The Boeckman And Hartline Connection

Trying to look for chemistry in the spring game can be a tricky thing with players often thrust into situations they are not familiar with on teams that have been hastily assembled. During the 2008 spring game, it was apparent that Todd Boeckman and Brian Hartline had established a connection.

It was starting to seem like a broken record.

At the completion of what seemed like every play during the first half of Ohio State's annual Scarlet and Gray game, the public address announcer would ring out, "Todd Boeckman's pass complete to Brian Hartline."

In a split-squad scrimmage that can often see players not accustomed to playing with each other display chemistry problems in front of a paying audience, the Boeckman-to-Hartline connection was clearly evident from the first play of the game. Starting at his team's own 23-yard line, Boeckman found the junior wide receiver for a six-yard gain to get the scrimmage underway.

When the two upperclassmen were lifted from action for the final two quarters, exactly half of Boeckman's 18 pass attempts were to his junior target. For the day, the senior signal-caller was 12 of 18 for 145 yards while Hartline had six catches for 82 yards.

The biggest gain of the day also came as a result of the two. Boeckman set up the game's first touchdown with a 48-yard bomb thrown to Hartline that gave the Scarlet team the ball just two yards from the end zone.

Not that the two hooking up for consistent gains in the passing game should have come as a big surprise, however. Last season, Hartline finished second on the team with 52 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns.

Asked about the connection between the two, Hartline cited an inherent level of trust that a quarterback needs to find a receiver who typically finds himself working in the slot.

"You don't find gaping holes in the middle of the field, so to have faith in me to find a two- or three-foot hole says a lot," he said. "I guess that just comes with time."

That much was certain throughout the first half of play. With Boeckman under center, the Scarlet squad ran four series. One resulted in a three-and-out that consisted of two run plays and a quarterback sack, but Hartline had at least one pass thrown to him during each of the other four series.

He also was at least indirectly responsible for Boeckman's two interceptions. On the third play of the scrimmage, he lofted a pass high down the field intended for a streaking Hartline. The ball did not carry far enough and allowed Kurt Coleman, the safety in coverage on the play, to make a leaping interception.

On the final series by the Scarlet team in the half, Boeckman was again intercepted – this time by linebacker Ross Homan, who made a diving catch after Boeckman tried to squeeze a short pass into the middle of the field.

On that drive, which lasted 11 plays, Hartline had four catches. A seven-yard pickup on third and six was immediately followed by a six-yard gain on the next play. Three plays later, Boeckman found him for seven yards on fourth and two, then connected down the sideline for eight more yards on first down.

When the interception came two plays later, Boeckman admitted to perhaps locking onto Hartline too much.

"That might have been it," he said. "I knew they had a guy running into the seam too and I had a guy in my face giving me some pressure. There was a guy open but I didn't have any time to get the ball off or get some power on the throw."

That might not be a scenario limited exclusively to the spring game, however. Both Boeckman and Hartline have put in extra hours on the practice field going over passing routes and working on their timing. It shows on game day when Boeckman is able to connect with Hartline for mid-range passes that are largely due to timing.

As such, the chemistry the two have developed can almost have an adverse effect at times.

"Maybe it can happen a little bit because you've been through a lot with that guy and you know he's dependable and going to make those catches," Boeckman said.

Both players are suiting up for their second years as primary playmakers for the Buckeyes. For the team to make a third consecutive run at a national championship, OSU will need its quarterback and wide receivers to continue to grow together and become more familiar with what each can bring to the football field.

If the 2008 spring game is any indication, Boeckman and Hartline are well on their way.

"I think there's a trust there," Hartline said.

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