Boeckman Continues To Be Stand-Up Guy For OSU

OSU senior quarterback Todd Boeckman fielded questions at Fiesta Bowl Media Day, including what his role would be Monday night and how he dealt with being replaced as the starter by freshman Terrelle Pryor. Also, Texas head coach Mack Brown talks about the similarities between Pryor and former UT quarterback Vince Young.

There was a lot of consternation Friday morning – most of it from reporters who cover Ohio State – because freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor was not made available for questions during the annual Fiesta Bowl Media Day.

Not that head coach Jim Tressel left all of his quarterbacks behind at the media hotel. Former starter and still team co-captain Todd Boeckman sat in one corner of a spacious ballroom at the Camelback Inn resort and seemed a little amused at the situation.

"I was on the list, so here I am," Boeckman said with a smile. "Usually every year, the captains are always up in the front, and being a senior leader, I figured I would be here."

It wasn't the first time during bowl preparations that Pryor and Boeckman had made headlines. Before the Buckeyes left Columbus for Arizona, news leaked out from camp that Tressel was planning to use both of his quarterbacks – at the same time – against Texas. Boeckman started the first three games in 2008, and Pryor started the final nine. They both played in seven contests, but never at the same time.

OSU head coach Jim Tressel confirmed Friday morning that Pryor would definitely start the game, but that "Todd is going to contribute to our cause and we're excited about it."

When asked exactly what the contribution might be on Monday night against the Longhorns, Boeckman smiled again.

"I guess we will just have to wait and see," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen. We have been working on things here and there. I guess your guess is as good as mine right now."

When another reporter pressed him, saying, "You'd have a better guess than me," Boeckman didn't bite. Later, he was asked if he was working with the first team during practice drills, and that didn't elicit the desire response, either.

"Every practice all year, I have been working with the first team," Boeckman said. "You always have to be prepared to be in a situation to go in there. I have been prepared all year."

It has been an admittedly rough season for the 6-4, 244-pounder after leading Ohio State to the national championship game last season while earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. Boeckman was one of several players who returned for their senior years in 2008 with their eye on not only returning to the national title game, but winning it.

Those dreams went up in smoke in mid-September during a 35-3 loss at Southern California. Boeckman started the game, but threw for only 84 yards and pitched two interceptions, including a costly one right before the end of the first half that USC linebacker Rey Maualuga returned for a touchdown.

Boeckman had shared playing time in the contest with Pryor, who managed to complete 7 of 9 attempts against the Trojans for 52 yards. He also rushed 11 times for 40 yards while Boeckman was victimized by a furious USC rush and was thrown for 27 yards in losses.

The following week, Pryor was under center to start the game against Troy and he never relinquished the job. Boeckman was relegated to mop-up duty the rest of the way, attempting only 15 passes in the team's final nine games.

Through it all, the senior co-captain was stoic, continuing to appear after each game to answer questions from the media with his fellow captains. But it wasn't easy.

"It definitely was hard," Boeckman said. "I knew Terrelle was going to help this team. I knew he was talented and he wanted to learn. He was always asking questions, and taking what he learned and applying them on the field. With a guy of his caliber, I'm excited to see the team do well.

"Still, it was hard. It's tough. But you keep fighting, keeping moving on. I am still the captain of this football team. I am the senior leader and only one play away. You have always got to go out there and practice hard and do the right thing in the film room and on the field and be that leader."

PRYOR HAS BIG FAN IN TEXAS COACH

Pryor has a big fan in Texas head coach Mack Brown – so much so that Brown dropped a longstanding reluctance to compare anyone to former Longhorns quarterback Vince Young.

"There have been similarities made between Terrelle and Vince," Brown said. "They are real tall and strong. They can make plays with their feet. They both have strong arms. The thing that set Vince apart was that he continued to grow as a quarterback and then he made everyone around him better. I think Terrelle seems to have that quality.

"Of course, Vince didn't play as a freshman and Terrelle has been very impactful for their program as a freshman and he will only help them in the future. I see him being a game-changer like Vince was a game-changer for us."

Young, of course, led Texas to the 2005 national championship with a performance for the ages against USC in the title game. He had 200 yards rushing and 267 yards passing, rallying the Longhorns to a thrilling 41-38 victory. Earlier that season, Young had engineered another stirring come-from-behind win on national television as Texas took a 25-22 win over Ohio State in the first-ever meeting of the traditional college powerhouses.

As a freshman with only nine starts under his belt, Pryor has taken only the first steps toward producing the kind of results that Young did for the Longhorns. But Brown believes there is no doubt the potential is there.

"I don't think any comparison is fair except when you go back at look at players at the same stage of their careers," Brown said. "Vince wasn't playing at this stage. We thought it was good for Vince to get a year of redshirting, so in that vein, Terrelle is ahead of him in the same time frame.

"Later on, we know what happened with Vince and we'll have to wait and see with Terrelle. But I will tell you this: I think potentially there is no doubt. Terrelle is the type of guy who can be a game-changer because he touches the ball every time. If you have a trigger guy who can take the ball all the way on any play – either by running the ball or throwing it – you've got something special."

FIESTA BOWL NUGGETS

** Texas senior running back Chris Ogbonnaya didn't want to single out any specific Ohio State defender when asked who the Longhorns would have neutralize on Monday night. But when pressed for an answer, the 6-1, 225-pounder settled on linebacker James Laurinaitis.

"We'd better know where he is at all times," Ogbonnaya said. "They've got some really, really good players in (Malcolm) Jenkins and (Marcus) Freeman, but if I could only pick one guy, it would be Laurinaitis. I mean, the guy is a three-time All-American and they don't give those things out for nothing."

** While the Buckeyes are making their fifth trip in the last seven years to the Arizona desert, this marks only the second Fiesta Bowl appearance for Texas.

The Longhorns lost a 38-15 decision to Penn State in the 1997 game when John Mackovic was head coach. Texas held a 12-7 lead at halftime, thanks in part to a 7-yard touchdown run by tailback Ricky Williams. But the Nittany Lions scored early and often in the second half with tailback Curtis Enis winning offensive MVP honors.

Enis rushed for 95 yards and three touchdowns, giving Penn State head coach Joe Paterno his sixth Fiesta Bowl victory in as many tries.

** Brown said he doesn't foresee the day when Division I-A goes to a playoff system to determine its national champion.

"We won't have a playoff until somebody figures out the plan, and we won't have a plan until somebody figures out the money," he said. "So until those two get figured out, I don't think we will see a playoff."

That said, the Texas head coach isn't exactly in favor of the way things are determined now.

"I would like to see us get in or get out," Brown said. "Either go back to the old bowl system and match it up where we have a real fun game for everybody and then have a bunch of people vote on whoever they want to be No. 1, or try to get a more fair way to figure it out at the end."

Here are links to BuckeyeSports.com's other Fiesta Bowl stories from Arizona:

Pryor Noticeably Absent From Media Day

Maybe Two QBs For OSU, Maybe Not


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