Sanzenbacher's Absence Leaves Void in Intangibles

By Kyle Rowland on January 8, 2011 at 6:00a

Barring any underclassmen going pro, Ohio State will be replacing 14 starters when they take the field Sept. 3 in the season opener against Akron. Most of the attention will go to whoever is under center.

Terrelle Pryor’s absence and replacement is sure to be the biggest newsmaker of the day. However, the biggest missing piece that afternoon might very well be an unheralded and underappreciated wide receiver.

Yes, I’m talking about Dane Sanzenbacher.

With Ohio State missing arguably its top four players on offense for the season’s first five games of 2011, having a leader and veteran presence like Sanzenbacher in the huddle would make a world of difference to an inexperienced quarterback.  

Whether it was taking a big hit, catching a deflected pass or pouncing on a fumble in the end zone, you could always count on Sanzenbacher to make a play. He ran crisp routes and has the best hands of any wide receiver in the country. If a pass is thrown in the vicinity of Sanzenbacher, he is going to come down with the reception.

He came to Ohio State with little fanfare and was not thought of as an impact player.  Four years later, he leaves as a captain and the only player to be named team MVP and most inspirational player on a Jim Tressel-coached team in his 25 years as a head coach.

In New Orleans, teammate after teammate talked about Sanzenbacher’s leadership skills and his now famous motivational speeches. He also kept the mood light as is evidenced by his class project video that went viral and turned him into a YouTube sensation.

Sanzenbacher has the qualities that any coach in the country wants in his players. He’s a tireless worker, smart, a leader and a winner. Ohio State coaches saw it from him in high school and fans took notice when, in his first career game, his first catch went for a touchdown.

The past two years Sanzenbacher took a leading role in the offense. In 2009, he won the Paul Warfield Award (outstanding OSU receiver) as he caught 36 passes for 570 yards and six touchdowns. Against his hometown Toledo Rockets, Sanzenbacher had a career day hauling in five receptions for 126 yards. He closed out the season by snaring nine catches in the Rose Bowl win over Oregon.

During his senior season, Sanzenbacher had 55 receptions for 948 yards and 12 touchdowns. That production earned him First Team All-Big Ten honors. He led the Big Ten with 11 touchdown receptions and was second in receiving yards per game. Sanzenbacher tied a school record with four touchdown catches against Eastern Michigan in September.

The durable Sanzenbacher is almost a clone of former Buckeye Anthony Gonzalez. Both were under six feet tall and weaved in and out of traffic with little problem. During his four years in Scarlet and Gray, Sanzenbacher was in his fair share of collisions, but he continued to pop right back up like a Jack-In-The-Box.

It was learned in the week leading up to the Sugar Bowl that Sanzenbacher played through a gruesome injury throughout the season. During practice the first week of October he fractured his finger. Now, a finger fracture might not sound that bad. But when the bone pokes through the skin – yikes! – that is not good. Sanzenbacher, though, fought through it and caught a touchdown that Saturday in a hard-fought win at Illinois.

There are going to be tough halves, games and weeks next season for the Buckeyes. There will be moments when a leader needs to step up, when a sure-handed receiver needs to catch the ball and a veteran needs to tutor an underclassman. It’s moments like these when coaches wish they always had a Dane Sanzenbacher.


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J.Mo's picture

I'm not big into autographs because I don't really see the point but I am particularly fond of this senior class and wouldn't mind supporting the guys out. They're probably paid a flat rate and not per autograph though....

Anyways Dane and Cameron will always be special Buckeyes. I was a huge fan of the Sanzenbacher commitment from the beginning - we both hail from Toledo Central Catholic though I graduated a few years before he started.

flipbuckeye's picture

Great tribute to Sanzenbacher the Manzenbacher.

buckeye33's picture

"Unheralded & Underappreciated" certainly not by any Buckeye fan.  He truly epitomizes the word class and is the ultimate student athlete.  He will surely be missed and I can't wait to see him on Sundays.

