Ohio State Football: The All-Tressel Era Team

Cory McCuneContributor IIIMay 27, 2013

Ohio State Football: The All-Tressel Era Team

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    Jim Tressel's tenure at Ohio State brought a boatload of talent to Columbus. Because of that talent and Tressel's coaching ability, the Buckeyes won 106 of the 128 games during that 10-year span.

    Although 12 of those wins were later taken away by the NCAA because of the scandal that cost Tressel his job, his tenure was a successful one.

    The Buckeyes won a national championship and seven Big Ten Titles (one was stripped). His teams played in eight BCS bowl games, including three BCS National Championships, going 5-3 in those games.

    All in all, Tressel is arguably Ohio State's second-best coach.

    But if you compiled a team of Tressel's best players, what would it look like? 

    Here is mine.

Quarterback: Troy Smith

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    Some might argue for Craig Krenzel because he led Jim Tressel's only national championship-winning team. And Terrelle Pryor deserves mention for his on-the-field exploits.

    But when it comes to quarterbacks during the Tressel era, or any era in Ohio State football, Troy Smith is on top.

    Smith was Tressel's only Heisman winner and went 3-0 as a starter against Michigan.

    As stats go, Smith went 25-3 as a starter and holds the school record for most TD passes in a season (30).

Running Back: Chris 'Beanie' Wells

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    Maurice Clarett may have had the most memorable season of any running back during Jim Tressel's 10 seasons at Ohio State.

    But for a career, the best back was Chris "Beanie" Wells.

    Wells has the most carries (585) and yards (3,382) of any back that toted the rock in Tressel's run-heavy offense. 

    Perhaps the best example of Wells' greatness is his 59 carries for 412 yards against Michigan. Ohio State was 3-0 against its rival with Wells.

All-Purpose: Ted Ginn Jr.

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    Ted Ginn Jr.—just the mention of his name still makes the hair on my neck stand up.

    The guy was absolutely electric once the ball touched his hands. He could cover the length of the field in the blink of an eye. He wasn't the best receiver, as evidenced by his NFL career. But he is easily the most explosive player Jim Tressel coached at Ohio State.

    And here is my obligatory link to his insane YouTube highlights, because why not?

Wide Receiver: Michael Jenkins

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    Michael Jenkins is at best the third name that comes to mind when most fans think about the 2002 Buckeyes. 

    If it's possible to be an unflashy star wide receiver of a national championship team, then Jenkins did it. 

    While Craig Krenzel, Maurice Clarett, Chris Gamble and even Mike Nugent caught headlines, all Jenkins did was catch footballs.

    It was Jenkins on the receiving end of two of Ohio State's biggest plays in its thrilling run to the BCS National Championship. The first came against Purdue and the second on a 4th-and-14 in overtime of the Fiesta Bowl.

    Jim Tressel had flashier receivers, but none as steady and reliable as Jenkins.

    His 2,898 receiving yards are the most in Ohio State history.

Wide Receiver: Santonio Holmes

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    After redshirting his first year on campus, Santonio Holmes didn't wait long to make a name for himself.

    Holmes had only three catches in his first four games for Ohio State. But with a sudden flurry, he finished the season with 32 catches, 549 yards and seven TDs.

    The next two years were much of the same. Holmes led the Buckeyes in receiving his sophomore and junior seasons.

    Holmes, like so many other Buckeyes under Jim Tressel, saved his best for Michigan. He had four of his 25 career TDs against the Wolverines. 

    Overall, he is fifth in the Ohio State record books with 2,295 receiving yards.

Tight End: Ben Hartsock

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    Jim Tressel was often criticized for not throwing to his tight ends more. That's probably why it was hard for me to come up with a great tight end during Tressel's tenure.

    In fact, Sports Reference has Ben Hartsock listed as an offensive lineman during his senior season.

    Although sometimes it felt like the tight end was the sixth offensive lineman, Hartsock did catch 57 passes for seven TDs during his career.

