Heeding Barton's Advice

As soft-spoken as he is experienced, Ohio State's Todd Boeckman is set to lead the Buckeyes under center as the season begins. It took a confrontation from senior offensive lineman Kirk Barton to start pushing to be more vocal, though.

The typical image of a quarterback is the battle-tested, rough-and-tumble leader who has been through tough situations and emerged victorious. By his voice – as well as his actions – he establishes himself as the leader of the offense, directing his team down the field.

Sometimes, it takes a more experienced player to remind the quarterback of that. In the case of Todd Boeckman, it was a situation that developed as the result of a summer practice.

Holding a tenuous if constant grip as the team's No. 1 quarterback following the graduation of Troy Smith and Justin Zwick last season, Boeckman's experience had given him the upper hand in the team's quarterback derby. There was just one problem, though: the self-described quiet guy was not expressing himself as the team's leader.

That is, until the outspoken Kirk Barton got his attention during a summer practice.

"He's really started to step it up after I reminded him that he's as old as me and he's older than all our other captains," said Barton, a fifth-year senior who is less than five months younger than Boeckman. "Just because his title isn't senior doesn't mean he can't be a vocal leader."

Both Boeckman and Barton entered OSU as members of their class of 2003. Both endured redshirt seasons, but Boeckman also took a grayshirt year in 2004, putting him one year of eligibility behind Barton.

Boeckman said he remembered the lesson well – and has caused him to change his behavior.

"He wanted to come up to me because I'm still getting to the idea of being a quarterback here, just getting settled in, but as I got more settled in I think I became more of a vocal person," Boeckman said. "It's just kind of nice, having a guy like that who's been around and has played for four years to tell me something like that. It boosted my confidence a bit."

While Barton has never shied from being vocal about his opinions to the media, the incident gives some insight into the development of Boeckman as the team's primary signal-caller. As he battled with sophomore Robby Schoenhoft and redshirt freshman Antonio Henton for the job, Boeckman was known as the quietest of the three.

While Henton was clearly the No. 3 option since last season ended, Schoenhoft was often referred to as a more vocal leader. But as his skills progressed, Barton said Boeckman needed to be more outspoken to the rest of the team.

So he reminded him of that.

"I just said, ‘You're going to be our quarterback so we're going to need you to be vocal and tell us what you need. If a guy's getting close to you in pass protection, just let us know,' " Barton said. "I want to make sure he's got a nice, big pocket to work from. Sometimes you can't tell if a guy affected his throw or not. I said, ‘You've got to tell me.' "

While he lacks actual game experience, Boeckman's play has drawn compliments from his teammates and coaches for his consistency and knowledge of the offense. Following the team's jersey scrimmage August 18, head coach Jim Tressel praised Boeckman's touch on the deep ball, saying he felt he threw it "as well as we've had anybody throw the deep ball since we've been here."

Not bad for a guy who has completed 7 of 10 passes for 86 yards and 1 touchdown thus far in his collegiate career. It is his work in practice that has gotten his teammates on board, however.

"I'd say the experience thing was probably the biggest and then I think it was just not making mistakes, realizing the check-down is ok and you don't have to throw the deep ball every time, you don't have to hit a home run," sophomore wide receiver Brian Hartline said.

In an offensive system that puts primary emphasis on taking care of the ball and making smart plays those words could be the biggest votes of confidence in Boeckman's abilities.

He is still working on his own words.

"At quarterback, you've got to be a leader," he said. "You've got to be that guy who takes charge and lead by example, saying the right things here and there and I think you'll be alright.

"I definitely am a guy who's not going to say as much, but if I have to I'm going to say something. If somebody messes up or runs a wrong read or does a good job I'm going to tell them that."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories