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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The fullback position may be the forgotten position in college football, but at Ohio State that couldn't be further from the truth.
While it may lack the glory of other offensive positions, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and the rest of his staff would certainly argue its importance.
And the coaching staff puts players at the position who have a passion for hitting.
The Buckeyes will always be regarded as a run-first team, as noted in the "Taking a look at the running backs" piece that ran Monday, but without the crucial lead blocks from some of the fullbacks, that offensive philosophy would be more of a challenge.
This year, though, the Buckeye fullbacks could change the recent trend at Ohio State and become more involved in the offense in other ways aside from just blocking.
Following is a breakdown of Ohio State's current fullbacks on the roster and some discussion in terms of what we can expect from the players and position in the regular season this fall.
Key losses: None
Returners: Zach Boren, Adam Homan and James Georgiades
Fall newcomers: None
44 Zach Boren (6-foot, 252, Jr.)
49 Adam Homan (6-foot-2, 238, Jr.)
33 David Durham (6-foot-1, 231, rFr.)
37 James Georgiades (5-foot-11, 240, Jr.)
1. Is the depth chart at fullback completely set or will there be a rotation at the position?
With the abundance of talent in Ohio State's offensive backfield, it is hard not to think about potential position moves. When looking at big-bodied back Carlos Hyde, some have wondered if there was a potential to put another offensive playmaker at the fullback position. Though the transition seems natural on the surface, the fullback position is all but locked up after the coaching staff inserted Durham at the position from the defensive side of the ball. Moves are never out of the question, but just like the Jermil Martin speculation a year ago, the Buckeyes are all but set at the fullback position heading into the fall with four capable players on the depth chart.
2. Just how good was Boren last year and does Homan have a chance to get on the field more?
The simple answer - very good. Like outlined above, the fullback position often gets lost in the shuffle and taken advantage of, but it isn't jumping out on a limb to say that Boren may have been the most consistent offensive player on the Buckeyes a year ago. A playmaker in Ohio State's offensive backfield since the moment he stepped onto campus, Boren has the desire to want to put people on their back that isn't often seen. Though he does very little ball carrying, he is an excellent blocker and picks up the blitz very well when necessary.
There's never a sure thing when it comes to position battles, but Homan is going to have an extremely hard time beating Boren out for more playing time. Not anything against Homan, but it is just tough to take a player like Boren off the field for any amount of time. However, Homan got a lot of good work in the spring and it is possible that he could be a complement to Boren and he is certainly the first fullback on the field if Boren needs to come off. And of course, with football he's one tweaked ankle away from being a large part of this offense.
3. Will fullback be used in different ways this season or will it be reserved for just another blocking role?
Much like is the case with the tight ends, there is always some room for negativity when projecting whether or not the fullback will be worked in as a weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Boren, though, could change that stigma for Ohio State in the fall, much like Jake Stoneburner could at the tight end position this season.
There is no question what Boren's strengths are, and quit frankly those are what make him such an effective fullback. Boren enjoys the contact of the game, making blocks, hitting people, and allowing runners to gain some space for a big gain.
I did a recent radio show with former fullback Brandon Joe and an interesting trivia question was asked about how many carries he had in 2002 when Ohio State won the national title. The answer takes him back to this day, but Joe carried the ball only once the entire year. The fullback is never going to be a big ball carrier, but Boren actually has excelled out of the backfield as a receiver when given the opportunity. Two years ago he caught a touchdown pass at Indiana and last year he 10 receptions despite carrying the ball only once. He isn't going to be a big receiving option, but he may be an outlet every now and then for the quarterback.
3. Why did Durham make the move?
There was a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but sources have indicated that the coaching staff feels he will have a better chance to make an impact at fullback. Durham is a hard hitter that loves to get dirty and knock people in the chest. Though he may have eventually gotten that spot at linebacker, the quickest way to the field for him right now seems to be by sticking it out at fullback. He has a lot of talent ahead of him, but he has the utilities to learn quite a bit, too.
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.
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