Jard Work: Acting Like A Senior

Saturday might be senior day at Ohio Stadium, but one of Ohio State's players who will be honored found himself receiving an impassioned plea last weekend from a player two years his younger. That story and more are in included in the final regular-season edition of "Jard Work."

Ohio State's lone day of interviews this week consisted exclusively of seniors who will be playing their final home game this weekend. But standing at his own podium on the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward talked about a sophomore who is already showing some strong leadership capabilities: fullback Zach Boren.

The Buckeyes had just seized a 20-17 lead at Iowa with 1:47 remaining in the contest and it was now up for the OSU defense to shut the door. They did, forcing a four-and-out from the Hawkeyes. Before they took to the field, however, the 6-0 Boren grabbed the 6-5 Heyward and started yelling.

"He was just preaching that we needed a stop," the senior said. "He said to me, ‘Big players make big plays during big times.' I was just lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time."

Heyward came up with an 11-yard sack on third down. It was his second tackle and only sack of the contest.

Boren's sense of urgency first came through at the midpoint of the game, Heyward said.

"At halftime he was talking and the defense was laughing at him because you don't expect Zach to talk," he said. "It was a little funny. He was trying to relay the message. As a defense, we already knew what we had to do out there."

It apparently marked the first time in his career that Boren had taken on such a vocal role.

"I think you don't want to have anything left," Heyward said. "Zach needed to say what he needed to say. You've got to have guys like that. He's going to be a great leader here one day. You don't ever want to keep anything back. You always need to leave it on the table."

Head coach Jim Tressel praised Boren's growth since arriving two years ago.

"I'm awfully happy that he's our fullback," the coach said. "I think the thing that you see from our tailbacks is how much appreciation they have for him because they consider him one of the linemen. That's just the way they feel about him. They do not look at him any differently than they do their linemen in the relative importance of their linemen."

Wiggle Room – Dane Sanzenbacher said his secret has finally been revealed.

The leading receiver for the Buckeyes headed into Saturday's game with Michigan, Sanzenbacher does not jump off the page with his measurables. The senior is listed at 5-11, 180 pounds, a full five pounds heavier than his listed weight as a freshman.

He also has an unusual talent: he can wiggle his ears on command, which he demonstrated Monday during interviews. One reporter suggested that he was able to ear-fake opponents, helping him to overcome his lack of size or blazing speed.

"Maybe that's what it is," he said with a laugh. "Everybody asks me what my secret is. It's not speed, it's not size, it's the ears."

The talent is one Sanzenbacher said he has always possessed.

"I've been able to do it since I was a little kid," he said. "I always thought it was really weird that no one else could do it or that some people can't do it."

The Rebel – For much of his childhood, Brandon Saine found himself pulling for the other team in this weekend's rivalry contest. That itself is not uncommon among players from the northwest corner of the state or those who hail from outside Ohio's borders.

Saine, however, hails from Piqua, Ohio – about 70 miles northwest of Columbus. Citing a desire to be a rebel of sorts as a child, however, the future Buckeye running back opted to buck the trend and cheer for the Maize and Blue.

"I mainly think it was to be a rebel," he said. "I don't know why. I wasn't really a rebel, but everyone liked Ohio State so why not like Michigan?"

His most treasured piece of Michigan clothing was a Desmond Howard jersey that he continued to wear until his sophomore year of high school. It was about then that his recruitment started to heat up.

OSU and Northwestern were the first schools to offer. The Wolverines eventually would as well as a number of other schools, but the former four-star recruit and No. 11 running back prospect eventually selected the Buckeyes.

"I think that I was only attracted to being different," he said. "Once the recruiting process started, Ohio State pulled ahead pretty easily. I definitely haven't relapsed or went back that way. Once you get here you realize I couldn't think of any other place to be."

Now a senior captain, Saine has not had the individual season he had hoped for. After rushing for 103 yards in a season-opening win against Marshall, he has picked up 201 yards the rest of the way while falling out of favor in the running back rotation. His primary role has been as a receiver, where he is third on the team with 18 catches for 184 yards and five touchdowns.

Saturday, Saine will run out onto the field alone and be recognized along with the 23 other seniors. Then comes the chance to go out with a bang in Ohio Stadium.

"I just really can't wrap my head around this being my last game," he said. "I think that it's definitely the perfect way to go out, the greatest rivalry and one of the greatest games I'll ever play in."

As for the current location of his Howard jersey and other Michigan paraphernalia, Saine professed a lack of knowledge.

"I don't even know what happened to that stuff," he said. "It's gone, definitely. I just had to start buying Ohio State stuff."

Accomplished Hoopster – He might have the background for it, but it does not appear that Heyward will be playing any basketball in his final year at OSU.

The senior defensive lineman for the Buckeyes was a two-sport standout at Suwanee (Ga. Peachtree Ridge who excelled both on the gridiron and the hardwood. As a freshman, Heyward worked his way into the starting lineup for the football team while insisting that he might suit up for the men's basketball team when the season was over. In his biography in the team's 2007 media guide, Heyward is pegged as "an outstanding basketball player who plans to play the latter at Ohio State."

Although he had Tressel's blessing, Heyward opted to use the time to allow his body to recover from the beating of a Big Ten season. With his football career coming to an end, the senior lineman said he has not considered getting back on the hardwood.

"I don't think I could imagine that," he said. "I need a break. I need a vacation or something. Those two sports are totally different. I don't even know how I did it in high school but it was so much fun to play. I enjoyed every moment of it."

When he goes home, however, Heyward said he will still lace up his shoes to keep younger brother Corey, a senior who is signed to play for Morehead State.

On signing day for Heyward's class, the OSU coaches spoke of his impressive performances on the hardwood. Heyward once scored 20 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in a regional championship game against NBA all-star Dwight Howard as a freshman.

"He was a big guy," Heyward said. "I remember us wrestling down low. I got a couple fouls and he got a couple fouls. I wasn't going to let him dunk over me though. I wasn't going to have that."

Heyward added that he did not dunk on Howard either. Howard is not the only famous player to suit up against the future Buckeye: current Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is on that list as well as a host of others.

"When we were younger we used to play together," he said of Newton. "I played with a bunch of guys. J.J. Hickson who plays for the Cavs. Me and (Terrelle Pryor) used to play with DeJuan Blair, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs. I know so many guys it's unbelievable what they're doing right now."

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