OL Justin Boren back for final year with Buckeyes

Justin Boren, who famously transferred from Michigan to hated
rival Ohio State, is relishing his final year as a Buckeye.

Three years after an ugly departure from the Wolverines, the
senior figures to be an anchor on the offensive line.

Boren played his high school ball just a few miles from the Ohio
State campus, in nearby Pickerington. But during his recruitment he
selected Michigan over Ohio State. That wasn’t a huge surprise,
since his father, Mike, was a former linebacker for the
Wolverines.

Justin Boren spent two years following in his dad’s cleats at
Michigan and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in Lloyd Carr’s
final year as head coach. When Rich Rodriguez replaced Carr, a rift
developed between the new coach and the 6-foot-3, 320-pound
then-sophomore.

Boren quit the team and took a parting shot at Rodriguez.

“Michigan football was a family, built on mutual respect and
support for each other from coach Carr on down,” Boren said in a
statement at the time of his departure. “We knew it took the
entire family, a team effort, and we all worked together. I have
great trouble accepting that those family values have eroded in
just a few months. That same helmet, that I was raised on and
proudly claimed for the last two years, now brings a completely
different emotion to me, one that interferes with practicing and
playing my best and mentally preparing for what is required.”

Boren himself also took criticism – some of his teammates did
not approve of him taking shots at the Michigan football program as
he was walking out the door. He ended up transferring to Ohio
State, and now is reticent to discuss his transfer from the
Buckeyes’ chief rival.

“I’m glad it’s all in the past,” he said. “I’m a Buckeye.
I’ve been a Buckeye for three years.”

However, he loves to discuss how far he and the rest of the
offensive linemen have come.

“I think we’re a lot more mature. I think guys understand
what’s going on a lot more,” he said after a recent spring
practice, comparing this line with last year’s. “As a unit, I
think we’re a stronger unit both on the field and off the
field.”

Boren, whose brother Zach starts at fullback for the Buckeyes,
also said that he appreciates the sport far more now that he is a
senior and has spent three years adapting to Ohio State.

“It’s real. This is my last spring ball in college and
everything you do, it’s like the last time you’re going to do it,”
he said. “You kind of take things for granted, and now you sort of
look back and think, ‘Now’s the time to do it.”’

He said it’s not a question of taking his role more
seriously.

“I don’t know if you take it more seriously, you just
appreciate it more,” he said. “It’s your last time for
everything.”

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is pleased with how Boren and the
rest of his offensive line is shaping up. Just don’t mention to him
how healthy it is.

“We don’t like to jinx ourselves,” he said, as if to shush any
talk about how good his blockers have looked so far this spring.
“We’re still not at a huge number. The typical place has got 15 to
16 scholarship linemen. We’ve always hung around that 12 to 13,
right or wrong. Then if you do get banged, that makes it tough. But
hopefully we’ll stay healthy.”

It seems that every spring the Buckeyes have to cope with a
makeshift line because there are always three or four players
rehabbing injuries. But during early workouts so far, tackles J.B.
Shugarts, Marcus Hall and Andrew Miller, guards Bryant Browning,
Andrew Moses and Boren, and center Mike Brewster are looking fit
and organized.

“It’s evident that there’s a lot of guys who have some
experience,” said line coach Jim Bollman. “There’s seven to be
specific, then you add a couple of guys that we redshirted that
look like they have some potential. We have a chance, barring
injury or unforeseen circumstances, to have a little bit of
depth.”

Mike Adams, a touted recruit who ended up in Tressel’s doghouse
a year ago, is also back and coming off a strong winter of
conditioning.

The only person missing from last year’s front wall is Jim
Cordle, a veteran left tackle who also had started at center.

The three B’s – Boren, Brewster and Browning – provide a strong
nucleus for the 2010 season.

“It’s always a luxury when you have the same three guys back
who played a lot of games last year,” Bollman said. “Justin
missed one game and I think Mike and B.B. were in there every other
game.”

Tressel, who said the line progressed throughout last year’s
11-2 season, has set the bar high.

“Now what would I like to see? I’d like to see us become
dominant,” he said. “We need them to get better.”

Justin Boren thinks the raw material is there.

“We have a lot of potential,” he said. “We’ve just got to
keep on working hard, and we could be really good.”