Tackle: Shane Olivea

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    Shane Olivea was a member of the 2002 offensive line that led Ohio State to its only national championship under Jim Tressel.

    That offensive line in 2002 was easily the best unit during Tressel's 10 years. Olivea was one of the best on that line, which is well-represented on this team.

    Olivea earned second-team All-Big Ten honors twice in his three seasons as a starter at Ohio State.

Tackle: Alex Boone

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    Alex Boone was probably the most highly regarded offensive line recruit Jim Tressel landed before the 2008 recruiting class.

    The 5-star recruit from Cleveland was supposed to be an all-time great at Ohio State. While Boone never quite reached that level of success, he did have a solid career as a Buckeye.

    Boone started for three seasons and earned All-Big Ten honors during his time in Columbus.

Guard: Alex Stepanovich

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    Alex Stepanovich started at center in 2001 and early in 2002. As the season progressed, a freshman named Nick Mangold earned more playing time and pushed Stepanovich to guard. 

    That is where he finished his Buckeye career in 2003.

    Along with Shane Olivea and Adrien Clarke, Stepanovich had a huge hand in getting the Jim Tressel era started off right. 

    Those big linemen allowed Tressel to do what he wanted, which was to pound the ball and protect the quarterback.

Guard: Adrien Clarke

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    Adrien Clarke was a four-year starter on Ohio State's offensive line.

    In Tressel's first season, the team had two returning starters on the offensive line, Adrien Clarke and LeCharles Bentley.

    Clarke wasn't as good as Bentley (who isn't on this list because he only had one year under Jim Tressel), but he was a key cog for Ohio State.

Center: Nick Mangold

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    As a freshman, Nick Mangold came in and earned playing time during Ohio State's national championship run.

    Because of Mangold's ability, Alex Stepanovich moved over to guard so Mangold could play center. Mangold didn't leave his center spot until he graduated.

    Mangold earned second-team All-Big Ten in his junior and senior seasons.

    Mangold has gone on to have arguably the best NFL career of any of Jim Tressel's players.

Kicker: Mike Nugent

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    This was the easiest position on the list.

    The separation between Mike Nugent and any other kicker in Jim Tressel's decade at Ohio State is clear.

    The Buckeyes were strong in the kicking game throughout Tressel's tenure. But Nugent was more than just strong. Nugent was a two-time All-American. He made 72 of his 88 field-goal attempts and is Ohio State's all-time leading scorer.

Defensive End: Will Smith

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    Will Smith was a three-year starter for Jim Tressel on the defensive line. During that time, Smith was the Buckeyes' best pass-rushing threat.

    After playing a critical role in the 2002 national championship season, Smith returned to win the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2003.

    Smith is now fifth in tackles for loss and and sixth in sacks as a Buckeye. He was later selected in the first round by the New Orleans Saints.

Defensive End: Cameron Heyward

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    Cameron Heyward could have made this team as a defensive end or as a defensive tackle. He was that solid for the Buckeyes.

    Perhaps Heyward's best game in his Ohio State career came in his last time wearing the scarlet and gray. He totally dominated the line of scrimmage in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. His performance helped send Jim Tressel out as a winner in his final game at Ohio State.

    Heyward may not have been the pass-rusher that Vernon Gholston and Thaddeus Gibson were, but he was a better all-around defensive lineman.

Defensive Tackle: Quinn Pitcock

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    Quinn Pitcock isn't a name that jumps to the tip of many fans' tongues. However, he was solid as a rock in the middle of Ohio State's defense for the three seasons in which he started.

    From 2004 to 2006, Pitcock ate up blockers to allow star linebackers like A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and James Laurinaitis to run around and make plays.

    Pitcock earned All-American honors in 2006.

Defensive Tackle: Darrion Scott

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    Cut from the same cloth as Cameron Heyward, Darrion Scott played on the inside and outside of Ohio State's defensive line. 

    Scott was sort of the Robin to Will Smith's Batman, but he was a highly effective defensive lineman. 

