If college football were to construct a Mount Rushmore of its greatest programs ever, Ohio State could surely make a strong case to be enshrined on it.
The Buckeyes have made their mark equally at The Horseshoe and in the NFL. Eddie George and Cris Carter are two familiar names from the last 20 years for NFL fans. The success of the Buckeyes' pipeline goes back to the days of guys like Paul Warfield, Lou Groza, and even earlier in time.
Overall, this Ohio State team has a well balanced and talented lineup on both sides of the ball. The offensive line may be better than the one any other college could assemble with its former players. However, there are some positions that are weak, like the quarterback position, and others that lack depth, like defensive tackle. Also, the Cleveland Browns have had a lot of former Buckeyes suit up for them that are on this team.
Quarterback: Mike Tomczak - Successful NFL quarterbacks has not been something that defines Ohio State. Tomczak was a 16-year veteran with a career record of 42-31 as a starter.
Honorable Mention : Kent Graham
Bust : Art Schlichter
Questionable : Terrelle Pryor
Running Backs: Eddie George and Robert Smith - During his nine year career, Eddie George ran for at least a thousand yards seven times and scored 78 offensive touchdowns. The 1995 Heisman winner helped the Titans become an elite team during his playing days and was the first player to appear by himself on the cover of Madden NFL.
Robert Smith is the Vikings career rushing leader at the moment (not for long) and averaged over 5 yards per carry during his last four seasons. He retired at the age of 28 to pursue a career in medicine.
Honorable Mentions : Raymont Harris and Archie Griffin
Questionable : Beanie Wells
What could have been: Maurice Clarett
Fullback: Pete Johnson – It’s a tossup here between Pete Johnson and John Brockington. I went Johnson because he had more productive years. He scored at least 12 touchdowns in a season four times
Honorable Mentions : John Brockington, Fred Morrison, Matt Snell, and Ron Springs
Wide Receivers: Paul Warfield and Cris Carter - Both of these receivers are amongst the best in NFL history. Warfield was an NFL champion three times during his career and twice led the NFL in touchdown receptions. Carter went to eight consecutive Pro Bowls and finished his career with 13,899 receiving yards and 1101 receptions. This is this deepest position for this school and it shows when Hall of Famer Dante Lavelli is not starting.
Honorable Mentions : Dante Lavelli, David Boston, Michael Jenkins, Santonio Holmes, Jeff Graham, Joey Galloway, Anthony Gonzalez, Terry Glenn, Mike Furrey, Chris Sanders, and Ted Ginn Jr.
Questionable: Brian Robiskie
Tight End: Keith Byars – Byars played running back as well, but was equally effective at both positions. He had over 8,000 offensive yards during his career.
Honorable Mentions : Rick Dudley and John Frank
Offensive Tackles: Orlando Pace and Dick Schafrath – Orlando Pace was the top pick in the 1997 draft and helped protect Kurt Warner’s blindside for “The Greatest Show On Turf.” He is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best offensive linemen of the last 30 years. Schafrath was a seven time Pro Bowler who helped pave the way for great running backs like Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. It’s a shame he has not been elected to the Hall of Fame yet.
Honorable Mentions : Jim Lachey, Jim Tyrer, Dave Foley, Mike Current, Bob Vogel, Korey Stringer, Doug France, Dick Himes, Ernie Wright, Chris Ward, and Rufus Mayes
Offensive Guards: Jim Parker and Bill Willis – Jim Parker was equally impressive no matter what he played on the offensive line. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 and was an eight time Pro Bowler. Willis helped establish Cleveland as an NFL powerhouse in both the AAFC and the NFL. He played in a championship game in all nine of his seasons with the Browns.
Honorable Mention : Lin Houston, William Roberts, Joe Staysniak, Tim Vogler, and Doug Van Horn
Center: Tim DeLeone – DeLeone played his entire pro career in the Buckeye state. He played in 176 NFL games and twice the Pro Bowl.
