Westerville Central K/P and Ohio State recruit Ben Buchanan is participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this week and is showing well punting for the East squad.
Matt Natali caught up with Buchanan and discussed the week's events and his future Ohio State career.
SAN ANTONIO – According to Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, the most important play in football is the punt.
And the Buckeyes landed one of the best specialists in the country in their 2008 recruiting class in Westerville Central’s Ben Buchanan, who is participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this week.
Buchanan (6-1, 185) is representing the East squad and is one of eight future Buckeyes on the roster in Saturday’s game at the Alamodome Saturday, Jan. 5 at 1:00 p.m. EST (NBC).
He is unable to kick but has taken over the punting duties for the East as a result of a stress fracture injury in his plant foot.
“I was kicking down in Florida and I was doing a kickoff and just kind of tweaked it a little on a strange field,” Buchanan said about the injury. “I have been a player that has always played through injuries. But it is just a little fracture and it is not that big of a deal. I really wanted to play in this game. They booted me up and it takes about a month to heal, so I am bracing up and playing with it. They cleared me to punt but not kick and said I will make a 100 percent recovery. I am enrolling (at Ohio State) in the summer and will be 110 percent by then.”
Buchanan saw four doctors, two of which recommended he shut all kicking duties down and two others that told him he should be able to punt without further injuring his left foot.
“My dad is a doctor and well. He seemed to think it was okay,” he said. “It is ok with the brace and it has felt great so far I don’t think there is anything else I can do to injure it more. Plus, this is a great opportunity and I want to play here.”
In the skills competition Wednesday morning, Buchanan led the East to a win over the West booting two 49-yard punts pinning the ball on the 1-yard line.
“It is actually a new punt I have been working on with (former Ohio State punter) Andy Groom. It is called the ‘Ozzy’,” he explained. “It has really helped me in my pooch punting and it is really consistent. So, it is nice to be able to be versatile and be able to hit the long ball and get it inside the 20 (yard line) as well.”
Buchanan has also worked with former Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent.
“Those Buckeye kickers are real helpful especially since you are a part of the family. They really go out of their way to help you and it has been awesome getting to know them,” he said.
Buchanan began kicking at a young age and was a four-year letter winner for Westerville Central. He averaged 40.6 yards per punt, scored 73 points including 31 PATs this season. He was 14-of-19 on field goals, 13-of-13 inside 50 yards and his misses were from 63, 60, 63, 53 and 50 yards with his longest field goal 57 yards. Buchanan was named to the All-Ohio first team for the second straight season and named to the USA Today All-American team last week.
“I really feel so blessed just to be an Ohio State Buckeye, a U.S. Army All-American and all those honors – it is special just to be a role model in society that comes along with it. It has just been a lot of fun and I am really enjoying it,” he said.
While Buchanan will be punting Saturday, Ohio State recruited him a triple-threat specialist and he is looking forward to the opportunity to not only punt for the Buckeyes but handling the kickoff and place kicking duties.
“That is one of the reasons (Ohio State) recruited me is because I am versatile. Every time I talked to them they wanted to recruit me as a triple-threat specialist to be able to do all that,” Buchanan said. “That is really important and could save us a scholarship for (another player). That is all I have really known. I haven’t ever just been a punter or just been a kicker so it is something that I am really looking forward to helping out the team in all the specialty areas.”
Speaking of recruiting, there are several highly touted players participating in the week’s events that have yet to pledge to particular university yet, such as quarterback Terrelle Pryor and offensive lineman Josh Jenkins, and Buchanan is doing his best to get those players to commit to the Scarlet and Gray as well as getting to know his future Buckeye teammate better.
“I am in close with some of the guys. (Mike) Brewster and (Mike) Adams are the big recruiters. The ‘Brew Crew’ – they’re great,” he said.
“But Josh Jenkins and Terrelle Pryor and some of those guys that are looking at becoming a Buckeye – I know DeVier Posey has gotten real close Terrelle. That is encouraging with a receiver-quarterback relationship. Whatever decision they make I am sure it is going to be the right decision for them but we would definitely love them to be Buckeyes with us.
“You look at Lamaar (Thomas) and Jake (Stoneburner) and Mike (Adams) and all the guys that are down here. It has been a lot of fun getting to know them. I just met Etienne (Sabino) for the first time since he is down in Florida, so it is a good opportunity to be able to meet new people and to be able to play in a game like. It is a lot of fun and I am really looking forward to it on Saturday.”
In addition to all the football related activities taking place, Buchanan is enjoying some of the off-the-field activities as well, including visiting a local children’s hospital.
“I am having a great time being able to be surrounded by some great athletes,” he said. “It is a great opportunity to display not only your skills and see how you stack up (against other players). It is a lot of fun down here.
“But we’re doing things to not only be good football players but to be good humanitarians as well which is neat for an athlete in the spotlight as well.”
And Buchanan feels the experiences of the week are preparing him well for his future Ohio State career.
“I think (this experience) is important. When you’re a Buckeye you’re on the big stage. It is obviously one of the top, if not the best program in the country,” he said. “Coach Tressel runs a great program and this is a great opportunity to kind of ease into it rather than going straight from high school to the Buckeyes. It is a nice transition and it has been a lot of fun.
“I just feel really blessed to be a Buckeye. It has been a fun ride.”
And on the bigger scale, Buchanan feels he is fulfilling his mission in life.
“I feel the Lord put me on this Earth to testify for him and he has given me these abilities. I am a devout Christian and I am big with my faith. That is what I am looking forward to at Ohio State and that is what coach Tressel brings to the table,” he said.