The “next man up” philosophy has been tested at a couple of positions on the Ohio State defense, but perhaps nowhere more so than at middle linebacker, where Tuf Borland stepped into the breach left by Chris Worley in game 3.
“We pride ourselves on being ready when our number is called,” Borland said. “I just got the opportunity and I’m just thankful.”
Since being thrust into the fray against Army after Worley suffered a sprained foot, Borland has been full speed ahead into the gap, to the edge, or into coverage. A 6-foot-1, 229-pound redshirt freshman from Bolingbrook, Illinois, Borland has started the four games since, and is tied for fifth on the team in tackles with 24.
Worley partly stepped back into the picture the past two games and played sparingly after sitting out two games. Worley also is one of nine team captains. But the coaches had intended to work Borland into the mix to build depth, even before Worley’s injury.
“I’m going to keep preparing, keep trying to help this team win,” Borland said.
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He will be ready when his number is called, he said. His name, however, is unlikely to be called. Though his first name is Tuf, none of his teammates ever call him that. Former Ohio State middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan revealed that last year.
That’s still the norm, Borland said. They call him “anything but Tuf,” he said. “Pretty much anything they feel like calling me.”
What they found once he took Worley’s place, though, is that Borland has been paying attention and doing his homework for what essentially is the quarterback position of the defense.
“He has brought great leadership,” linebackers coach Bill Davis said. “Everyone is very confident in him making calls, being where he’s supposed to be and getting his job done. So we’re very excited about Tuf.”