When his family lived out in California, Borland’s father had a co-worker with that unique name. He jokingly threw it out to his wife as a suggestion when they were discussing potential names. To his surprise, she approved of it and it stuck.
Borland’s parents had no way of predicting the personality of their newborn son, although his father Kyle was tough enough to suit up at linebacker for Wisconsin in the early 1980s. In that regard, the name was a gamble – one that appears to have hit.
Scout.com recruiting analyst Allen Trieu described the younger Borland – a four-star linebacker in the class of 2016 – as a hard-nosed competitor who’s a throwback to football’s grittier days.
“He’s a kid that lives up to his name, certainly,” Trieu said.
There are plenty of reasons why the Bolingbrook, Ill., prospect ended up committing to Ohio State instead of following in his father’s footsteps at Wisconsin, but chief among them might be the two-hour conversation he had with defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell at OSU’s Junior Day in January 2015.
One of the hallmarks of Ohio State’s recruiting approach is the focus on aspects of the program outside of football, and that was on full display as Fickell tried to sell Borland on what Ohio State could offer.
“It was more about just going in there and having the time to spend him them and getting to know him a little better,” Borland told BSB. “It was about more than football with him. You go a lot of these places and it's all football, football, football, but he's taking the time to get to know all his players on a more personal level. He expects more out of them just from a personal standpoint, improving them as a person and not just as a football player.”
One of the reasons Fickell was in such a good position with the nation’s No. 22 outside linebacker and No. 281 overall prospect was Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen’s abrupt departure for Oregon State after the Buckeyes beat UW 59-0 in the 2014 Big Ten title game. Borland (6-1 225), who isn’t related to former Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, said he didn’t have a great relationship with Andersen to begin with. However, the transition that comes with the turnover of a coaching staff essentially made it impossible for the Badgers to catch up with Ohio State in the race to get his commitment.
“It definitely put the new coaching staff behind the eight-ball at Wisconsin,” Borland said. “It was kind of weird, just kind of a weird situation with Andersen there. I never really got a chance to sit down with him and have a conversation or anything like that while he was there. So like I said before, as a new coaching staff they were already behind Ohio State coming in.”
The week of Ohio State’s spring game, Borland took a visit to Columbus. What he saw there sold him on playing for the Buckeyes, and he committed April 17, the night before the spring game.
“Going through the recruiting process, I was just trying to find the best balance between football, academics and social life and to me Ohio State was the best place for that for me,” Borland said. “Obviously there is great football tradition. Academically with my major as kinesiology, there are people in the program that have kind of been through that and guided me through that way and it's awesome socially.”
Borland is one of four class of 2016 members set to enroll early at Ohio State, joining Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy defensive tackle Malik Barrow, Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln defensive end Jonathon Cooper and Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers wide receiver Austin Mack. He signed his midyear agreement on Aug. 14, giving the Ohio State coaches unlimited contact with him and guaranteeing his scholarship.
“Going in, that was something that me and my parents talked about,” Borland said. “I've seen some kids older than me at my high school do it and have success with it, but just thought to myself it's something I wanted to do so I just pushed for it.”
So what will Ohio State be getting when he shows up to Columbus in January? Position-wise, Borland said Fickell sees him as either a middle or weakside linebacker. As Trieu said earlier, Borland flies around the field and appears to be a pretty cerebral player. In fact, when asked to describe his game, that seems to be the aspect of his play in which he takes the most pride.
“I'm an instinctive player, always around the ball and I run to the ball hard 100 percent of the time,” he said. “Fickell said he's seen some comparisons with James Laurinitis, so obviously that's a great compliment. I just have to keep working and try to be like that.”