Monday, December 28, 2009

NC Sports clients abound on All-Ohio State team

A quarter century of Buckeyes: Bill Livingston unveils his All-Ohio State team

By Bill Livingston, The Plain Dealer

December 26, 2009


Big-game performance was the tiebreaker in the picks. Some positions, like wide receiver, were so ridiculously crowded with great players that I decided to pick four and do away with a tight end. That also means only one tailback and no fullback.

Partly, that's because it's my team and my rules. Another part of my thinking is that I never saw tight end John Frank play in the early 1980s. But I just can't see Ricky Dudley taking up a spot that could go to one of the many wideouts who made your blood sing on Saturday afternoons.

QUARTERBACK: Glenville's Troy Smith (2003-06) over Joe Germaine (1996-98).

Smith, like Germaine, was the recipient of the last scholarship given in his recruiting class. Smith won the 2006 Heisman Trophy and Germaine was barely mentioned in 1998. But Smith was out of shape in both body and mind in the national championship game and laid an egg suitable for a giant's breakfast. His three victories over Michigan and his superb play in each game, as well as a big Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame and a stunning 54/13 TDs-to-interceptions ratio, made the difference.

Germaine might have been the better pure passer. He unjustly sat behind Stan Jackson until his senior year, along the way winning the 1997 Rose Bowl out of the bullpen. The 1998 team's loss, at home, to an ordinary Michigan State team, after holding a nine-point second-half lead, is just too much to ignore.

Honorable mention: Craig Krenzel (2000-03), Bobby Hoying (1993-95), Mike Tomczak (1981-84).

TAILBACK: Keith Byars (1982-85) over Eddie George (1992-95).

Say what?

George (1,927 yards, 24 TDs) won the 1995 Heisman Trophy, but he was overshadowed by Tim Biakabutuka in the staggering season-spoiling loss to Michigan. George had critical fumbles that cost OSU the game against Illinois his freshman year. Until his sensational senior year, coaches carped that he left too many yards on the field by not seeing cutback lanes or getting to the hole in time.

Byars (1,764 yards, 22 TDs) had already lost the 1984 Heisman before Doug Flutie threw the Hail Mary pass to beat Bernie Kosar's last University of Miami team. That was simply because the diminutive Flutie represented the romance of college football. But I still remember Byars running for a TD after throwing a shoe in a shootout victory over Illinois. He did everything to win the Heisman except be the runt of the litter, like Flutie.

Honorable mention: Maurice Clarett (2002) because the national championship never happens without him, Euclid's Robert Smith (1990-92), Akron Garfield's "Beanie" Wells (2006-08), Akron Buchtel's Antonio Pittman (2004-06).

WIDE RECEIVERS: Tailback used to be the signature position at Ohio State. It just might be wide receiver now. It might be best that Woody never lived to see it.

Terry Glenn (1993-95) -- Ohio State's only Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best receiver was a one-year wonder. But what a year, and what a wonder! He seemed to spend half the year in mid-air. Glenn had seven 100-yard games receiving in 1995 for 1,411 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had feet fit for "Dancing with the Stars," tight-roping the sideline for eye-popping catches. Along with Eddie George, Glenn, as Bobby Hoying's favorite target, gave OSU so much firepower, it was hard to believe they could lose -- until John Cooper worked his big-game magic against Michigan.

Cris Carter (1984-86) -- I'll always remember Carter's one-handed catch against Brigham Young in the 1985 Citrus Bowl. Unfortunately, by taking money from an agent, he sabotaged coach Earle Bruce's OSU career.

Joey Galloway (1991-94) -- Galloway (top four in yardage and receptions, second in TDs at OSU) was a consistent performer with speed enough to take Ohio State's passing game into the modern age.

David Boston (1996-98) -- The Texan scored 34 touchdowns and caught the pass -- after turning an Arizona State defender into a pretzel -- that won the 1997 Rose Bowl. Boston also set the school one-season record with 85 receptions in 1998.
Toughest omission: Michael Jenkins (2000-2003). Jenkins was one of the great clutch receivers in OSU history, witness his catch of the fourth-and-2, last-gasp bomb to beat Purdue in 2002 and his 17-yard reception in overtime on fourth-and-14 vs. the Miami Hurricanes in the national championship game.

Honorable mention:
Santonio Holmes (2003-05), Dee Miller (1995-98).

I'm not hung up on positions here. I'm just picking five guys.

Orlando Pace overwhelmed nearly every defender he faced during his exemplary career with the Buckeyes.

Orlando Pace (1994-96) -- With two Lombardi Awards (best lineman or linebacker) and an Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), the giant tackle might be OSU's most gifted blocker since Jim Parker in the 1950s. I still see Pace, 60 yards downfield, bullying a helpless Rice safety on a long touchdown pass in 1996.

Korey Stringer (1992-94) -- The late tackle blocked for Robert Smith, who'd have won a Heisman if he had stayed for his senior year, and Eddie George. Enough said.

Jim Lachey (1981-84) -- Lachey became a Pro Bowl left tackle in the NFL with the Redskins, but he played guard at OSU and was platooned until his senior year at OSU. (Take a bow on that talent assessment, Earle.)

Nick Mangold (2002-05) is my center, over LeCharles Bentley. It has nothing to do with Bentley's star-crossed five minutes as a Browns snapper. Mangold didn't win the big centers' award (the Rimington) while Bentley did, but Mangold was on the goal-line offense as a true freshman in the championship game. He also was a bulwark on some very good teams.

St. Ignatius' LeCharles Bentley (1996-2001) -- Bentley played seven games at guard and one at tackle before moving to center for his junior and senior seasons.

Honorable mention: Jeff Uhlenhake (1985-88), Berea's Alex Stepanovich (2000-03), Rob Murphy (1996-98).

