COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has stated numerous times that Buckeyes senior Zach Boren is a "great football player."
Think about that for a moment. He didn't say he was a great fullback, great blocker or a great goal line ball carrier. No, he said "great football player."
That statement was proven fact last Saturday night, when the fourth-year starting fullback was asked by Meyer and staff to move to linebacker for the Buckeyes — a unit that has turned anorexic thin in recent weeks.
The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Boren not only made the switch, he led the entire team in tackles with eight. He displayed why he was named the Ohio defensive player of the year coming out of high school in 2008.
"There was one point on a Tuesday practice when I grabbed Zach Boren during stretch and said, 'Hey, we're going to move you over (to linebacker) because guys are limping,'" Meyer said. "(Ryan) Shazier didn't practice, Cam Williams didn't practice, Josh Perry didn't practice. The two guys helping us on kicking game is David Perkins and Jamal (Marcus), and they're having a hard time learning the defense. So we're in a little bit dire straits right now at that position."
Meyer said the defense sent out a distress signal ... and Boren answered with valor.
"Zach Boren is a guy that there's something about game experience," Meyer said. "There is something about being in the arena many, many times. Came here as a linebacker, and was kind of a test for the first four periods of practice that I watched. He changed the entire dynamic of practice, because so much of playing football is the leadership value of what's going on. Who is the tough guy on the defense? Who is the guy that's going to stand up and take charge? You start sticking freshmen here and there, here and there, and they're just in survival mode, not leadership mode.
"Right now we're putting an APB out for tough guys for the guys that take the center of the defense and make it whole. Zach has certainly helped with that."
Meyer is currently recruiting high school linebackers who are quick, athletic and tough. Who knew he would have found one who's already in his locker room?
"He's a football position guy," Meyer said of Boren. "He's always in the reverse arc as we call it. He's not a body heavy guy. He's always got lateral movement.
"And on top of all of that, he's a tough guy."
So, the question remains ... will Boren continue to man the middle of the Buckeyes' linebacker corps? Is this a permanent switch?
"Temporarily permanent," Meyer smiled.
The Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) will look to remain undefeated today as they host the Purdue Boilermakers (3-3, 0-2) at Ohio Stadium (12 p.m.).