The Extra Point: The Boeckman Debate

Todd Boeckman isn't looking for them, but it hasn't been hard at times to find those who doubt if the senior quarterback can lead a talented Ohio State team to the promised land of a national championship this season. Jeff Svoboda digs into the speculation in this commentary.

Todd Boeckman might not be good enough to lead Ohio State to a national title.

Just ask the media.

OK, this site is in the process of dedicating a good amount of pixels to Boeckman, but it's hard to help. Not only does the 24-year-old play the same position as the nation's No. 1 recruit, not only does he play the most important position on the field for a top-three team, but he is coming off of a finish to last season that saw him throw six interceptions and just two touchdowns over the last three games as his team went 1-2.


And it brings us back to the original point, that the Buckeyes might not be good enough to grab that elusive national title with the St. Henry native under center.

This is the debate that greeted me when the crew showed up in Chicago for the Big Ten media days. Shortly after our arrival, we alighted for a reception held by the Big Ten Network, a shindig that had a television in the corner tuned to the channel. The network's pundits appeared to be discussing Ohio State; the screen showed moving pictures of Boeckman throwing the ball, but the font on the bottom said something along the lines of "Can Ohio State win with Boeckman?"

Ouch. Though I was unable to hear what the analysts were saying (the sound was off), the very fact that the debate was being held was a bit of a diss toward Boeckman – from the conference's own PR channel. I can only imagine how Todd must feel.

Actually, I only had to ask. Of course, Boeckman said he had not seen the segment, but he was rather impervious to the slight once it was described to him.

"It's no big deal to me," he said. "It doesn't bother me. I know what our goals are. I know what my teams goals, my personal goals are. I'm not too worried about what anybody is saying."

Would there be any motivation gained from the "doubters," should he see any more in the press?

"I guess maybe a little," he said.

For the record, that's about as strong a statement as one can get from Boeckman on the subject of motivation.

It's not like the debate is being held exclusively on Big Ten Network. Enough time has passed through the grains of sand to muddy this memory, but I do remember certain national pundits wondering about Boeckman's competence during the spring. In fact, at the time I decided to quiz the Ohio State football team members about national writers doubting Boeckman.

The judgment was swift and powerful.

"I think there's a lot of people who are anti-Todd who are anti-Buckeye after last year," tight end Jake Ballard said. "They can say all they want, but Todd is a great quarterback."

"You know, sometimes people have their opinions on guys maybe based on a couple of performances and don't get to see the whole picture, the whole year, see how he progressed each week and got better," said Nick Siciliano, who was filling in as Ohio State's quarterbacks coach during the spring. "Todd has a chance to be a special player. But I'm kind of partial; I get to spend every day with him."

As for what stands out on a daily basis, Siciliano had an answer befitting of a player often teased as ancient by head coach Jim Tressel.

"He's patient," he said. "There's been times where you see guys yelling at guys on the sidelines, but if there's something that needs corrected, he goes over and coaches them. He doesn't yell at guys. He tries to talk to them."

Now that camp is here, it's become even clearer from talking to some veteran players that this is Boeckman's team. Pryor should get some time in certain situations, yes, but Boeckman has the respect of this team – and much of that is because of his play on the field.

Really, leadership is nice, but it doesn't hurt when that leadership completed 63.9 percent of its passes during its first year as a starter and threw 25 touchdowns, including at least two in each of the team's first 10 games. The 14 interceptions are a concern, but a year of experience and pocket presence should help in that regard.

"Even though he made a couple of mistakes, or whatever; we all make mistakes," junior safety Kurt Coleman said. "He's developed a game where he's so efficient. I don't think anyone picked him off in seven-on-sevens. We tried to distract him as much as we can, and he's so efficient. I'm not looking for him to make any errors, really. He's going to have, probably, a Heisman-type season."

Todd Boeckman might be good enough to lead Ohio State to a national title.

Just ask his teammates.

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