Progress Evident For Boeckman In First Half

Entering the season, quarterback was one of the biggest questions for an Ohio State team hoping to stay at a championship level. Through seven games, it's clear that not only has Todd Boeckman been a successful steward, but he's progressed as the season has unfolded to the point that there are few doubts that the Buckeyes are his team.

Jim Bollman, perhaps in good spirits after a lengthy chat with the media Wednesday, decided to tweak the local beat writers a bit.

First, the Ohio State offensive coordinator did his lampooned the media's preseason questions, exclaiming, "You remember you guys sitting here in August saying, ‘Oh now you guys are gonna run the ball, you're gonna run the ball,'" while pounding on the table.

"Well, you know …" Bollman added with arms extended amid laughter. "They both better work."

A reporter then added that Bollman's quarterback, Todd Boeckman, had numbers very similar to those of Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith at the same point last season, soliciting an exaggerated thumbs-up from the coach.

So much for a return to Tresselball, or even three yards and a cloud of dust. If the jovial nature of the conversation and the thumbs-up at the end meant anything, one could certainly assume that Bollman thinks his first-year starting quarterback is doing all right.

"He certainly hasn't slowed us down I don't think overall," Bollman said. "There's certainly things he needs to keep working on, but he is and he's getting better. He's been pretty consistent and made some pretty big plays."

Through seven games, Boeckman has competed 105 of 160 passes (65.6 percent) for 1,353 yards, 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The junior from St. Henry, Ohio, is on pace for 2,319 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, numbers that compare favorably to Smith's 2,542 yards, 30 scoring tosses and six picks.

Boeckman also leads the conference in passing efficiency and sits in 10th overall in the category.

As the season has progressed, Boeckman said he has become more comfortable with the offense and the pressure, and the coaching staff has become more confident in turn.

"The more times that you are out there, the more confident you are going to feel," Boeckman said. "I think the coaches have a lot more confidence in me to get the job done. They're giving me a little more freedom to do some things. It's just kind of nice going out there."

That came in stark contrast to Boeckman's first game as a starter against Youngstown State on Sept. 1. Though his numbers were solid – Boeckman was 17 of 23 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions – he said the chance to finally start during his fifth year associated with the Ohio State program was a bit overwhelming.

"When I first came out there against Youngstown State, I was a little nervous, still a little shaky at times," Boeckman said. "That carried over at Washington, going into a hostile environment."

In fact, one could argue that Sept. 15 game against Washington was a real turning point for Boeckman. He completed just 7 of 15 passes in the first half for 67 yards, and a number of poor throws bounced off the hands of Husky defenders.

But Bollman – as well as head coach Jim Tressel – saw something he liked late in the first quarter. Facing an stout blitz on third down, Boeckman stood in the pocket and hit Brian Hartline for 14 yards to keep the drive alive and set up a field goal by Ryan Pretorius.

"There have been a couple times where he's just stood in there and thrown the ball and made some big, big passes," Bollman said. "He hit a big third down play at Washington where they had a blitz come free and he just hung in there and took the shot and threw a strike to Hartline. Still a big part of playing quarterback is how tough you are."

If Boeckman proved how tough he was on that play, he might have proven how smart he was on OSU's second offensive play of the second half. He noticed single coverage of Brian Robiskie, made a check at the line and then fired a perfect 68-yard touchdown pass to the speedy wideout that gave OSU a 10-7 lead it would not relinquish.

Boeckman has made some similar checks resulting in big plays this season, a skill he played down when asked about it.

"(The coaches) make it kind of easy on me, giving me two plays and saying, ‘Hey, if they're stacking the box, throw the ball, and if they're dropping guys back in coverage, run the ball,'" Boeckman said. "I think that's a fairly easy check. I think probably a lot of you guys could do that."

Bollman said the percentage of the time Boeckman will have options when he reaches the line of scrimmage will vary from game to game, but one thing that is consistent is his ability to make the right decision.

"He's done a real good job of that," Bollman said. "And he's done a good job of that even in some situations where we thought it might be difficult."

Skills like that are the ones that have Boeckman leading the No. 1 team in the country, and they have earned the respect of his teammates as well.

"He's always had command in the huddle," right guard Ben Person said. "If it's third down and we have to get this first down, he's the first to say it. He's definitely been the leader in the huddle in my eyes. He's calmed down a little bit, but he's been a leader from day one."

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