Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NC Sports Clients Ginn, Smith, Krenzel among best of Tressel era

By Adam Stang

March 14, 2011

So who are the best players of the Jim Tressel era? Read on to find out.

Honorable Mention—DL Cameron Heyward, 2007-2010

Heyward earned a starting position on the defensive line in 2007 and hasn't looked back.

In the most important games, Heyward came up big. Against Penn State in 2009, he made 11 tackles—three for loss—and two sacks in a dominating performance. In this year's Sugar Bowl, Heyward had 1.5 sacks and arguably deserved to be named MVP.

Heyward is considered a top defensive end prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft.

10. K Mike Nugent, 2001-2004

It seems odd that a kicker would make this kind of list but Nugent has earned his due.

First off, he broke or tied 22 records in his four-year career at Ohio State including most career points (356).

His senior season was particularly monstrous—he was an All-American, won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker and was named team MVP. That's right, the kicker was named MVP.

Nugent was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets, making him one of the highest drafted kickers in history.

9. WR Ted Ginn, 2004-2006

Ginn was one of the most exciting players to ever don an Ohio State jersey.

In his career, he returned six punts for touchdowns, a Big Ten record. In the 2007 National Championship Game, he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown
but was unfortunately injured in the ensuing celebration and didn't return.

Ginn was such a prolific return man that he earned first-team All-American selections in 2004 and 2005 as a returner.

He was also an accomplished wide receiver who provided a legitimate deep threat. In his final two seasons, he caught 51 and 59 passes respectively.

8. RB Beanie Wells, 2006-2008

Wells was a rare power/speed combo back that made him a pleasure to watch.

After a solid freshman season in which he shared carries with Antonio Pittman, Wells exploded for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign.

Due to his performance, Wells was frequently named as a preseason Heisman candidate. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury the first game and missed the next three. Despite that, he still managed to rumble for 1,197 yards and eight touchdowns, earning team MVP honors.

7. CB Malcolm Jenkins, 2005-2008

During his career, Jenkins racked up numerous accolades—three-time All-Big Ten, second-team All-American and first-team All-American. He also won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back.

Due to his outstanding play, Jenkins was considered a shutdown corner.

Jenkins would be higher on this list but as a member of Ohio State teams that lost three consecutive bowl games, he carries the stigma of being unable to win the big game.

6. LB James Laurinaitis, 2005-2008

Laurinaitis played at the same time as Malcolm Jenkins and they teamed up to form an intimidating defensive duo.

During his career, he was a three-time All-American, Dick Butkus Award winner as the nation's most outstanding linebacker and Bronco Nagurski Award winner as the nation's best defensive player among others.

Laurinaitis is one of the best linebackers in Ohio State history.

As with Jenkins, Laurinaitis will unfortunately carry the stigma of leading defenses that were trounced in consecutive national championship game appearances.

5. LB A.J. Hawk, 2002-2005

Hawk was the best linebacker of the Jim Tressel era.

He was a beast on the field, making 394 tackles despite starting only three seasons.

He was All-Big Ten every year as a starter and won the Lombardi Award as the nation's best college football lineman or linebacker.

Hawk was so impressive that he was selected fifth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He is a solid contributor for them to this day.

4. QB Terrelle Pryor, 2008-Present

He isn't always pretty but Pryor gets the job done.

He has been criticized for supposedly not living up to his status as the nation's top football prospect.

Despite the criticism, Pryor has been extremely successful, boasting a 31-4 record as the starter. Against Michigan, he is a perfect 3-0. In BCS Bowl games, he is 2-0 (Todd Boeckman started the 2009 Fiesta Bowl), ending a three year skid by beating Oregon in the Rose Bowl and ending Buckeye futility against the SEC by winning the Sugar Bowl over Arkansas.

Pryor has one season left and though it will be shortened due to suspension, he has the opportunity to add another win over Michigan and a third BCS Bowl victory to his resume.

3. S Mike Doss, 1999-2002

Doss played two seasons under Jim Tressel and so makes the list.

Doss was a three-time All-American, three-time All-Big Ten, two-time Thorpe Award finalist and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002.

He was the leader of the 2002 Silver Bullets, the best defensive unit of the Tressel era. They yielded 13.1 points per contest, second best in college football that season.

In the 2003 National Championship Game against Miami, Doss made a key interception of Ken Dorsey that gave Ohio State the lead. He was named game MVP.

2. QB Troy Smith, 2003-2006

Smith did not come to Ohio State with much acclaim but left as a Heisman Trophy winner and Buckeye great.

Since he began taking snaps his sophomore season, he matured into the quarterback that threw 30 touchdowns in an outstanding 2006 campaign.

He was named team MVP, won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback and the Heisman Trophy with 86.7 percent of first place votes, a record that still stands.

Adam Rittenberg listed Smith as "Big Ten player of the decade."

Smith would be numero uno on this list if not for the whipping Ohio State received at the hands of Florida. In the 2007 National Championship Game, Smith was 4/14 for 35 yards as Ohio State lost 14-41.

1. QB Craig Krenzel, 2000-2003

In terms of statistics and accolades, Krenzel may be the worst player on this list.

In his career at Ohio State, Krenzel threw 28 touchdowns, a number Terrelle Pryor nearly matched in 2010 alone.

Krenzel's greatness was not in shiny statistics but in grit—he was smart, accurate and made plays when they were needed most.

Take Holy Buckeye for instance; down 3-6 with less than two minutes to play, Krenzel completed a 37-yard pass to Michael Jenkins on fourth down for a touchdown.

In the 2003 National Championship Game, Krenzel completed key fourth down conversions that saved the game for Ohio State. He was named co-MVP of the game along with Mike Doss.

In his career, Krenzel was 24-3 as starter.

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