Tuesday, November 17, 2009

MICHIGAN WEEK: FORMER WOLVERINE JUSTIN BOREN'S NEW IDENTITY

Justin Boren photo by Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — When Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez as their new head coach prior to the 2008 season, the good ole boy from West Virginia and his staff thrust themselves into the program like gang busters.

Rodriguez transformed the pound it out, conservative style of previous coach Lloyd Carr, to a fastbreak, zone-read approach that made the new Michigan mentor a star at West Virginia. His attitude was more flamboyant, he was more fiery than the previous regime.

Rodriguez completely changed the culture of Michigan football.

Apparently, it was a culture that Michigan starting offensive guard, Justin Boren, wasn't comfortable getting behind. So ... he got out.

Boren stated then that the "family values have eroded" within the program at Michigan and announced that not only would he be leaving Ann Arbor, but he would be playing for the Wolverines arch-rival, Ohio State.

Ever since the Pickerington, Ohio product left Michigan, the Wolverines have fell off the map as one of the elite programs in the nation. Michigan is 8-15 since Rodriguez took over last season, and the culture that he has brought to Ann Arbor has been under scrutiny from the national media, as well the UM alumni groups. The Wolverines have also found themselves under fire for everything from alleged recruiting violations to illegal practice procedures.

It's pretty safe to say, the Michigan program has "eroded" since Rodriguez has taken over.

Back to Boren.

Due to the NCAA transfer rules, Boren had to sit out the entire 2008 season. So he was unable to take out his frustrations right away on his former team. His new comrades had his back, though, dominating the Wolverines, 42-7, last season at Ohio Stadium.

This Saturday in Ann Arbor, Boren gets his much-awaited turn.

"It's a big week for him," OSU offensive guard Bryant Browning said of Boren. "I know he's going to give it his best shot and fight for a win. He's a hard worker and he'll do his best to help the team."

Some may think that Boren's head might not be completely into the game because of his past with the new regime in Michigan.

OSU head coach, Jim Tressel, isn't worried at all about where Boren's focus will be on Saturday.

"Justin's the kind of guy that focuses on what he has to do," Tressel said. "I'm sure he'll be excited. I'm sure it will be difficult in some ways because he has great feelings for both teams that are going to be on the field and a lot of great memories up in the Big House."

On the other side of the field, those "great feelings" are not going to be shared.

"He's just somebody that shouldn't have been here in the first place," Michigan senior Brandon Graham said of Boren. "He just didn't feel like he needed to be here any more.

"He could've gone anywhere else, but he went to Ohio State. That's just a slap in our face."

According to OSU offensive tackle, Jim Cordle, Graham's assessment of Boren is correct — he should have never been at Michigan to begin with.

"His dad tried hard to get him to go (to Michigan)," Cordle said of Boren. "And now his dad hates everything about Michigan. (Justin) wanted to come here and eventually he did."

Boren's father — which Cordle is referring to — is Mike Boren, a former Michigan football player who played in the early 1980's under legendary coach, Bo Schembechler.

It's clear how Boren's teammates — both former and current — think of this Saturday's tilt.

But, what does Justin himself think about his reunion at the Big House?

"It's the biggest rivalry in college football," Boren said. "I'm going to be able to live both sides of it. It's going to be interesting, but I'm looking forward to it.

"It's going to be a good time."

But for whom? We'll see on Saturday!