Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' All-Time Greatest Starting Lineup

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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' All-Time Greatest Starting Lineup
Archie Griffin led the 1973 Buckeyes, which had the best starting lineup in school history.

The 2013 season has the potential to be a legendary one for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Urban Meyer and his staff have a solid nucleus returning from an undefeated season in 2012 as well as fresh talent to push the returnees. 

With stars like Braxton Miller, Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby and four returning seniors on the offensive line, the Buckeyes have a solid starting lineup.

It could end up being one of the best in school history. And in a program like Ohio State's, that is special.

But which Ohio State team had the greatest starting lineup of all time? 

 

The Top Contenders

During Jim Tressel's tenure, the team was extremely successful and talented. Despite going to three BCS championship games, the most talented of Tressel's teams might have been the 2005 squad.

Led by Troy Smith and three future first-round NFL draft picks, the '05 Buckeyes won the Fiesta Bowl. However, early losses to Texas and Penn State cost them a shot at a national title.

Likewise, John Cooper's best teams didn't win titles, but the 1998 and 1995 Buckeyes were loaded with talent.

Earl Bruce's most talented teams were his first few teams that were led by Art Schlichter and Marcus Marek. 

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Troy Smith led a talented bunch of Buckeyes in 2005 and 2006.

 

The Best Buckeyes Ever

Woody Hayes had some incredibly talented teams. Hayes' teams staked claim to four national titles in his tenure. But like all the Buckeyes coaches since him, he didn't win a national title with his most talented team.

The 1973 Buckeyes failed to win a title because of their famous 10-10 tie with Michigan to end the regular season.

Those '73 Buckeyes went on to beat USC in the Rose Bowl, the second of their four straight Rose Bowl appearances. 

 

The Offensive Backfield

Archie Griffin had a subpar year in 1973. College football's only two-time Heisman winner finished fifth in that year's voting. Griffin rushed for over 1,500 yards that season as Ohio State's workhorse on offense.

In the backfield, he was joined by fullback Bruce Elia, who led the team with 14 rushing touchdowns. Elia's backup was pretty good as well; Pete Johnson added six touchdowns of his own. Harold Henson and Brian Baschnagel held down the other running back spot. The two combined for 250 yards and six touchdowns.

Further demonstrating Hayes' reliance on Griffin, the Buckeyes' starting quarterback Cornelius Greene only attempted 46 passes. His backup Greg Hare threw 30. 

Greene however, did rush for over 700 yards and 12 touchdowns of his own. 

 

The Receivers and Tight Ends

This is the only position group of the '73 starters from which no player went on to earn All-American honors. 

To be completely honest, I wasn't around to watch the '73 Buckeyes play and can't attest to the talent of tight end Fred Pagac and split end Mark Bartoszek. But with a coach like Hayes, who was famous for his "three yards and a cloud of dust" offensive strategy, passing plays were not a common occurrence. 

 

The Offensive Line

The Buckeyes' offensive line was anchored by All-American and Ohio State legend John Hicks. Hicks was one of the few offensive linemen to ever garner serious Heisman consideration. He finished second.

Alongside Hicks, the right tackle, were Dick Mack, Steve Myers, Jim Kregel and Kurt Schumacher.

Despite not making the '73 All-American team, Myers and Schumacher returned to make the '74 All-American squad.

 

The Defensive Line

The Buckeyes defensive line was also anchored by an All-American: Van Ness DeCree at defensive end.

Jim Cope held down the other defensive end spot, while Arnie Jones and '74 All-American Pete Cusick were the starting defensive tackles.

This defensive line helped the Buckeyes shut out four opponents. In their first eight games, the Buckeyes didn't allow an opponent to score twice. During the season the defense allowed 64 points—5.8 points a game.

 

The Linebackers

In true Ohio State fashion, the '73 defense was led by linebacker Randy Gradishar, who finished third on his own team and sixth nationally in the Heisman voting. During the '73 season, Gradishar collected 132 tackles to round out a career in which he piled up 320 tackles as a two-time All-American.

Gradishar was joined by fellow seniors Vic Koegel and Rick Middleton at linebacker. 

Following the season, all three starters were drafted, Gradishar and Middleton in the first round and Koegel in the 12th.

 

The Defensive Backs

The defensive backs were also led by a future All-American.

Neal Colzie earned All-American honors in '74. He finished his career with 15 interceptions, which is fifth all time in Ohio State history.

In '73 season Colzie become the first and still the only Buckeye to return two interceptions for a touchdown in a game.

Steve Luke, Tim Fox and Rich Parsons joined Colzie in the secondary.

 

The Specialists

Blair Conway handled the kicking responsibilities. Against Iowa that season, he kicked eight extra points, tied for sixth in school history. 

He finished the season 45-55 on extra points in '73.

Tom Skalandy handled the punting. Skalandy finished his career with the fourth-highest total of punting yards and yards per punt in school history. He also went on to earn All-American honors twice.

All the talent makes the 10-10 tie against Michigan more painful for Buckeye fans. But it just goes to show how hard it is to finish off a season undefeated.

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