During the 2000s, and for most of Ohio State football history for that matter, the fullback has been a vital if overlooked position. Given the thankless job of being the lead blocker for the more glamorous halfback position, the fullback rarely gets to carry the ball, and also is given the job of pass protection for the quarterback.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, their history is replete with guys willing to toil in relative obscurity, but perform the job of fullback exceptionally well. From Jim Otis, to Pete Johnson, to Vaughn Broadnax (true story – Broadnax visited our high school football team team and gave us all Buckeye stickers for our helmets, automatically qualifying him for this list), player after player has carved a niche in Buckeye football history as the team's lead blocker and fullback. For the All Decade team, we had a difficult choice, and the voting was close.
Let's take a look at a couple of candidates:
Jamar Martin (1998-2001)
Martin's career started in the 90's and bled over in to the 2000's, but in '01 and '02 he was the epitome of an OSU fullback--great lead blocker for the tailback who helped Michael Wiley gain over 1,500 yards in 1998, good in pass protection, and in the rare occasion called on to make a play, usually did.
Brandon Schnittker (2002-2005)
Schnittker was a Martin clone, with two notable exceptions--he was the fullback on the '02 national championship team, and made a clutch catch against Michigan with under 10 minutes left in what ended up being the game winning drive. Noteworthy: Remember the play in the Miami game where Craig Krenzel threw the pick to Sean Taylor in the end zone that ended up as the Maurice Clarett strip sack? Look at that play again. If Krenzel checks down to Schnittker, who was all alone on the goal line, Schnittker walks in untouched, and that game would have never gone to overtime.
But The Winner Is...
Zach Boren (2009-2012)
Technically he qualifies, as he was a freshman in 2009. Most of his body of work came as the decade turned, but Boren holds a special place in the hearts of Buckeye fans. It started with his recruiting, and his older brother Justin. If you'll remember, Justin was one of only a handful of players (maybe the only?) that played for both Michigan and Ohio State. Justin was recruited by Lloyd Carr, and became disillusioned when he retired and was replaced by Rich Rodriguez. He transferred to Ohio State, where he became a key component on the OSU offensive line.
And that process caused Zach to revisit his recruitment, and he ended up committing to the Buckeyes. Boren became one of the team leaders by his senior year, and famously switched from fullback to linebacker halfway through last season, quickly shoring up a beleaguered linebacker corps and winning praise from teammates and coaches alike.
But as a fullback, Boren was probably the best athlete to play the position in recent memory. Like the other candidates, he was a solid lead blocker and very good in pass protection, but he had soft hands and was used more of a weapon than fullbacks of the past were. It wasn't unusual to see Boren targeted on third down or on the goal line/short yardage situations, especially in his senior year before he made the switch to linebacker.
Congratulations to Zach Boren, your fullback of the Aughts.