Honorable Mentions : Nick Mangold, Kevin Houser, Kevin Lowdermilk, LeCharles Bentley, and Jeff Uhlenhake
Defensive Ends: Jim Marshall and Will Smith – Jim Marshall played in the NFL for 20 seasons and started 282 games at defensive end, a league record. He was part of the “Purple People Eaters” and the all-time NFL leader in opponents fumbles recovered with 29. Will Smith has established himself as one of the better defensive ends around. The sixth year veteran has only once posted less than seven sacks in a season and has twice recorded double digit sacks.
Honorable Mentions : Keith Ferguson, Horace Gillom, and Alonzo Spellman
Questionable : Vernon Gholston
Defensive Tackle: Dan Wilkinson and Ryan Pickett – Wilkinson never lived up to the hype of being a top overall pick, but it’s hard to call the 13 year veteran a complete bust. He was a solid defensive tackle in his early days with the Bengals and played in 126 NFL games. Pickett is currently in his ninth NFL season with the Green Bay Packers and he has been a starter for his last eight NFL seasons. He played his first five seasons with the Rams.
Outside Linebackers: Jim Houston and Chris Spielman – Houston is another Buckeye that had a successful career with the Cleveland Browns. He played in the NFL for 13 seasons and helped the Browns win their most recent championship in 1964. Spielman made the Pro Bowl four times as a Detroit Lion and led the team in tackles for eight straight seasons.
Honorable Mentions : Tony Admale, Mike Vrabel, A.J. Hawk, Flanagan, Stan White, Bob Brudzinski, Na'il Diggs, Anthony Griggs, Pepper Johnson, and Jim Houston
Middle Linebacker: Randy Gradishar - He was the most prolific linebacker of the Broncos “Orange Crush” defense and was one of the top linebackers of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Gradishar played in seven Pro Bowls and was the Defensive Player of The Year in 1978.
Honorable Mentions : Steve Tovar and Joe Campabella
Questionable : James Laurinaitis
Cornerbacks: Dick LeBeau and Nate Clements – Before his days as a renowned assistant coach, LeBeau was one of the league’s best defensive backs for the Detroit Lions. He had 62 interceptions during his career. The second cornerback for this team is a highly debatable question, but I’m going with Nate Clements here. He gets bashed a lot for that enormous contract he signed in 2007 with the 49ers, but he has been of the league’s better cornerbacks since he was drafted by Buffalo in 2001.
Honorable Mentions : Antoine Winfield, Ahmed Plummer, Shawn Springs, Fred Bruney, Chris Gamble, and Vinnie Clark
Questionable : Malcolm Jenkins
Free Safety: Jack Tatum – “The Assassin” defined the Raiders way. He is one of the hardest hitters in NFL history and one of the most villainous players ever.
Honorable Mentions : Tim Fox, Mike Sensibaugh, and Doug Plank
Strong Safety: Todd Bell – Todd was one of the “Monster of Midway” during the 1980’s, but a contract disputes kept him off the 1985 team. Bell made the Pro Bowl in 1984 and played for nine seasons.
Honorable Mentions : Donte Whitner, Mike Doss, William White, Ray Ellis, Steve Luke, and Shaun Gayle
Kicker: Lou Groza – Groza also played offensive tackle, but is remembered by most as a kicker. He played in the NFL for 21 seasons which was very rare during his playing days. He was the 1954 NFL MVP, and the first of only two kickers to win that award.
Punter: Tom Tupa – Tupa punted for seven teams during his 18 year NFL career, and one of them was the Cleveland Browns! He was All-Pro in 1999.
Kick Returner: Ted Ginn, Jr. – Ted may not be Devin Hester, but he has set his mark in South Florida as an elite returner in the NFL.
Punt Returner: Neal Colzie – Colzie’s career was short, but he led the NFL in punting yards as a rookie in 1975 with the Oakland Raiders.