COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Todd Boeckman will start at quarterback when No. 11 Ohio State hosts Youngstown State on Saturday in its 118th season-opener.
Boeckman takes over for Troy Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy last season while the Buckeyes rolled to a 12-0 start before losing 41-14 in the national championship game.
``Todd Boeckman is the guy that's going to have the first chance to go out there and be nervous and have some fun,'' coach Jim Tressel said on Tuesday. ``He's been waiting so long for this opportunity. He's been studying hard, paying close attention. He knows who we are and what we want to do.''
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Boeckman was listed No. 1 on the depth chart coming into spring practice, then solidified his position this fall over contenders Rob Schoenhoft, Antonio Henton and Joe Bauserman.
``What gives Todd the nod over Robbie and Antonio and Joe, I think, is his understanding of the whole system and all that goes into it,'' Tressel said. ``He's just got so much experience.''
Boeckman may have more experience than the others in practice, but certainly not in games. He has thrown only 10 passes in six mop-up appearances since coming to campus in 2004. A fourth-year junior, he's 23.
``It's an honor to be named the starting quarterback at Ohio State,'' he said after Tuesday's practice. ``It's pretty much a dream come true for me. But I have to go out there and stay focused and do what I need to do and lead this team.''
Boeckman said it took him a while to feel comfortable enough to take over Smith's spot.
``At first I was a little too tense, a little overly excited - I just wanted to do the right thing at all times,'' he said. ``As I started to get out there, I started to relax, stay focused and just prepare myself, take it easy, take it one step at a time, and try not to be too overwhelmed.''
Tressel said that Boeckman got off to a slow start when preseason practice got under way, but has put together a series of strong workouts.
``He had a couple of good scrimmages and some good practices,'' said offensive tackle Kirk Barton. ``The biggest thing is no mistakes, no turnovers. That's the big thing with all of our skill guys. As long as we don't turn the ball over, we always have a good shot at winning.''
Tressel said Schoenhoft - also a jumbo-sized junior at 6-6, 240 - will play against the Penguins. Henton is listed as third team, while Bauserman, a touted high school quarterback prospect before playing three years of minor league baseball, is regaining his footing after being away from the game.
Fullback Dionte Johnson said Boeckman was tentative in the spring but has settled in this summer and taken over the spot as if he were an old pro.
``His confidence really shot up. He was leaps and bounds more comfortable,'' Johnson said. ``Not to say that he was more comfortable than the other quarterbacks, but just between being in the huddle now and in the spring, you can tell now that he has control over what he's doing.''
The Buckeyes went 8-4 in 2004, the last time they had to break in a new starting quarterback. Two years before that, rookie starter Craig Krenzel led Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years.
Boeckman acknowledges that he's just the starter for the opener. It's up to him to keep the job.
``None of us really has game experience,'' he said. ``It's going to be a great deciding factor of who can be the starting quarterback the rest of the season.''

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