Taking His Shots

It is inherent with the quarterback position: If you stay in the pocket long enough, someone is going to nail you. Todd Boeckman has been experiencing that fact first-hand this season, and he and his teammates add their insight into what happens before, during and after a quarterback takes a big hit.

As is often the case, the stat sheet does not tell the full story.

"Boeckman, Todd pass complete to Hartline, Brian for 14 yards to the WASH17, 1ST DOWN OSU," it reads.

The completion came on a third and eight situation from the Washington 31-yard line. The Buckeyes would be unable to punch the ball into the end zone on the drive, however, and were forced to settle for a field goal and an early 3-0 lead.

But there was more significance in that 14-yard completion from Boeckman to Hartline than just the yards gained or the converted first down.

Facing a blitz from the middle linebacker, Boeckman stood his ground in the pocket, waited, and delivered a bullet to Hartline as he found the open spot in the defense. Almost immediately after delivering the ball, Boeckman took a vicious shot from the blitzing linebacker and landed flat on his back near the 38-yard line.

Displaying no outward ill effects from the blow, the 6-5, 243-pound junior got up, got into the huddle and got ready for the next play.

Consider his teammates impressed with his toughness.

"I think it definitely excites an offense I didn't even see some of the hits that he took until I saw it on film," junior wide receiver Brian Robiskie said. "That definitely excited me to know that he'll stand in there with guys coming right at him and step up and make a throw."

Standing in the pocket and taking hits while still delivering the ball is a trait head coach Jim Tressel says takes time for a player to develop.

That does not mean the team is pleased to see the quarterback have to pick himself up off the ground, however.

"I get mad," senior fullback Dionte Johnson said of his reaction to seeing Boeckman get knocked down. "I get very mad. We've got to protect our quarterback, and we've got to do a better job."

Through three games this season, Boeckman has been sacked three times. In his first season as the team's starter, the native of St. Henry, Ohio, said his body does not feel any worse than it did at the same point last season, when he was third on the depth chart.

In fact, Boeckman said his body felt worse during fall camp than it does now.

"You have a few nicks and bruises here and there," he said. "It's definitely a little bit different – you're not getting hit in practice but going out there, you're taking a few shots. It's kind of nice to be able to do that for once."

To get himself in shape to absorb big hits, Boeckman said he does simple core exercises to help strengthen his abdominal muscles. He said being blindsided hurts more than when he sees the hit coming because "when you see it coming, you can kind of brace for it."

Boeckman's health has been aided by the fact that the quarterbacks typically wear black jerseys in practice, signifying that they are not to be hit.

For players on Ohio State's defense, that means they must pull up when they have Boeckman or any of his understudies in their sights.

"Going through preseason camp, sometimes the quarterbacks were live so they've taken hits from our defense but not too often," sophomore defensive tackle Todd Denlinger said. "You don't want a big injury to happen to an important guy like the quarterback.

"If you don't (hold up), then you'll hear it from Coach (Jim) Tressel."

Not being able to hit the quarterback and not wanting to are two different things, however. Junior defensive end Vernon Gholston, one of the most feared pass rushers in the Big Ten, said he feels no pity when he sees a quarterback take a vicious shot.

"They know they've got to take a shot if it comes down to it," he said. "Every now and then they get a chance to be live and run the ball or scramble and we get a chance to hit them. I like that part of it, but for the most part you've got to wait and see."

After Boeckman takes a big hit, Johnson said it is not uncommon for the players responsible for the play to apologize to the quarterback.

"Some people might not even know, they might have missed a check or something like that and didn't know he got hit like that, but after we review it on film people come up to him and say, ‘Oh yeah, I owe you a dinner or something,' " the senior captain said.

Apparently, Boeckman is still waiting for some payment.

"They haven't (paid up) yet, so hopefully something's coming here soon," he said with a laugh.

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