BuckeyeMark's picture

was at the game Tuesday night ... saw the Bucks on GameDay afterward so joined about a hundred fans in the section nearest to the GameDay set.  loved Dane dissing May and then after the Bucks were done they ran over to us fans and high fived with us!  those gloves Dane wears are like flypaper!  and I will always treasure high fiving with one of the all time great Buckeye leaders!

OHIOST1087's picture

Great tribute here to my favorite Buckeye of the Post Troy Smith era. Thank you for writing this, and helping us all realize more how much of an impact Sanzenbacher has made and the void that will be left next year. I was kind of worried when Gonzo left, wondering who would fill the void in the slot, lo and behold for the past 3 years or so (esp the past 2) it is like Gonzo had never left. I will be interested to see how this affects Pryor (after his 5 game timeout) statistically and in pressure situations, b/c all of us are fully aware that Dane made plays that lifted Pryor and the entire OSU Offense out of bad situations. I hope Sanzenbacher gets drafted high or to where he will be an important, integral part of the NFL team, too bad Manning already has a whole club of WRs. I am hoping he goes to Pittsburgh or Atlanta, b/c Hines Ward and Tony Gonzalez are getting old! (Plus Pittsburgh is local, and they have no "slot" receiver, and similar climate to Columbus!)

buckeyedude's picture


 Nice job Kyler. Everybody on 11W knows I have been Dane's biggest supporter since I found this site. I reminded many here of the similarities to Anthony Gonzalez('cept Dane has more hair), and was chastised for those comments.

I absolutely loved  the Sugar Bowl post game how Dane called Holtz "Dr. Lou" and ignored Mark May. Enjoyed his YouTube video also.  Smart kid. And funny too.

I saw the kid run track and play football at Central Catholic in Toledo and knew he would be special. He is deceptively fast. I miss him already(as a Buckeye).  If the NFL doesn't work out for Dane, and I do think he has a shot, I wonder if coaching could be in his future? He would be a great representative for The OSU! And in many ways, Dane is very "Tresselike." Not a bad Buckeye career for "only" a 3* recruit!Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher (12) dives on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown against Arkansas during the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011.



blazers34's picture

I think Dane will be a 3rd or 4th rounder.  He is much better than Brian Hartline IMO

Seth4Bucks's picture

You will be missed Dane! You leave OSU with the appreciation and respect of OSU faithful across the country. Thank you for everything you've done at OSU. Thank you for being a clutch sure handed WR. Thanks for the great downfield blocking. Thanks for the leadership you provided. I could go on and on and would not capture the heartfelt joy I felt watching Dane in the Scarlet and Gray over the past couple of years.

yrro's picture

Anyone have enough video footage to put together a Dane highlight video? Youtube is sadly lacking in them, and that would be an amazing array of catches to see all at once.

Kennywayne34's picture

Nice piece on a tough nosed kid with all the class that is to be expected and then some.

Sorry a little off topic........... but where are the midwest kids at in the Army All American Game???????????????????????????????????  I counted the east roster and out of 47 kids, 31 of them hail from sec country and aprox 3 from big ten states. Am I looking to far into this? Am I missing something? BTW 15 out of the 47 are from Florida alone

Matt's picture

I still don't think the Sanzo to Gonzo comparison is a perfect fit; despite his listed height, Sanzo is probably 2 inches shorter than Gonzo (I walked past Dane a few days ago and he was smaller than I expected), and Gonzo, although also primiarly a possession receiver like Dane, had excellent breakaway speed.  In contrast, Sanzo wasn't a huge YAC type of WR.  And don't forget that Gonzo was a late first-round draft pick.  I don't think we will see a team go after Dane anywhere near the first round, although I do think he will get a shot with an NFL squad that values clutch play over freak athleticism.

All of this is not to knock Sanzo, who has been my favorite Buckeye on offense since Beanie left town; I simply think Dane accomplished more than Gonzo all while having less innate talent.  Sanzo's success lay in his route running, his knowledge of the offense, his calm and leadership, and his willingness to put his body on the line.  He will be greatly missed next year.

