Justin Boren; A Tale of Two Programs

Former Michigan offensive linesman and current Ohio State Buckeye Justin Boren recently spoke to the Sporting News about his decision to do the unthinkable.

Although he doesn’t tell the entire story, there’s no real surprises in why he transferred from Michigan to Ohio State – wants to live closer to Mom and Dad (Pikerington, OH), Rodriguez is basically a prick, that sort of thing. Buried in the interview though is a classic tale of recruiting and a snapshot of what may become one of the biggest differences between Ohio State and Michigan in the next few years.

Boren and his father Mike (who played for Michigan 1980-83) told the Sporting News that Bo Schemblecher really put the pressure on Justin. On a recruiting meeting with Boren and his father, Schcmblecher asked his father in classic Woody/Bo recruiting style, “You’re not going to let him go to Ohio State?” When his father told him that it was Justin’s decision, Bo “barked” back, “”You don’t let him go to Ohio State. Tell him where to go.”

Let me just get this out there. Almost any other coach and I’d be tearing into him for a comment like that but coming from Bo, it all but brings a tear to my eye. That is one of the last echo’s of the Woody/Bo era – the days when Woody would recruit a kid and sit him on the bench just so Michigan wouldn’t get him. Can’t you just hear Woody , “Don’t you understand? It’s Meeechagin!”

Meanwhile, while Schemblecher is pushing the old man around, Coach Tressel and Ohio State offensive line coach Jim Bollen are working the soft sell. They’d become close to the family and Justin liked what he saw telling the Sporting News,

“Coach Tressel is a total players coach,” Boren says. “He’s a first-class guy and down to earth. Coach Bollman is the same way.

“One of the toughest things I’ve ever done was telling Coach Tressel I was going to Michigan. I loved those guys so much and had become so close.”

Jump ahead two years. Bo’s gone, Carr’s gone and in their place is Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez arrives at Michigan with a file cabinet of burnt player records and a $4 million dollar settlement to pay off. He immediately fires the entire offensive coaching staff. Boren, a sophomore, not only finds himself a senior member of the team, he’s been there longer than most of the coaching staff. And then you’ve got Rodriguez’s style.

While the Michigan fan will be quick to tell you that Boren couldn’t hack it (yeah, those Michigan fans are so gangsta) or he couldn’t adapt to Redriguez’s spread offense, Boren left saying UM had lost the “family values” it had under Coach Carr. (Did somebody say “family values?” Flash back to the above comment about Coach Tressel).

Oh…wait a minute…I’m starting to get it…this kid wants a good education, not just become a football product at a school where others get a good education. He wants a team that values it’s players. He wants a team that understands the meaning of tradition, history and honor. He wants to a team that exudes class. He…wait for it…He wants to be a Buckeye!

Here’s what he told the Sporting News about why he prefers Ohio State over that school up north:

“(Tressel and his staff) coach with class and emphasize education,” he says. “They put what’s most important first. Each player is important. There’s no bashing of players. You’re not going to be belittled. Each player has feelings. They treat each person with respect.”

So it’s a new day in college football. We all know Woody did a little belittling and bashing and stepped on a few feelings but the future of the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry is buried in that comment. You’ve got two radically different styles facing off across the sideline and it begins at the recruiting table.

Who knows what Michigan will be able to do with the spread offense and if Ohio State will be able to respond. However, none of that will matter if you can’t find the talent to run it or defend against it. At the moment though, it looks like Ohio State will have no problem “reloading” down the road.

The Detroit Free Press can read the writing on the wall. They point out that Tressel and Rodreguez have faced off on seven recruits this summer and Tressel walked away with six of them including James Jackson, the number 1 ranked receiver number 3 ranked overall player in Michigan.


  1. says

    Thanks AnnapolisBuckeye for this great perspective. I always say that you can hate OSU and its fans (we are pretty obnoxious at times ;)) but you can’t hate on Tressel.

    There was a recent blog post on the OSU Fans Facebook app (I can’t link to it, since it’s behind logins) about Tressel writing to a boy in Michigan with failing grades to keep working hard.

    OSU football is a class act, and I am very proud of the culture the Sweater Vest brings and the way our players talk about other teams with respect.

  2. JGoBlue says

    So Sweater Vest is a saint, clearly. Someone call the Vatican. He’s writing letters to the opposing team’s players because he cares about family values. He wants the best for his kids, is that right?

