July 30, 2012

Boren's role important, although not yet defined

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

Since the day he arrived in Columbus as Ohio State's new head coach in November 2011, Urban Meyer has consistently expressed his disappointment with the lack of playmakers that exist on the Buckeyes' roster.

But as Meyer as spent more time watching film of his new team and spending time with its personnel, the Ohio State head coach may have discovered an unlikely game-changer on the offensive side of the ball in Zach Boren.

A three-year starter at fullback for the Buckeyes, Boren has carried the ball just once for a total of two yards over the course of his Ohio State career. The Pickerington, Ohio native has also caught 20 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown, but Meyer sees a greater potential for Boren- even if he plays a position not typically utilized in his spread offense.

"We're not known as a fullback-tight end offense, but you're going to see some formations in there," Meyer said in the spring. "We have to get our best 11 on the field. If they're in our best 11, there's creative we can get those guys involved."

Both the OSU coaching staff and players have remain tight-lipped when it comes to talking about how exactly Boren will be used in Meyer's offense, but perhaps what they aren't saying is more telling than anything.

"There's a bunch of stuff that will be happening with me," Boren said. "I guess we'll see come game one."

"I don't know too much about that," Ohio State defensive end John Simon said with a smile. "He'll be in the offense. I can tell you that.

While Boren and his teammates weren't willing to discuss the specifics of his new role with the Buckeyes, it's clear from his offseason regimen that he'll be more than just a lead blocker. One of the premiere blocking fullbacks in the nation last season, Boren now ways 240 pounds- 25 pounds less than the 265 pounds he played at during the first three seasons of his college career.

Boren said he's already noticed new capabilities that have come along with his new physique.

"Twenty-five pounds is a lot," Boren said. "Everything's a lot easier than it was. I'm a lot faster than I was last year. I'm a lot quicker, more agile. Hopefully it shows during the season."

Although Meyer is not yet ready to detail how he plans on using Boren, one may not have to look any further than the former Florida coach's time in the SEC, where he coached against power running fullbacks like Peyton Hillis at Arkansas and Jacob Hester at LSU. Judging by the few things Meyer has said about Boren's role this season, it's clear that he sees similarities between his new fullback and his former foes.

"He's a very good player. He can catch, he can carry the ball. He doesn't exactly have the homerun ability you'd like to see," Meyer said. "But he's a tough guy and he will carry the ball for us."

Despite having carried the ball just once over the course of his college career, Boren is not complete inexperienced when it comes to being used primarily as a runner. It's just been a few years since he's been called on to hit the holes in a defense, rather than creating them.

"I was a tailback in high school, so I carried the ball 15 times a game in high school," Boren said. "I had so much fun with that and fall camp might take me a little bit of time getting me back into game speed running the ball. But yeah, hopefully I'll get some carries this year. I guess we'll have to see."


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