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


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


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


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


“I don’t know if you take it more seriously, you just

appreciate it more,” he said. “It’s your last time for


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


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


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


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.”