Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Boeckman built to endure a pounding

This is an old yet good article.

Boeckman built to endure a pounding

Columbus -- Troy Smith made plays with his legs last year. Todd Boeckman is doing it with his abs.

A year after the 6-0, 215-pound Troy Smith quarterbacked the Buckeyes into the national title game and won the Heisman Trophy with regular displays of spectacular shimmies, creating a highlight reel by turning broken plays into big plays, Boeckman's signature move during a 3-0 start is getting smoked.

While Troy Smith evaded pressure, the 6-5, 243-pound Boeckman absorbs it.

Among his moments to remember entering Game 4 Saturday against Northwestern -- his second completion of the year, a 41-yard deep ball to Brian Ro biskie just before a Youngstown State defensive tackle folded him in half; and a first-down pass to Brian Hartline against Washington last Saturday before taking a blow from a free blitzer who came in untouched.

"Toughness is a big part of being a quarterback," Boeckman said. "You've got to stand there and make those plays and make the guys believe in you."

As the offensive line adjusts to a quarterback they know will stay in his place, the Buckeyes are believing Boeckman, who has completed 45 of 71 passes (63.4 percent) for 574 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions, can do the job his way

Despite Jim Tressel's pointed assertion that Boeckman runs a faster 40 time than Troy Smith, Todd is not Troy.

"I'm not the shiftiest person," Boeckman said. "As you probably noticed, it takes a little bit for me to get going. I'm not that guy who's going to shake and do stuff like that."

That is obvious to all, even Tim Boeckman, father and high school coach of the new OSU quarterback.

"Todd's not a runner," Tim Boeckman said. "We know that. But everybody wanted another Troy Smith, and I think that made it difficult going into the season. Troy was. . . . wow. Todd's his own quarterback."

That means using his size as a weapon, or at least as a shield. Boeckman said he remembers his welcome-to-the-position moment, during a scrimmage as a high school freshman when an avalanche of defensive linemen knocked the wind out of him after a screen pass. As he progressed at St. Henry High, his father said his stature allowed him to face down defenders, because so many of them were smaller than he was. Now that the defenders have grown, Boeckman still stands his ground.

"He made that one throw to Hartline after getting popped pretty hard," fullback Dionte Johnson said, "and it showed down the line he'll be able to make good throws and that he's poised and calm back there. But we have to keep the hits off him

Johnson gets angry when his quarterback takes a shot, and he said it's not uncommon for the blocker who let in the tackler to apologize to Boeckman after the film is graded and the error is apparent. Sometimes they offer to buy dinner to make up for it -- though no one has paid up yet.

"Hopefully something is coming here soon," Boeckman said with a laugh.

His best bet is to protect himself with the quarterback workout put together by OSU director of football performance Eric Lichter, who tailors exercise programs for each position.

A key for the quarterbacks is a move, instead of a typical bench press, that involves balancing on their backs on an exercise ball and using two dumbbells in their lift. That works their shoulders separately, and the unsteadiness of the ball forces the quarterbacks to constantly tighten their abdominal muscles to keep from falling off.

With television cameras rolling during an interview this week, Boeckman declined an offer to show off his six-pack

"It's not that good," he said with a smile. "I don't want to embarrass myself."

Lichter proudly mentioned that Ohio State's three scholarship quarterbacks average 239.7 pounds, almost 10 pounds heavier than the average Buckeye linebacker. He said those core muscles in a quarterback's trunk are crucial for getting snap and power on a throw when firmly planted, and also for creating the wall for a charging linebacker to smack in to.

"Todd's got the body for it," Lichter said. "He's almost 245 pounds and he's 14 percent body fat, so it's not like he's heavy. But he's big and strong, and when you're that big, you should stand in there and take hits because you're not just going to do down like a pile of bricks."

Even if he does go down, if the pass gets off and gets caught, that's a tradeoff Boeckman is willing to make. The pass to Hartline against the Huskies set up a field goal that put the Buckeyes up, 3-0. But plays like that are remembered for more than just the score.

"That was a good sign, when they're really coming steaming and no one's blocking them," Tressel said. "He was waiting for the route to break open and he stood tall. Not every guy will do that."