Another thing to think about -- who leads this offense on the field for the first four/five games?  I can't see the first-timer QBs being effective in that role.  Brewster might make sense, but the O-line typically functions as a unit and tends not to individually lead squads.  Surprisingly, Zach Boren probably has more in-game experience than any other non-lineman offensive player (who isn't suspended).  I'll be interested to see if Boren takes a leadership role during the first 1/3rd of the season. 

Denny's picture

Yea - plus, Gonzo was a highly regarded corner recruit when he came to OSU, and he was significantly faster.


buckeyedude's picture

I'll give you the "highly regarded corner recruit" in regards to Gonzo, but prove to me he was "significantly faster."

Maybe the two weren't the best comparison. At the time Dane first came to OSU, Gonzo was fresh in my mind. Maybe Hartline would have been a better comparison? Doesn't matter. Dane distinguished himself, and I believe cemented his legacy at The Ohio State University.



Matt's picture

Gonzo had a fake 40 yard dash time of 4.37 seconds coming out of highschool:

Sanzo had a fake 40 yard dash time of 4.64 seconds coming out of highschool:

Reported 40 times for high school recruits are notoriously unreliable, but the fact that there is a 0.3 second difference between even fake times is pretty notable.  For what it's worth, Gonzo ran a 4.44 40 yard dash at the 2007 NFL combine -- faster than Sidney Rice, Steve Breaston, and Marshawn Lynch.  In other words, the guy could flat-out move.


buckeyedude's picture

Wow. I didn't realize Gonzo had 4.3 speed. When I saw Dane run track in high school, his #1 event was the 400m(same as my daughter, she made it to state semis in the 4X4).

I don't think they time players for the NFL in the 400 meter(LOL), but still, 4.64 40 ain't bad, and you can't measure a kid's heart with a tape measure or a stop watch.

If it was all about times in the 40, we could just put pads on the OSU men's track team. Good job on finding the stats though,  Matt. ;)



btalbert25's picture

I think everyone compares them because they are both white receivers.  For whatever reason, white receivers are all lumped into the same category.

gravey's picture

The Great Dane will be missed.  He's one of those guys that come along every once in a while and you think to yourself, "Man, am I proud that he's a Buckeye".   I'd put him among my top 10 favorite Buckeyes of all-time ....on and off the field...

BuckeyeChief's picture

I hope they retire his number. The man was a gamer.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Matt's picture

Unless OSU changes its jersey retirement requirements, that's not going to happen to honor Dane:

To have a number retired, a player must have graduated from Ohio State, or have been in good academic standing upon departure from OSU, in the case of leaving early for a professional career. He also must have won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Associated Press Player of the Year Award, the Football Writers Player of the Year Award, or the American Football Coaches Player of the Year Award.

To be fair, Bill Willis did not meet these requirements, so OSU is willing to overlook the policy under certain circumstances.

Seth4Bucks's picture

That seems inherently skewed against OL players and (to a lesser extent) defensive players.

AJ's picture

do we not have anyone playing in the army all-american bowl

"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -----------Woody Hayes

Matt's picture

Michael Bennet (commit) and Audrey Walker (target out of Glenville and likely would-be commit) are on the East team.

Curtis Grant is a targeted LB out of VA at whom we still have a solid shot.

Doesn't look like we have any prospects on the West team.

AJ's picture


"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -----------Woody Hayes

Powers's picture

Are any of them making their decision during the game?

Matt's picture

I am not up to date on the Audrey Walker saga, but my understanding is that OSU has shown less than full interest in him because of possible grade issues.  I do not know if he has actually been offered by OSU yet; as of a few months ago, he had not been offered.  That situation may have changed in the interim, but Glenville guys typically wait until immediately prior to signing day to announce so I would not expect him to commit even if he has been offered.

Curtis Grant is a 4/5 star LB out of VA, an area where we have had some success in the past.  The usual top tier suspects are after him, but recently I've read that he is showing strong mutual interest in OSU.  I have not heard that he intends to commit during/immediately after this game.

