Land of 10/file photo
Tuf Borland has proven he can be a foundational player for Ohio State at middle linebacker.

Ohio State football: Silver Bullets can build around Tuf Borland

Austin Ward

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Ohio State may have taken its time figuring out that Tuf Borland was its best option at middle linebacker last season, but eventually that lesson was learned. Based on the way the defense took off with Borland in that spot, don’t expect it to be an issue again. Even with some other touted, talented linebackers competing for playing time in what should be a fascinating spring camp for that key unit, Borland has done more than enough to prove he belongs anchoring the heart of the defense.

Despite some difficulty cracking the rotation at times, Borland still finished the season fourth on the team in tackles with 58 — including 3.5 for a loss with a sack. He was particularly strong at the end of the year, and his performance in the suffocating beatdown of Michigan State offered clear evidence that he needed to be on the field.

Ohio State-Billy Davis-linebackers-Buckeyes football-depth chart-2018
Ohio State linebackers coach Billy Davis has an interesting spring ahead of him. (Land of 10/file photo)

Ohio State dominated down the stretch, and Borland deserves credit for the stability he provided and his reliability in tackling. Excluding the tune-up victory over Illinois, Borland chipped in at least 6 tackles in each of the four physical battles down the stretch to help the Buckeyes win The Game, a Big Ten title and ultimately the Cotton Bowl.

Borland should only benefit from that experience, which should in turn make him even more valuable as the Buckeyes try to replace Chris Worley and Jerome Baker at the outside spots. Baron Browning started pushing for an expanded role during bowl practices and arrived at Ohio State as one of the nation’s best prospects at middle linebacker, so he could add some competition for Borland during spring practice. But Browning also has the ability to slide outside, and at least during these upcoming 15 workouts, Ohio State might be better off experimenting with him there knowing what it has in the middle.

Browning has plenty of upside, make no mistake about that. But Borland is the known quantity, and the doubts about his ability to man that critical middle spot probably should have been put to rest even before November last season. There’s no reason for concerns to carry over now, and Borland’s emergence should set the foundation for the Silver Bullets to be even better in 2018.

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