Fully healthy, Borland fighting for starting job
Tuf Borland was named a captain in 2018, an unusual honor for a redshirt sophomore.
That honor was given in part out of respect for how hard the middle linebacker worked to return from an Achilles tendon injury suffered during spring practice. Borland played in all 14 games, but his play showed the effects of the injury, especially early.
This week, Borland was again named a captain. He and senior safety Jordan Fuller are only the 13th and 14th players in school history to be two-time captains.
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But while Fuller is a lock to start, Borland isn’t. Several younger players, particularly Baron Browning and Teradja Mitchell, are pushing Borland in training camp.
Borland isn’t the type to make dramatic statements or tout himself. He made it clear, though, that he believes he’s a different player than he was 12 months ago.
“It's night and day,” Borland said. “I feel a huge difference. Just to go through a whole winter, a whole spring, the whole summer, all of the workouts and everything with the team (healthy), that instills some confidence in you that you can play at a high level, and I feel I can do that.”
As for his critics, Borland is unfazed by them.
“I think that comes with the territory of being an athlete at Ohio State,” he said. “You're on the biggest stage. People are going to come at you. People are going to say things. It's part of the job.”
New linebackers coach Al Washington was intent on having a clean slate when it came to evaluating his players. Borland has impressed him.
“I see why he’s a captain and why he’s on the Butkus watch list,” Washington said. “He’s an ultra-competitive kid. He’s gotten better from practice 1 to now. He’s a perfectionist. I love that kid.”
Ohio State hasn’t released a depth chart yet. Whether he’s still a starter or not, don’t expect Borland to do anything but plug away as always.
“I just try to go about things how I think they should be done,” he said. “I try to come in here and give everything I have. I've always believed that the results will come from the effort you put in.”
In a crowded secondary, it’s unclear exactly what role Josh Proctor will have. But the sophomore has drawn raves this training camp, eliciting comparisons to some elite defensive backs.
Cornerback Jeff Okudah said that Proctor has intercepted about eight passes in camp.
“He just has a knack of finding the football, whether it’s from punching it out or making plays on the ball with his range,” Okudah said. “The way he generates turnovers is kind of like an Ed Reed type of impact.”
Cornerback Shaun Wade compared him to former OSU star Malik Hooker and Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro Jalen Ramsey.
“He is very different,” Wade said. “There are not a lot of Josh Proctors in this world. He's 6-3 with Jalen Ramsey arms looking like Jalen Ramsey running and hitting everything. He’s going to be very, very (good). He's like Malik Hooker but bigger and taller.”
Secondary coach Jeff Hafley pumped the breaks on Proctor just a tad. He said that after Proctor got a few interceptions in camp, he started pressing.
“I told him, ‘You’ve just got to let plays come to you in this scheme,’ ” Hafley said. “I think he’s getting back to that. We’ve talked to him about being consistent. If he’s consistent, we’ll find a role for him and we’ll get him in.”