Thunder & Lighting: Boren, Shazier Finding Harmony Together
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was a moment about three weeks ago, somewhere between the end of that wild finish in Bloomington and the unpredictable comeback against Purdue, where something seemed to snap into place for Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The Buckeyes had struggled defensively for most of the season, and while Shazier was leading the team in tackles as a sophomore, there was something not quite right about his game. It seemed unfair to criticize Shazier’s game with so much chaos going on around him on the OSU defense, but the first-year starter seemed to be too fast, too aggressive when the moment called for something a little more controlled.
“I’m feeling a whole lot more comfortable,” Shazier said after his 14-tackle performance against Illinois Saturday.
“The game slowed down from last year, and with the last couple games it’s even slowed down more. I’m starting to understand things more and I feel like I’m way more prepared for these games coming up.”
Shazier worked tirelessly on his ability to leverage the football in practice, and it’s paying off. He has been the Big Ten’s defensive player of the week for two weeks running. He’s among the league-leaders in tackles, tackles for loss, solo tackles and even sacks.
Zach Boren and Ryan Shazier
Photo by Jim Davidson
Yet it wasn’t until he started playing alongside senior Zach Boren that Shazier really started to blossom into an all-conference, or even All-American, linebacker for the Buckeyes.
“Zach is a tremendous leader. He might not know everything, but he knows how to lead and guys are going to follow him,” said Shazier, a 19-year old out of Plantation, Fla.
“I love having Zach on this side. We were playing around saying he’s thunder and I’m lightning. He brings the boom and I go around making plays.”
Shazier has been making a ton of them since he teamed with Boren in Ohio State’s defense back in mid-October. It was a rough transition at first, with Boren and Storm Klein rotating at middle linebacker after OSU’s senior captain had come over from his fullback position in the middle of the week leading up to the Indiana game.
“I knew he was a great linebacker when I was on the offensive side, having to block him and go against him,” Boren said of Shazier.
“The last couple weeks you’ve seen him come out of his shell and I think he has a lot more confidence.”
Boren’s move was a move facilitated by necessity when senior Etienne Sabino was lost with a broken leg in the win over Nebraska, but it certainly wasn’t done flippantly. While Boren was important part of the OSU offense, the staff felt confident sophomore Jeff Heuerman could step in and replace a lot of what Boren did as a point-of-attack blocker.
At first, Boren was just out there running around hoping to hit someone.
“I’m not playing linebacker in high school anymore,” he said recently.
“In high school I was just running around going downhill and trying to smack people. It’s college football, guys are stronger and faster.”
There are plenty of guys around the Big Ten who are faster than Boren, and probably a bunch who are stronger, but not many have better instincts as a football player. Despite not playing the linebacker position since high school, Boren has brought a toughness and instinctual aspect to the Ohio State defense it simply didn’t have with the other guys Luke Fickell was using.
“Zach is great with the inside running and can go run down plays,” Shazier said.
“He can hammer in the nail which lets me run around and do what I do.”
Which is exactly what Shazier needed. He’s a playmaker, born and bred, and with two more tackles he will become the first player at Ohio State since James Laurinaitis to reach the century mark as a sophomore.
He has credited Boren with much of his own personal success over the last few weeks, but Boren believes he has learned just as much from his lightning quick counterpart.
“I wouldn’t say I’m playing as well as I could be, there’s a lot of stuff to get better at,” said Boren, who has 29 tackles in four games as a linebacker for the Buckeyes.
“I’m having fun, I’m just reacting out there and Ryan’s helping me out a lot. You can see how successful he is, so I think I’m just feeding off that.”
The two are feeding off each other. Even if Sabino returns from his injury after the bye week – and Meyer said it’s better than 50/50 that he will be back in some capacity for the Wisconsin game – it seems unlikely Fickell and his staff will want to break up what they have going now.
“I think Ryan and I compliment each other really well,” Boren said.
“He’s kind of the speed guy, real athletic, and I’m of the bruiser. I think our styles have matched up really well.”
Even with the addition of Boren, the Buckeyes certainly aren’t playing perfect on the defensive side of the football, but after giving up a total of 87 points in back-to-back games against Nebraska and Indiana, teams are averaging fewer than 23 points per game over the last three weeks.
Some of that is getting guys healthy, but a big part of it seems to be the harmony Boren and Shazier have developed at the linebacker position.
“Ryan and I are gelling really well and we’re coming together,” Boren said.
“I feel like this last week was the first week where we were on the same page the whole game. We just communicated really well and I think that’s why stuff was flowing really well between us.”
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.