April 7, 2010

Boren brothers differ, both key for Bucks

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Given the fact brothers Justin Boren and Zach Boren are both starters on the Ohio State football team's offense, it may be easy to come to the conclusion that they are very similar.

Justin is quick to point out the contrary.

"Zach has always been 'sports, sports, sports,'" Justin said. "That's all he cared about. He always had a ball in his hand when he was a little kid. I was always into other things. Fishing, boating, doing the business stuff. So it's like Zach and I are two completely different guys."

Both arrived at Ohio State quite differently, too. Justin's journey to Ohio State, though, may be more recognizable to the Buckeye faithful.

After starting off his career at Michigan - Ohio State's arch-rival - Justin did the unthinkable and transferred from the program after Rich Rodriguez took over as head coach, citing the erosion of "family values" as the reason for his decision.

Boren was a starter for the Wolverines as a sophomore and his father, Mike, was a linebacker and captain at Michigan, but he decided to pick his hometown Buckeyes as his new school after graduating from Pickerington North. Boren had Ohio State in his top two coming out of high school.

Zach's arrival with the Buckeyes was a little smoother, as he chose Ohio State directly out of high school, which united him with his brother on the same football team.

Now both hold instrumental roles on a Buckeye offense that should have Ohio State in the top five heading into next season. Justin, a starting left guard and returning All-Big Ten selection, is entering his final season of college football.

"It does. It's real," Justin said of his senior year feeling different. "This is my last spring ball in college and everything you do, it's like the last time you're going to do it. You kind of take things for granted, and now you sort of look back and think, 'Now's the time to do it.'

"I don't know if you take it more seriously, you just appreciate it more," He added. "It's your last time for everything."

Again, the brothers differ.

Zach is heading into his second year with the Buckeyes as the starting fullback after splitting time at the position as a freshman last season with Adam Homan, who's brother Ross Homan starts at linebacker for the Buckeyes.

Though he is still relatively youthful, Zach has already drawn quite the responsibility for the Buckeyes, and that was quite apparent as a freshman.

Zach came on strong in his freshman year as a blocker and also got involved in the receiving game a little bit, hauling in four passes throughout the course of the season which included an eight-yard touchdown catch in the Indiana game.

Justin was blown away by how much of an impact his brother made early, especially after graduating early last year but failing to take part in last season's spring practices with injury.

"I was proud of him. It hurt him a lot not being able to go to spring ball (last season)," Justin said. "He graduated early and then he sat here. Having to sit on the sideline, I know that killed him, but I think he surprised a lot of people. He surprised me the way he came back and I'm proud of him."

Throughout fall camp, Zach has been seen catching the ball quite a bit during team drills, and he even caught Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel's attention on the first day of spring ball.

"Zach Boren caught the ball pretty well in the perimeter drill," Tressel noted after the first practice when asked who stood out.

Justin, who had minor surgery on his ankle in the offseason, returns to the Buckeyes for his senior year as perhaps one of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten.

But coming back as a seasoned veteran, he understands he has quite a bit of work to do before the season begins.

"Just learning the defenses more watching film, getting in the film room," Justin answered when asked where he needed to improve. "Kind of being able to know what's coming before it actually comes. That helps with everything. When you know that then your technique improves and your whole game improves.

While it may seem as if the Buckeyes could get Zach involved in the offense this season, Justin knows what his younger brothers is there for - and it is to hit.

Now both will be integral parts to the Buckeye offense this season.

"He plays to the whistle. He loves knocking the crap out of linebackers," Justin said of Zach. "We were watching film of the Penn State game - he got a couple of hits on the linebackers and we were like, 'Dang.'"

That is where they're alike.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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