    So tell me, why wasn’t he writing letters to his own players as the OSU Football graduation rate fell to second to last in the Big Ten? You’re talking about a team that graduates 53% of it’s players.

    Family values. Justin Boren didn’t get family values. He got grifted.

  3. says

    Please. He doesn’t need to write letters to his own players because they are coming back to graduate on their own. Ohio State has one of the top returning athlete programs in the country. Just because they go pro after three years – something that is a little more difficult at Michigan these days – doesn’t mean they don’t come back to graduate.

    It’s a well known fact that Tressel expects his players to come back to finish regardless of where their professional careers take them.

    The Buckeyes have also had the most players named to the Big Ten All Academic Team for five years running.

    Face it, things are looking bleak for Michigan and it only looks to get worse with Rodriguez. The only grift Boren got was by picking the wrong team to begin with.

  4. Chuck says

    So sorry. This story doesn’t even scratch the surface of the real reasons behind the Boren family’s (some family values) switch to Ohio State.
    You’d think that a comment as cryptic as “family values” would call for some follow up questions. But they haven’t been asked, or the Borens aren’t talking publicly, or for attribution.
    Here’s why Justin Boren (a brilliant OL, btw) left Michigan: it is because his little brother Zach, a middling 2- or 3-star FB/LB/”athlete” was not given a scholarship offer to Michigan, and that infuriated Mike Boren. The proof is essentially circumstantial, and overwhelming.
    Mike Boren was, by published accounts, a psycho-dad in following first Justin’s and then Zach’s high school careers. Justin said, only semi-jokingly in a Detroit Free Press interview (during the Carr era) that his dad screamed at him so vociferously during his Pickerington high school games that he “thought they might have to call the cops.”
    When Mike Boren didn’t like Zach’s progress in the same school (Pickerington North, as I recall), he pulled Zach out, got him into an apartment across town, and enrolled him in Pickerington Central. By every accoutn known to man, young Zach wanted to join Justin at Michigan. Zach wore Michigan shirts and caps. Zach went to every Michigan football camp he could attend. By insiders’ accounts, Zach’s performance was underwhelming. Zach was widely listed as Michigan recruit, but mostly because his only other suitors were schools like Kent State and Ball State. Zach was not an OSU recruit in his junior year; he was rumored, without any apparent basis to be a PSU recruit. I do not believe that he was.
    When, on the day that 2009 recruiting class offer-letters went out (including the foregone-conclusion offer letter to Tate Forcier in San Diego), and Zach Boren did not get one, all of a sudden, Justin Boren released his strange, homemade press release (pretty clearly drafed for him by his mom and dad), and announced that Michigan had lost its “family values” and he was leaving. The Borens provided almost no contact with the press, but in one of his few interviews, Mike Boren supplied the curious statement on the record, “I will not have my two sons playing at two different universities.”
    What sort of a problem is it, in the abstract, for two sons to play at two different schools?
    In fact, what Mike Boren was doing was making an oblique reference to the fact that if Michigan was not offering Zach a scholarship, then Justin would be leaving, pronto. And that is just waht happened.
    In retrospect, it does not seem quite so odd. By the accounts of his Michigan teammates, Justin Boren was a solid teammate, but when he didn’t need to be in Ann Arbor for football program work, he blasted off to go home to Columbus (Pickerington, actually) to work in his dad’s landscaping/snow plowing buisness. He just wasn’t around a lot.
    So, to sum up; to the extent that this story uses Justin Boren to demonstrate the notion that “Rodriguez is basically a prick,” this story is complete baloney. The certifiable “prick” is Mike Boren.
    Mind you, I am a Michigan guy. But I am not one of the Michigan guys who claim, “Boren was just fat and lazy,” or that “Boren couldn’t hack it with Rich Rod and the Mike Barwis conditioning program.” I don’t think either of those things are remotely true. Just as I know darned well that Rich Rodriguez did not drive away Justin Boren.
    The fact is, Justin is a great player; quite possibly OSU’s best OL right now, and one of the best guards that Tressel has ever had. Michigan missed Justin Boren in the 3-9 disaster of 2008.
    But again — there is a real story as regards the Borens. And “Annapolisbuckeye” didn’t even come close to getting it right.