|Todd Boeckman has filled the shoes left behind by Heisman winner Troy Smith. (FILE/KIICHIRO SATO/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Boeckman has been pleasant surprise
COLUMBUS, Ohio - No one thought Ohio State or its quarterback would be all that good this season.
The Buckeyes lost a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback and replaced him with a guy who had more birthdays (23) than he had minutes on the field (20).
Boy, were a lot of people wrong about the Buckeyes - and Todd Boeckman.
"Sometimes when you're knighted before you're deserving, it works against you," coach Jim Tressel said of his quarterback's three-year wait on the sideline. "There's the old axiom - some guys have to prove they can't, some guys have to prove they can. You gain the greatest amount of confidence from your teammates when you're one of the guys that has to prove he can."
The No. 1 Buckeyes are 9-0 and led by a QB who has played like a grizzled vet though he's spent more time watching others play.
Boeckman is tall, rangy, and self-effacing, and will never be mistaken for last year's superstar, a brash, strong-armed kid with a chip on his shoulder named Troy Smith. Boeckman's numbers, however, are comparable.
Both were in charge of unbeaten, top-ranked teams through nine games.
Boeckman has completed 139 of 209 passes for 1,799 yards and 21 touchdowns with eight interceptions. At the same point a year ago, Smith was 145 of 214 for 1,898 yards and 22 TDs with two interceptions.
The formula that determines a passer's effectiveness gives Boeckman a rating of 164.3 - third in the nation. Smith had a 174.31 through nine games.
Not bad for the son of a high school coach who was never higher than third on the depth chart.
"Todd has done a complete 180," fullback Dionte Johnson said. "He has the confidence that he needs to be our starting quarterback and he really uses that and transfers that over to every play . . . He's shown he's the leader and we're behind him 100 percent."
Boeckman wasn't just daydreaming while he spent the past two years holding a clipboard as first Craig Krenzel and then Smith ran the team. He was taking mental notes.
"Me being an older guy, having an opportunity to be around the block a little bit and seeing how guys handle themselves, that's helped out tremendously," he said.
Boeckman has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game.