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Ohio State's Boeckman can t hide as top QB

Todd-Boeckman

Ohio State s sixth-year senior Todd Boeckman completed 191 of 299 passes last year for 2,379 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Jay LaPrete / AP Enlarge

Todd Boeckman likes to dress fairly conservatively to more or less blend in with the crowd. He prefers to sit in the back of the classroom at Ohio State, and not draw attention to himself.

But as the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, a low profile is just not part of the deal.

I don t like to be the spotlight. I m a more laid-back kind of guy, Boeckman said last week as the top players from around the Big Ten met in Chicago with the media in advance of the start of pre-season practices.

But if you re the quarterback at Ohio State, I guess that s kind of hard to do.

Didn t they always recognize Elvis on the Las Vegas strip? Is the Pope ever off the radar in Vatican City? Doesn t everyone in Bikini Bottom know who Sponge Bob is?

At Ohio State, the quarterback is never incognito. That is the case with Boeckman, a 6-4, 245- pound senior, who has more tenure on the OSU campus than some of the professors. He is in his sixth year with the Buckeyes, benefiting from a rare gray-shirt season that started his college career at a time when Ohio State was flush with quarterbacks.

At the suggestion of the coaches, Boeckman spent the 2003 fall quarter as a part-time student and saved a year of eligibility. He backed up Justin Zwick and Troy Smith in 2004 but did not play, using it as a red-shirt year. After appearing in six games over the next two seasons as a back-up, Boeckman inherited the starting job for 2007, and led OSU to a third straight Big Ten title, a second straight appearance in the BCS championship game, and led the conference in passing efficiency.

He s been around here longer than some of us coaches, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel joked about Boeckman, who turned 24 years old in June. Todd has been patient, he s never stopped learning, and when his time came he had prepared himself for it. You got to enjoy rooting for a guy like that.

Boeckman, who this season will be called on to not only lead the Buckeyes pursuit of another Big Ten title and a return to the championship game, but also to tutor highly-prized incoming freshman Terrelle Pryor, said the work load does not faze him.

The whole time I ve been here, part of my job was to be in those meetings, watch all the film, and learn as much as I could. I wasn t the starter, but I had to prepare like it, Boeckman said. I guess you could say I had a lot of dress rehearsals.

After Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith graduated, Boeckman led the Buckeyes to a 12-2 mark last season, and ended up as the first-team All-Big Ten quarterback. He completed 191 of 299 passes for 2,379 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions.

That s too many. That s something I ve got to work on not giving up the football, Boeckman said about the interception total.

He added that the low-key, laid-back approach he prefers on campus has undergone some modifications when Boeckman steps into the huddle.

I think I m more confident, and more comfortable as a leader now, he said. If I ve earned the respect of my teammates and my coaches, then I m someone they ll listen to.

Ohio State All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis said the Buckeyes really have the ideal situation at quarterback now, with the ultra-veteran Boeckman as the mentor for the mega-star-in-the-making Pryor.

I think it is just about the perfect set-up, because Terrelle doesn t have the pressure of coming in and needing to be the guy right away, Laurinaitis said. With a real talented veteran like Todd around and a guy who is such a classy individual as he is there s no rivalry, no controversy at all. Todd will teach him everything he knows, and that s a lot.

And Boeckman says he is fine with Pryor getting a lot of attention, and soaking up some of the spotlight, even as the backup. The senior said Pryor eventually will learn that the Buckeyes starting job comes with an unprecedented amount of scrutiny.

It is definitely a little different being the starter, Boeckman said, especially at Ohio State.

Contact Matt Markey at:mmarkey@theblade.comor 419-724-6510.

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