AJ's picture

hey isnt brain bobek playing as well...? i think i just say him walk in front of the camera

"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -----------Woody Hayes

Ethan's picture

As I understand it, Grant isn't going to commit until national signing day. Almost positive I read that somewhere, but I can't find the link right now. However, he LOVED his OSU visit. 


 "I need to find the right fit. I want to feel at home. I want to live how I do back home," Grant said. "I like the southern country feeling. I felt that to when I was at Ohio State."

Also, this

Joe Beale's picture

You guys are going to make him mad.  His name is Aundrey Walker, not "Audrey".  Better hope he doesn't come after you.  

buckeyedude's picture

LOL Joe. I noticed that too. I'm sure he's been called "Audrey" quite a bit growing up. Probably toughened him up.



Matt's picture

Wow, Audrey...that was bush league of me.

Wobble in our Shoes's picture

Bennett just got hurt, hopefully nothing serious...but he's been down for ~5 minutes. Right leg injury possibly...bringing out the cart now.

Powers's picture

Oh Jesus Michael Bennet is down...

AJ's picture

great broken arm....

"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -----------Woody Hayes

tampa buckeye's picture

He'll be out 6 weeks no biggie.  He did damage while he was in there.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

First, I love, love, love Dane.  I cannot say enough good things about his play and his character.  I will miss him more than most and am super excited to see him play on Sundays.

Now, OT, but I read this last night and just cant take enough showers to get the smarm off of me.  Anyone who reads this piece MUST pull for the Ducks.

1)  So, I for one have always thought PF was a five star d-bag.  What strikes me in this article is that is seems he is celebrating the d-baggyness of the Tigers.  At first it seems he may actually be critical of them, but no.  Just a little Summer's Eve commradary.

2)  Seems AU is a little cocky and a lot over-confident.  Clubs? 1am curfew?  Sounds like they are preparing like Miami in 2002 (and sadly, tOSU in 2006).  Those who do not learn from mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them.

3)  How can anyone outside of the south stomach the SEC?  I played in poker game last night while the LSU game was on.  Jeez, all night it was 'the conference this' and 'the conference that.'  I heard "gotta pull for the SEC" more than I heard 'fold' at my table.

4)  Please, please, please football Gods--come to your senses.  We have tolerated your allowing gimmick offences to take over.  We have searched for the method to your madness as we watched the the classiness of cfb be buried under arrest blotters, scandals and back-room deals. Have we not been punished enough? Post game chants. National media fellating them at will. Inflated preseason rankings.  Maybe you were trying to restore some kind of balance by letting the south win something, but your project has gone horribly awry. 

Okay, rant over.  Taking another shower. Go B(D)ucks!!!

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

Ian_InsideTheShoe's picture

Dane, what you have done for Buckeye Nation can't really be put into words. We'll miss you, and good luck.

Bucksfan's picture

Heck of a Buckeye career, Dane, and one of the top bowl performances by a single OSU player that I've witnessed.  Pouncing on the fumble for a TD, that eye-of-the-needle grab for a TD, that one catch in the flat where you turned and made a defender miss on the way to a 1st down...all around great.  Way to go out a big time player.

Poe McKnoe's picture

I was skeptical about having Dane as our #2 receiver coming into the season.  Turns out I was right, except not how I expected.  He was our #1 receiver and go to guy.  Dude is a baller.

AJ's picture

"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -----------Woody Hayes

poguemahone's picture

Off-topic, but also good news: with Pitt's domination of Kentucky today, the SEC is now 13-17 against the mighty Big East in postseason play since 2001.


Jason Priestas's picture

Thanks, DocSat! :)

Colin's picture

You guys gotta check this out

Makes me like Terrelle even more.

Ian_InsideTheShoe's picture

Saw that the other day. Pretty funny

tomcollins's picture

Wonder how much he can sell it for.

tampa buckeye's picture

Cris Carter should be the new wr coach at Ohio State.