranking: 213
  • Position Ranking: 16 (OLB)
  • State Ranking: 4 (IL)

Tuf Borland was an unlikely candidate to pledge to the Buckeyes. Everyone thought he was headed to Wisconsin. His father, Kyle Borland, was a linebacker for Wisconsin in the 1980s. He's no relation to Chris Borland, but that may have implicitly informed everyone's projections on 247sports. He was a 100% Crystal Ball projection to Wisconsin when he committed to Ohio State on April 17, 2015.

I retell his recruitment below and why he committed to Ohio State when no one expected it. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report for Borland, who enrolled at Ohio State in January. I conclude with a projection of a possible redshirt in 2016 and highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of the feature.


Borland started taking unofficial visits in 2014 with a visit to Wisconsin in March 2014. It continued in September with a visit to Madison for its opener against Western Illinois. Borland, a lifelong Badgers fan and son of a former Wisconsin player, had that program on his radar and hoped to earn a scholarship offer.

He earned that offer on the first of October 2014. He said it was a blessing. Borland's eventual pledge to Wisconsin seemed like a fait accompli.

Yet the recruitment process was still young. Borland's junior season had just begun. He was interested in playing the field to see if another program could match what Wisconsin could provide for him. He took visits within the Big Ten to Northwestern and Illinois through October. Illinois was actually his first offer.

Borland followed those trips with a visit to Ohio State for its game against Indiana, which resulted in an Ohio State scholarship offer. Yet no analyst projected Borland would accept it. Madison is closer to his Chicagoland home. His father played for the Badgers and his uncle Brian was then the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Wisconsin seemed like a family affair.

His timeline also informed the projections to Wisconsin. He reiterated during a follow-up visit to Wisconsin that he wanted to commit before the start of his senior year. An abbreviated recruitment process helps a program like Wisconsin secure a prospect against a national brand like Ohio State.

Wisconsin was the consensus pick, but Borland kept thinking about Ohio State. He visited Ohio State again for the weekend of its national championship celebration. Few wrote about the visit to Ohio State as if it portended the verbal pledge that would follow, but Borland was interested.

Borland picked up more offers, mostly from Big Ten schools, through the first few months of 2015. He took another unofficial visit to Illinois and Northwestern. He even visited Michigan State in early March, which came two weeks after the Spartans offered. It was enough to name Michigan State as one of his five favorites on March 22, 2015. Ohio State and Wisconsin highlighted that short list, though.

The next we read Borland's name in a recruiting update came as a major surprise.


Tuf Borland gave an unexpected verbal pledge to Ohio State on April 17, 2015 during an unofficial visit to Ohio State. 

It was the week before Ohio State's spring game too, so the surprising nature of the commitment could not be readily explained by reference to that event. What happened?

Borland explained the decision in an interview with Eleven Warriors.

"It was something I had in the back of my mind going into the visit (last) Monday," Borland told Eleven Warriors. "Then I spent the next couple days talking it over with my parents."


"I loved it (at Ohio State, they loved it," he said. "So I (committed). The Ohio State staff was pretty excited. I just felt like it was the right place for me to be."

Borland added that his father was supportive of the decision to eschew the chance to be a second-generation Badger to forge his own path as a Buckeye.

"(My father) understands (that it was in my best interest)," Borland added. "He's supported my decision. I'm extremely blessed to have the parents that I do."

Borland chose Ohio State over Wisconsin, but held an assortment of offers from most of the Big Ten. This included big programs like Iowa, Michigan State, and Penn State.


Tuf Borland's style at linebacker befits his first name. This bodes well for Ohio State fans and should make him an endearing presence on the team in the event he becomes a multi-year starter.

Name notwithstanding, Borland's greatest attribute may be his instincts. His high school football coach told the Chicago Tribune that Borland may have the highest football IQ of any player he's been around. He likened Borland's IQ to a "sixth sense" of where to be on the field and where the play is going after the snap.

Don't mistake that Borland is a hard hitter too. His film is replete with collisions that make him resemble your "typical Big Ten linebacker". He'll adjust well to the rigors of the conference.


Borland is an aggressive run-stopper but, as with most high school prospects, I don't know where he is on pass defense. I don't know how well he drops into coverage. It's not clear yet how well he can keep pace with a running back on a flat route or a tight end on a quick hitch. These are unknowns right now, but they're important things for high school prospects to do well should they want to see the field.

I also don't know if Borland is an outside linebacker or if his frame and athleticism are more amenable to playing inside. Borland has expressed ambivalence toward the inside/outside distinction and is eager to do whatever will get him on the field.


Borland helped himself by enrolling in January to take part in Ohio State's winter conditioning routine and Ohio State's spring practices. Yet, I think 2016 is a likely redshirt year for him. I don't anticipate Borland making the two-deep at linebacker given the names we have returning or coming off redshirt years in 2015.

Should Borland prove me wrong, it will be because of special teams. He could conceivably make an immediate contribution to kickoff and punt units as a true freshman even if I think it's unlikely he plays a snap on defense in 2016.



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