In our ongoing series we have already looked at the following positions: wide receivers, linebackers, offensive linemen, defensive backs, fullbacks and tight ends, defensive linemen, and quarterbacks.
Through the years Ohio State has been blessed with some tremendous kickers, punters, and returners. Since there is such diversity in these positions, it is difficult to rate them, but here is my attempt at the top 10 all-time Buckeye specialists:
10. Garcia Lane —A dangerous punt returner, Garcia actually took two to the house in one game against Purdue in 1983. Although he was a fine defensive back, Lane is probably best remembered as a special teams demon.
9. B.J Sander —Although he didn't come into his own until his senior year (2003), he had such a great season that he was selected as the Ray Guy award winner as the nation's best punter.
8. Neal Colzie —A fabulous defensive back who was just as good in the return game, Colzie averaged a Buckeye record 14.3 yards per punt return for his career, including a couple of touchdowns.
7. Vlade Janakievski —An all-time fan favorite, Vlade was a walk-on from the soccer team who played on some high-scoring squads and kicked 172 extra points and 41 field goals in his career before opening up a popular deli on Lane Street.
6. Andy Groom —An integral part of the 2002 National Championship team, Andy is still number one in career punting average at Ohio State with 45.0 yards per punt. Considering that the '02 team won with defense, one cannot overestimate the importance of Groom's punting, and he was rewarded by being named a first team All-American.
4. Vic Janowicz —A great all-around player, Vic started at tailback and safety but also served as both the punter and kicker for Woody Hayes, who deemed him a "triple-threat football player." Of course, he was presented the Heisman Trophy in 1950, and a big part of that award came from his play on special teams.
3. Tom Tupa —As a freshman Tom averaged 47.1 yards per punt (still a Buckeye record for one season), and as a senior he nearly matched it with an average of 47.0. This was even more amazing because he also started that season at quarterback.
2. Tom Skladany —Another guy who boomed the ball, Skaldany was actually named a first team All-American for three straight years as a punter. He also did the long kicking for the Buckeyes, as he possessed a cannon for a leg, and booted a 59-yard field goal in 1975, still the longest in OSU history.
1. Mike Nugent —Possibly the best college kicker of all time, Mike holds virtually every OSU kicking record. Amazingly, he was successful on eight out of nine attempts beyond 50 yards, including a dramatic 55-yard field goal that defeated Marshall in 2004. He once made 24 consecutive field goals and finished his career with a Buckeye record 356 points, including 120 for the '02 national champions.
Many other Buckeyes have excelled through the years on special teams, and it is impossible to name them all, but a few who deserve honorable mention (just missed the cut) are Tim Williams, Dan Stultz, Brent Bartholomew, Tom Orosz, Maurice Hall, and Jeff Graham.
Next Up: Running Backs (the final installment)