DEFENSIVE LINE: Will Smith (2000-2003) -- The leader of the ferocious front four of the 2002 national championship team, he recorded 10.5 sacks and set the tone for the upset of Miami with a bear-paw swat that floored Hurricanes quarterback Ken Dorsey for a loss on the very first play.

Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson (1992-93) -- Don't let the bust his NFL career became as the No. 1 overall pick dim what a force he was for the scarlet and gray. He had 23.5 tackles for a loss and was in the face of Louisville's Jeff Brohm, forcing a wild pass on the two-point try that would have beaten OSU in the 1992 opener.

Vernon Gholston (2004, 06-07) -- This pick is going to get me in trouble. Gholston was a late-bloomer, like Terry Glenn. In 2007, he found the can of spinach or something and turned into Popeye with a score to settle with Bluto. He exploded for 14 sacks, an OSU record, in his junior year, then turned pro. A disappointment in the NFL, Gholston tended to get his sacks at OSU in clusters, sacrificing consistency. But when he was rolling, few were ever more disruptive. He had an overwhelming game against Michigan in 2007, even victimizing the overall No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL draft, Jake Long.

Mike Vrabel (1993-96) -- A top linebacker in the NFL, Vrabel racked up 36 sacks and 66 tackles for losses, both career OSU records, at defensive end. He had the one-season record for sacking and pillaging backfields until Gholston came along.

Honorable mention:
Almost anyone who played alongside Will Smith on the 2002 front four -- Tim Anderson, Darrion Scott, Kenny Peterson (who delivered the game of his life in the championship game) -- and Quinn Pitcock (2003-06).

Andy Katzenmoyer (1996-98) -- The 1997 Butkus Award-winner as the best college linebacker, Katzenmoyer wore Archie Griffin's No. 45 after it was un-retired and was simply a game-changer. He specialized in huge plays (18 tackles for loses, six interceptions) and huge hits. Pieces of Missouri quarterback Corby Jones' equipment and, indeed, body might still be airborne in Columbia, Mo., after Katzenmoyer teed him up in the open field.

Chris Spielman (1984-87) -- The all-time leader in solo tackles with 283, Spielman won the 1987 Lombardi Award. He was the first great Ohio State player I saw. Bruce put him in at the start of the second half in the 1984 opener "and I think he made about 26 tackles," said his assistant coach at the time, Jim Tressel. Spielman kept it up, week after week, season after season.

A.J. Hawk (2002-05) -- The 2005 Lombardi winner moved from so-so recruit to the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft. I still see him sacking Notre Dame's Brady Quinn on fourth-and-short in the red zone early in the Fiesta Bowl.

Toughest omission: James Laurinaitis (2005-08). This is another pick (actually, a non-pick) some fans will disagree with. He was a three-time All-American, but ... the Nagurski Award (best college defender) and Butkus Award winner, Laurinaitis was a coverage linebacker in a read-and-react scheme. That's an untraditional role, and it led to too many tackles too far downfield. He really only made one game-changing play, forcing a fumble against Texas near the goal-line in 2006.

Honorable mention:
Bobby Carpenter (2002-05), Anthony Schlegel (2004-05), Pepper Johnson (1982-85), Elyria's Steve Tovar (1989-92), Elyria Catholic's Matt Wilhem (1999-2002).

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Another treasure trove position with lots of lockdown guys and big hitters.

Shawn Springs (1994-96) -- He never had an interception. Foes accorded him the ultimate respect by, Deion Sanders-like, seldom throwing at him. Springs reduced Arizona State's heralded Keith Poole to inconsequence in the Rose Bowl. Unfairly remembered for the slip that let Michigan's Tai Streets go all the way in the only loss of the 1996 season, Springs never pointed out that OSU still led, 9-7, at the time. But I will.

Antoine Winfield (1995-98) -- The Akron Garfield product won the 1998 Thorpe Award as the nation's top college DB. He was the most physical cornerback in the Big Ten a decade ago and now has the same distinction in the NFL.

Mike Doss (1999-2002) -- A three-time All-American, Doss gave OSU the lead against Miami with a pick and rambling return of a pass by the beleaguered Dorsey.

Chris Gamble (2001-03) -- Hard to see the 2002 national title happening without this three-way threat (he also played wide out and returned kicks) who was on the field for 107 plays against Miami. On his interception of a deep ball to an ostensibly open Purdue receiver in 2002, he covered so much ground, it is comparable to Willie Mays and the ball Vic Wertz hit in the 1954 World Series.

Honorable mention: Shaker Heights' Nate Clements (1998-2000), Glenville's Donte Whitner (2003-05), Malcolm Jenkins (2005-2008), Will Allen (200-03).


Punter: Brecksville's Tom Tupa (1984-87) over B. J. Sander, who won the Ray Guy Award as college football's best punter in 2003. Tupa's 1984 (47.1) and 1987 (47.0) averages are the best in OSU history. At practice, it sounded like a small explosion when the ball met his foot.

Mike Nugent (2001-04) -- All-time leader by a lot in field goals, he had a leg that could just deflate opponents.

Toughest omission: Josh Huston (2001, 2003-05). I will never forget his booming kickoffs forcing Minnesota to take the ball at its own 20 over and over again in a shootout Ohio State victory in 2005.

Kick returner: Glenville's Ted Ginn Jr. (2004-06) -- As the most dangerous return man in school history, his fingertip snag of a Michigan punt while he and Santonio Holmes played you-take-it, I-got-it and then his zig-zag return for 82 yards in 2004 could no more be plotted on a play diagram than the flight of a bumblebee. How much different might it have been if "friendly fire" didn't fell him after his kickoff return for a TD on the first play of the Florida debacle? Ginn was a huge part of the game plan that night.

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