This name may surprise a few people — and it is on here because I personally believe he is the most underrated defensive back in the history of football. Winfield rarely gets mentioned with the likes of Champ Bailey and Darrelle Revis, but he is just as good. One of the best tacklers ever to play the corner position, Winfield is actually the only Buckeye ever to win the Thorpe Award, as he did in 1998 as the nation’s best defensive back. His 82 solo tackles in 1997 were good for fifth-best in school history. Winfield was selected with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Smith’s 2006 Heisman Trophy season was arguably the best single season by a Buckeye quarterback. He posted the single most efficient campaign in school history by completing 65.3% of his passes for 2,542 yards and a school-record 30 TD passes. He led the Buckeyes to an unbeaten record, a Big Ten championship and a trip to the 2006 National Championship game. His 6,888 career yards of total offense are good for third all-time in school history. His 54 career touchdown passes are also good for third all-time. Smith became the first OSU quarterback since Tippy Dye in the mid-'30s to go 3–0 against arch rival Michigan. To go along with his Heisman Trophy, in which he took a record 86.7% of the first place votes, Smith also landed the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2007 NFL Draft.
The first consensus All-America Buckeye receiver redefined OSU offensive philosophy when he arrived in Columbus. The run-based offense had to morph to accommodate his elite receiving skills. He set school records for single-season receptions (69) and career receptions (168). He set the single-season yards mark with 1,127 yards and finished second in career yards with 2,725. His 27 career TD catches were also a school record when Carter moved on to the NFL — where all he did was catch touchdowns. David Boston is basically the only receiver to top Carter’s numbers, so the NFL Hall of Famer’s numbers are likely the top “all-natural” receiving numbers in OSU history. Carter was drafted in the fourth round of the 1984 Supplemental Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
With Hicks manning the line of scrimmage, the Ohio State Buckeyes posted a sterling 28-3-1 record. Although Hicks missed the 1971 season with a knee injury, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten title and played in the Rose Bowl in each of Hicks’ three seasons on the field. He was the first Buckeye ever to play in three Rose Bowls. Hicks earned first-team All-America honors in each of his final two seasons, claiming the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman and the Lombardi Award as the nation’s most outstanding lineman in 1972. The massive tackle was the last lineman to finish as the Heisman Trophy runner-up and was the third overall pick in the 1974 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.
A vicious hitter, “The Assassin” actually was recruited as an offensive player until assistant coach Lou Holtz switched him to defensive back, where he excelled as a coverman and pseudo-linebacker. Tatum was a first-team all-conference player all three years of his career and was a unanimous All-American in 1969 and 1970. As a senior, he was the National Defensive Player of the Year and garnered plenty of Heisman votes. The Buckeyes were 27-2 during his time in Columbus, including two national title games and the 1968 National Championship. Tatum was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 2005 and was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the 19th overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft.
Spielman is probably the best tackler in Ohio State history. He owns the single-season record for solo tackles with 105 in 1986 and the career record with 283 solo stops. His 546 career total tackles are good for third all-time in OSU history. His 29 total tackles against Michigan in 1986 tied a single-game record. Spielman was a two-time All-American and won the Lombardi Award in 1987. He was the 29th overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Spielman was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 2009.
This was (and still is) one of the most physically gifted athletes to ever play the game. In fact, his biceps should probably be on this list alone. ED-DIE’s 1995 Heisman Trophy campaign is likely the single best season by a Buckeye running back. He set the OSU single-game rushing record with 314 yards against Illinois. He set the single-season rushing record with 1,927 yards. His 328 carries were second-best all-time (336, Keith Byers). And his 24 TDs were second all time as well (25, Pete Johnson). His 12 100-yard games were a single-season school record as well — and they came consecutively. His five 200-yard games are an OSU record. His 3,768 career yards are good for second-best all-time, and if it were not for two costly fumbles against Illinois as a freshman, that number might even be much higher. Along with the stiff-arm trophy, George also won the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and Walkter Camp Award. He was recently voted into the NCAA Hall of Fame and was the 14th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers.
As a three-year starter, Stillwagon was one of the strongest players ever to suit up for the Bucks. He set weight room strength records that stood for more than 30 years. He was a two-time consensus All-American as a junior and senior, also winning the Outland Trophy and the first-ever Lombardi Award. As a member of the “Super Sophomores,” Stillwagon helped lead the Buckeyes to an unbeaten record and the consensus 1968 National Championship. Stillwagon was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 1971 NFL Draft. He is also a member of the NCAA Hall of Fame.
This big hog molly might be the best offensive lineman ever to play the game. As only the second true freshman lineman to start on opening day along the line, Pace went on to win two Lombardi Awards as the nation’s most outstanding lineman or linebacker as well as landing one Outland Trophy for the nation’s best interior lineman. Only 12 players in the history of the game have ever won both the Outland and the Lombardi, and only the great Dave Rimington of Nebraska has three such awards (two Outlands, one Lombardi). In 1996, Pace was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, finishing fourth in the voting. The term “pancake block” gained popularity due to Pace’s physical dominance of opposing defenders; he did not allow a sack over his final two seasons. The St. Louis Rams actually traded up to the first pick in the draft to pick Pace — making him the first offensive lineman to go No. 1 since Ron Yary in 1968. He went on to pave the way for Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner en route to a Super Bowl title.
"He's a better young man than he is a football player, and he's the best football player I've ever seen." This is what Woody Hayes had to say about the only player in NCAA history to land the most coveted trophy in all of sports twice — the 1974 and 1975 Heismans. Griffin is the all-time leading rusher at Ohio State with 5,589 yards and the school’s top all-purpose player with 6,559 yards. He was the first player in NCAA history — and one of only two (Brian Cushing) — to start in four Rose Bowls. He is also the only player to lead the Big Ten in rushing three consecutive years. The Buckeyes were 40-5-1 overall during Griffin’s tenure in Columbus. He was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 1986 and was selected with the 24th overall pick in the 1976 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
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