    The hard-hitting Scott had a knack for getting big hits on opposing quarterbacks. 

    Scott just beats out John Simon on this list because Simon's best two seasons were after Jim Tressel had resigned as head coach.

Linebacker: A.J. Hawk

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    Many Ohio State fans will be quick to remind you that A.J. Hawk was a 3-star recruit.

    In fact, Mike D'Andrea was supposed to be the All-American linebacker from the 2002 recruiting class. Hawk was the lowest-rated linebacker of the four Ohio State got in the 2002 class.

    D'Andrea didn't pan out. Bobby Carpenter had a good career and just missed being on this team, while Stan White Jr. ended up playing fullback.

    Hawk went on to make 394 tackles, good for fifth all-time at Ohio State. 

    Hawk was a two-time All-American and finished sixth in the Heisman voting in 2005.

Linebacker: Matt Wilhelm

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    Matt Wilhelm played second fiddle to Mike Doss in the 2002 defense. But in the team's 14-0 year, it was Wilhelm that led the team in tackles with 121. Wilhelm earned All-American honors for his performance that season as well.

    Wilhelm finished his career as a three-year starter and a national champion, thanks in large part to a punishing hit he had on Miami's quarterback Ken Dorsey that effected his passing late in the game.

Linebacker: James Laurinaitis

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    James Laurinaitis is another one of Jim Tressel's diamonds in the rough. 

    Laurinaitis was a 3-star from Minnesota who was committed to play for his home state's school. But he flipped to Ohio State, and the rest is history.

    Laurinaitis was a three-year starter and played in two BCS National Championship games. In his four seasons in Columbus he compiled 375 tackles, the seventh-highest total in Ohio State history. He also garnered All-American honors three times

Cornerback: Chris Gamble

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    Chris Gamble was supposed to be Ohio State's second receiver heading into the 2002 season. Then things changed.

    Gamble didn't lose his spot as the team's second receiver; he just started playing defense, too.

    With his offensive mindset, Gamble was never the most physical defensive back. But he was great in coverage and had a knack for making a big play.

Cornerback: Malcolm Jenkins

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    Any of the physicality that Chris Gamble may have lacked, Malcolm Jenkins had.

    Jenkins was only a 3-star recruit, yet he managed to be a four-year starter in Jim Tressel's defensive backfield.

    Jenkins was a rare cornerback that didn't just take away half of the field in the passing game. He also wouldn't allow teams to run wide on his side.

    Jenkins ended his career in 2008 by being named an All-American and winner of the Thorpe Award.

Safety: Mike Doss

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    Mike Doss was a junior when Jim Tressel took over at Ohio State.

    In their first season together, Ohio State went 7-5 and repeated as losers of the Outback Bowl.

    Many thought Doss, a three-time team leader in tackles, would skip his senior season and go to the NFL. But Doss came back because he wanted to get his degree and win a national championship.

    Well, he accomplished that goal.

    Doss finished his career with 331 tackles, eighth-most in Ohio State history. Doss was also a three-time All-American.

Safety: Will Allen

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    This one may be a surprise to some.

    Donte Whitner and Kurt Coleman deserve mention. But Will Allen is the second-best safety during Jim Tressel's time at Ohio State.

    Beside Craig Krenzel, I'm not sure Tressel had a more clutch player than Allen.

    He had a knack for coming up with an interception or a gruesome hit on the opposing team's running back right when Ohio State needed it.

    Allen stepped into a starting role in the Buckeyes' defense after Mike Doss graduated and continued the All-American streak by earning first-team honors himself. 

Punter: Andy Groom

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    When "Tresselball" was at its finest in 2002, it was because Jim Tressel had the best kicking combo in Ohio State history.

    Mike Nugent got most of the headlines for the special teams. But Andy Groom was just as important.

    Groom was the key man in what Tressel deemed the most important play in football, the punt.

    He holds the school record for best career punting average (45.0 yards).