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Published: Thursday, 9/22/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Some Buckeyes growing up fast

New leaders try to calm freshmen

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Zach Boren Zach Boren
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COLUMBUS -- Not that long ago, Zach Boren was one of those young guys. With all of the turmoil and chaos that has been swirling in and around the Ohio State program, he's had to grow up in the express lane.

On a team without captains, a team with four of its top seniors still suspended and a team with a rookie head coach wrestling with the unfamiliar territory of game management, Boren has had to assume the role of village elder. The previously emotional and often animated junior fullback is now philosophical, almost zen-like.

Boren said following the defeat at Miami last weekend, he needed to prop up the greenest of the Buckeyes and keep them from panicking over one loss.

"Honestly, you just have to keep pushing them," Boren said. "You have to push them and tell them they're needed. I can't count how many times I went to them and said, 'We need you guys, we need you guys.' "

Of the 47 players on Ohio State's current two-deep chart, 29 are freshman or sophomores. There are only three seniors starting on offense, and two on defense.

The Buckeyes host Colorado here on Saturday in their final tune-up before the start of Big Ten conference play and Boren said the need for closing ranks and keeping the young guys focused in the wake of a loss is imperative.

"You have to show people why you came to Ohio State, to play on the big stage and stuff like that," Boren said.

"It was the first road game . . . it was hard for those guys. They'll learn from it. I expect great things from those guys."

Junior defensive lineman John Simon said the Buckeyes have to use the sting of the setback in Miami as motivation to fully prepare for the Buffaloes, a new member of the Pac-12.

Ohio State's Zach Boren, top, hurdles Indiana's Adrian Burks, right, and Leon Beckum during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010. Ohio State's Zach Boren, top, hurdles Indiana's Adrian Burks, right, and Leon Beckum during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010.
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"We're fired up. It's an exciting week for us," Simon said. "These are the things you look forward to. You never want to lose, but you get to see what kind of team you have this week, seeing how we're going to react and build off this loss."

Simon reiterated an Ohio State maxim that win or lose, the team quickly moves on. He did not want to see the disappointing performance against Miami cause the Buckeyes to dwell on the mistakes or shortcomings from last Saturday night.

"I wouldn't say you forget it -- you put it in the back of your mind," Simon said. "You always want to learn from your past. I think we definitely learned from it, so we'll make corrections and fix up those mistakes we made. Colorado is our objective now, so that's all we're focused on."

Despite their well-documented struggles in the passing game against the Hurricanes, and the Ohio State defense giving up three touchdowns, Boren said the Buckeyes are still very confident.

"We don't have doubts one bit, I'll tell you that right now. None of us has any doubts," Boren insisted. "We're going to go out every single day and fight our butts off at practice. That's our mentality. We can't have any doubts, especially with everything that's happened this year. We have to go out and prove people wrong."

First-year Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell said he prefers to stay with the big picture and the need for across the board improvement, especially with Michigan State and Nebraska following Colorado on the schedule. But Fickell admitted the loss is hard to forget and that his players likely notice its impact on him.

"It's emotional. They know how you feel and it's not like I'm going to hide my emotions from them," Fickell said.

"But you have to move on. You got to take it a day at a time, every single day trying to focus on that day, finding ways to get better. That's where it's been most difficult, but that's where we are right now."

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey



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