Boeckman to lead OSU after Smith

Newly named starting Buckeye quarterback Todd Boeckman signs a helmet before practice at Ohio Stadium on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, TERRY GILLIAM

AP

Newly named starting Buckeye quarterback Todd Boeckman signs a helmet before practice at Ohio Stadium on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, TERRY GILLIAM

By Rusty Miller

COLUMBUS, Ohio – To the surprise of no one, Todd Boeckman will start at quarterback when No. 11 Ohio State hosts I-AA Youngstown State on Saturday in its 118th season-opener.

“Todd Boeckman is the guy that’s going to have the first chance to go out there and be nervous and have some fun,” coach Jim Tressel said on Tuesday. “He’s been waiting so long for this opportunity. He’s been studying hard, paying close attention. He knows who we are and what we want to do.”

Boeckman takes over for Troy Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy last season while the Buckeyes rolled to a 12-0 start before losing 41-14 in the national championship game.

The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Boeckman was listed No. 1 on the depth chart coming into spring practice, then solidified his position this fall over contenders Rob Schoenhoft, Antonio Henton and Joe Bauserman.

“What gives Todd the nod over Robbie and Antonio and Joe, I think, is his understanding of the whole system and all that goes into it,” Tressel said. “He’s just got so much experience.”

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Boeckman may have more experience than the others in practice, but certainly not in games. He has thrown only 10 passes in six mop-up appearances since coming to campus in 2004. A fourth-year junior, he’s 23.

He’s never taken a snap with a game hanging in the balance.

Boeckman comes from St. Henry, Ohio, the same burg that provided former Buckeyes quarterback Bobby Hoying.

Boeckman said earlier this month that he was ready to accept the responsibility of taking over Smith’s spot.

“It’s something you have to stay relaxed, stay focused and keep on playing your game,” he said. “You just try not to turn the ball over, you try to make big plays and just keep going out there and pushing yourself to do the best. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But we’re going to go out there and play hard and do what we know how to do.”

Tressel said that Boeckman got off to a slow start when preseason practice got under way, but has put together a series of strong workouts.

“He definitely progressed. He had a couple of good scrimmages and some good practices,” said offensive tackle Kirk Barton. “The biggest thing is no mistakes, no turnovers. That’s the big thing with all of our skill guys. As long as we don’t turn the ball over, we always have a good shot at winning.”

The Buckeyes went 8-4 in 2004 the last time they had to break in a new first-year starting quarterback. Two years before that, rookie starter Craig Krenzel led Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years.