- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
When Ohio State selected its four captains last month, left tackle Alex Boone didn't seem too disappointed to not be among them. Boone pointed out that he joked around too much to sit at the captain's table. The 6-foot-8, 312-pound senior is definitely entertaining, but he's also brutally honest, making him a media favorite. Boone didn't hold back Tuesday, ripping Ohio State fans for booing quarterback Todd Boeckman last Saturday against Troy.
I spoke to Boone later that night and he sounded off on several topics, including Terrelle Pryor's rapid rise, Ohio State's subpar offensive line play, the USC aftermath, the possible return of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and whether he regrets passing up NFL millions to stay another year in Columbus.
Terrelle's been named the starter now. What has been the reaction on the line? I know a lot of you guys are close to Todd. Has it been easy to embrace Terrelle so far?
Alex Boone: Absolutely. We would never not embrace him. He's our quarterback. Whoever's back there, we'll take care of them. That's our thing. We've got to protect, and that's one thing we need to work on and do a little bit better, protecting. Him back there, he's another quarterback, he's a great person and we'll follow him.
Was it obvious to you right away that there wouldn't be a rift in the locker room? Sometimes people side with one quarterback over the other.
AB: A lot of the guys were more surprised to see [Terrelle start] last week. But coach [Jim Tressel], whatever he wants, he does, and we'll block for whoever's back there.
You mentioned the protection issues up front. As a line, how would you grade yourselves at this point in the season as a group.
AB: I'm going to be completely honest right now. I'm going to say this and I'll probably get in trouble, but we would probably get an 'F' if I were to grade myself and the line. We need to step up and we really need to start straining and holding that line of scrimmage and start giving guys time. We have great wide receivers, but they don't have time to get open. We have a great quarterback, and he doesn't have time to throw it. So we really have to push ourselves to hold for another second.
Is there any explanation for that? You're veteran linemen, you know each other, you've played next to each other for a while.
AB: It would probably be sometimes our technique is off or sometimes we're not off the ball right away. A lot of times it's just being lazy. And that's so terrible to say because it's a football game and you should always be up for it, but sometimes it just doesn't happen like that. So I think we really need to get a fire under our rear and kick it into high gear and start blocking.
Do you think it was maybe that you had done it so long, that you look to your experience maybe too much, you don't have the same fire you had as a freshman?
AB: Oh, absolutely. Sometimes you sit back there and you're like, 'Oh, I can muscle this guy. I can manhandle this guy. This is my fourth year. I can do whatever I want.' But that's not the case. There's guys out there. They're young, they're excited, they're strong, they're fast. You always have to show discipline and respect for the other player and you've got to play fast.
There were some questions about a lack of fire after the USC game. Are you seeing that fire come back? Has it been restored?
AB: After the USC game, a lot of people were like, 'This team's going to crumble,' and whatnot. That's just not how it is. There's so many seniors on there and you see it in the guys' eyes right now. Everyone's excited for the Big Ten to start. We can't wait to just start hitting the guys in the Big Ten. It's all up for grabs now.
In terms of goals still being out there for you, is that easy for you guys to embrace? Going to the Rose Bowl, it's something none of you have ever done despite having so much success. Is that something you talk about, that there's still a lot to play for?
AB: The thing is, we don't count ourselves out. If you count yourselves out of the national championship, then you're telling yourself you've been beat. We're still in it. We're going to fight everybody till the end. We're going to play harder, we're going to play longer than any team now, from now on, this is it. And if we don't make it to the national championship, that's fine. We can still look at the Rose Bowl. That's a great consolation prize. No one's going to complain. But we've still got to go out there and play like we are going to be in the national championship.
It's looking more and more like Beanie's going to be back this week. How has he looked in practice and what type of boost would he provide you if he's back out there on the field?
AB: In practice today, he looked great. He looked like he was 100 percent, making cuts, running, bursting. He's Beanie. You can never hold that against him. So if he, when he plays this weekend, it's going to uplift the entire team. It will be good to see him back there. I'm not saying that Boom [Dan Herron] and Mo Wells and [Brandon Saine] didn't do a great job. They did. They stepped up, and I'm so proud of those guys. But Beanie's Beanie. He's physical, he's big, he's strong and he's fast. He'll smack you in the mouth and let you know that we are Ohio State football. So having him back there is going to be a great feeling.
You've had some younger guys, true freshmen [Michael Brewster, etc.] on the offensive line playing bigger roles in recent weeks. What has that been like? Has it changed the dynamic at all?
AB: Well, it's a little different. We were such a veteran unit and now, all of a sudden, you throw in this freshman and things get shaken up a little bit. But I think Brewster did a great job this week. That's the bottom line. We know everybody's got to work on something, especially going into this week with Minnesota. They look like a lot more physical team, a lot faster team, a lot more confident team. So he has to step up and show people that he's ready to play.
I know you're not a captain, but do you see yourself as a guy that steps up and speaks up a lot? It seem
s like you have some pretty strong feelings about how things have gone this season.
AB: Everybody knows I step up and say things. I'm one of the most outspoken people on my team. But at the same time, I stick more to my O-line. I get on them and ride them because there's four of them beside myself. I try to boost everybody. There can only be four captains, but at the same time, there's like 20 seniors. Everybody's always looking to each other and that's how it should be. It's a lot of fun out there.
What's the atmosphere been like around the team, on campus? Around the country, there's a lot of negativity about Ohio State, but what's it like for you guys being out and about in Columbus?
AB: There's always support from people here in Columbus. This is Buckeye Nation. Everybody loves the Buckeyes, and that'll never change. That's always a great feeling. School is starting [today], so there's a lot more people, a lot more traffic, which I'm kind of getting tired of already. But it's a lot of fun. Everybody loves the Buckeyes. Now and again, you'll get a naysayer saying something bad about somebody, but for the most part, everyone's like, 'Go Bucks, I love you guys,' stuff like that.'
A lot of people thought that if the team didn't go undefeated, you, James [Laurinaitis], Malcolm [Jenkins] would be upset about the fact that you stayed. Is there any second-guessing on your part with everything that's happened this year?
AB: I can say honestly I would never regret this. I'm here with my family. These guys are my brothers. I look to the coaches like my own dad. I would never say that coming back was a bad experience or a bad decision. It was probably the best decision I could have ever made. A lot of people are like, 'If you guys don't go undefeated and win a championship, you missed out on this or that.' The truth is I'm a kid and I'm having a lot of fun.