December 18, 2012

12-OH: Boren moves to defense

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

Having just wrapped up a perfect season unlike any other in program history, it's hard not to look back at the last 12 months of Ohio State football and not only marvel at the unlikeliness of what the Buckeyes accomplished in 2012, but also how far they've come since their 6-7 mark in 2011. With that in mind, I'll spend 12 days examining and reflecting on the 12 most important moments that helped create and stand out from just the sixth unbeaten and untied season in Ohio State history.

Yesterday, we reflected on one of the low points and biggest problem's with the Buckeyes' undefeated season. Today, we'll take a look at what was ultimately one of its major solutions.

COLUMBUS, Ohio. -- A 49-point, 481-yard offensive performance from Indiana helped mark one of the lowest points of not only this season's Ohio State defense, but the history of the 'Silver Bullets.' The Hoosiers' offensive outburst left the Buckeyes coaching staff searching for answers, and it wasn't until it looked beyond the defensive side of the ball that it found one.

In the months leading up to the 2012 season, Urban Meyer had expressed a desire to use fullback Zach Boren in a secretive role. It's hard to imagine, however, that this is what the first-year Ohio State coach had in mind.

But there was Boren, the former high school linebacker, back at his old position, lining up in the middle of the Buckeyes' defense on the second series of OSU's 52-49 win over Indiana. Perhaps more indicative of the state of the team's defense than anything else, Boren led the Buckeyes' defense with eight tackles on that night, but it was just a sign of things to come for the senior captain.

"You want someone to write a book on wow, that would be good if you go write a book on Zach Boren," Meyer said. "On a Tuesday before Indiana steps in and plays. Four periods later, 20 minutes later he's a starting linebacker, middle linebacker at Ohio State."

Game by game, Boren began to recapture his ways on the defensive side of the ball. Playing in just six games on the defensive side of the ball, Ohio State's latest addition to the defensive side of the ball managed to finish sixth on the team in tackles with 50, 3.5 of which came for a loss, and one sack. It's not surprising that the 6-foot-1, 245-pounder got better as he got more comfortable, but the progress that he made in just half of a season caught most off-guard.

"I've gotten better. I can still get a lot better in a lot of different areas," Boren said prior to the Buckeyes' 26-21 win over Michigan on Nov. 24. "It's more a comfort thing. I'm getting more and more comfortable and just reacting instead of thinking so much."

It also shouldn't surprise people that as Boren got better, so did the Ohio State defense. By a lot.

In the five games post-meltdown in Bloomington, the Buckeyes' defense only surrendered an average of 15.6 points per game- the most being 21 against Michigan. OSU would finish the season ranked 33rd in the country in points against, despite surrendering 49 points to the Hoosiers and 38 to Nebraska.

Perhaps it's fitting that the lasting image from just the sixth perfect season in program history will be Boren, finally fully transformed into a linebacker, standing over Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner after recording the lone sack of his college career. While reflecting on his first season at Ohio State, Meyer wasn't shy about praising Boren, who will standout as one of the most memorable members of the 2012 Buckeyes.

"One of the great stories, in my mind, in college football and certainly in Ohio State history," Meyer said of Boren. "What he's done, the selfless approach is I know I can only speak on, I guess, our coaching staff and myself, but the selfless approach and what he would do for this team is extraordinary."


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