Boren Ready For Expanded Role

Ohio State senior fullback Zach Boren has made a name for himself as one of the toughest players in the Big Ten. Boren, however, could be on his way to playing a vastly different role in his final season wit hthe Buckeyes.

It was Ohio State's Big Ten opener in 2009 at Indiana when Zach Boren caught the only touchdown pass of his career. One year later against the Hoosiers, the fullback caught a swing pass out of the backfield and hurdled a defender to gain a first down.

That's the long and short of the career highlight reel for Boren in his first three years with the Buckeyes, at least with him holding the ball. There is, however, an endless supply of toughness plays, featuring clips of the fullback plastering opposing defenders in a variety of different ways.

Those selfless, yet tough, plays Boren has continually made as a lead blocker and a pass protector is the foundation for which the fullback's legacy stands. In his final season with the Buckeyes, that all could change.

"I am not going to lose my personality," Boren said. "I am still a tough guy and I still love contact, but I just may be used in different ways than I have become used to in the past few years. I am looking forward to it."

Head coach Urban Meyer hasn't been specific about the ways he envisions utilizing Boren, but Ohio State's offensive philosophy has changed dramatically since the coach took over the program after last season.

No longer will the Buckeyes utilize an offensive scheme primarily out of the I-Formation where ISO runs – the bread and butter of the offense – were typically executed with Boren as the lead blocker. Ohio State will now employ more of a spread look where all the skill positions will have to be respected as threats by the opposition.

Boren hasn't had much opportunity to prove that he's a skilled athlete that can handle more than just hitting people. He carried the ball only once in his career, though he does have 20 career catches in three years.

Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman both have track records for getting creative with ball handlers. There's no question Boren will eclipse his career rushing totals early in the Buckeyes season.

"I am really excited," Boren responded when asked about his new role. "I have been working with the tailbacks all summer because I am trying to get back into that. It's been a long time since I've carried the ball. I was a tailback in high school, but it has been three years. I am excited, though."

Boren played at 265 pounds last year, but strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti has worked with the fullback all summer to make him a more agile player. In the process, Boren dropped 25 pounds and has become a newer version of his old self.

"He definitely lost some weight," said senior defensive lineman John Simon, a close friend and former roommate of Boren's. "I don't know if you saw him last year, but he was a little fat. He's a great athlete. He has great hands and great speed for being such a big guy. He's very powerful. The more they can get him into the game plan, I'd love to see that because he's a big weapon for us."

Boren worked diligently all summer with footwork drills to work on his explosiveness. The senior anticipates he'll be in the open field more than he ever has in his career, regardless of whether he has the ball in his hands or not.

The Buckeyes offense will be more fast-paced, too. Being in better condition to bypass the typical 20-second huddle the Buckeyes have become accustomed to in order to run plays at a quicker rate is a must. Despite his drastically lower weight, Boren promises he's stronger than he's ever been.

Ohio State will be without Jordan Hall when fall camp commences today, so Boren could get more reps as a ball carrier and a wide receiver early in camp. One thing's for certain – he'll be in an entirely different role in his final year as a Buckeye.

"It is kind of nice for me," Boren said. "I have three years of film of a normal I-Formation fullback experience with opening up holes and stuff like that and I feel like I was kind of successful doing that. Now this year I will have some film out in open space doing a couple more things, having the ball in my hands.

"I can do multiple things instead of just putting my head down and going through a hole, which maybe is the persona that I had. I am excited about it. I can't wait to see the things I am going to be doing when the season starts."

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