Ohio State Football Stars Re-Imagined as Soccer Players

By Michael Citro on June 26, 2014 at 10:00a

Every four years, the World Cup puts many of the world’s most graceful and athletic humans on display for us to see. Some of these guys are the greatest athletes their country of origin has ever produced. The smaller the country (population wise), the greater the chances that these are among the very best athletes their nation has to offer.

But in large, very populous countries, such as the U.S. and China, the best athletes typically find other outlets to display their speed, strength, and power. Here, they typically gravitate to football, baseball and basketball. As college football fans, this is good for us (you will never win a Heisman Trophy, Belgium!). As soccer fans, not so much.

If our most physically gifted citizens decided to stick with soccer, the U.S. would likely rank among the world’s best teams in relatively little time.

For example, many Ohio State football stars could have been great soccer players. With that in mind, I thought about which players might have really excelled, and that led me to select my all-time Buckeye starting 11.

For this thought experiment, I’ll use a 4-4-1-1 alignment. For you soccer novices, that’s four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers in front of the goalkeeper, with one striker playing in support behind the other (as the U.S. used Clint Dempsey behind Jozy Altidore before the latter blew out his hammy against Ghana).


Goalkeepers are typically big, athletic men, with quick reaction times. I think Terrelle Pryor would be a beast in this role. He’s got a big wingspan to cover as much of the net as possible, good speed to get out in front of the box for balls played over the top, and the agility to change direction on those deflected shots.

At 6-foot-4, Pryor is an inch taller than Tim Howard, who is one of the world’s best keepers. And his wingspan is notably wider. TP is big enough to handle the banging when the ball is in the air and attacking players are trying to knock him off balance. He’s also an athletic freak. My gut feeling is that he’d excel at this.

My backup goalkeeper would be Cris Carter. And the gap between the two is miniscule.

Back Line

The two outside defenders are typically fast players who can attack up the wings and have the speed to recover in time to mark the opposition’s forward players when the ball is turned over, blowing up the counterattack. DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson currently occupy these roles on the left and right, respectively, for the U.S. I like Ted Ginn Jr. and Robert Smith in these spots.

Ted Ginn on the backline
Ginn on the back line.

Both Ginn and Smith have the speed to both fly down the wings and to recover and defend when necessary. They could get to the end line, cut in toward goal and either take a shot or thread a pass to a teammate in the penalty area. The opposing outside defenders would have their hands full with these two players overlapping with the speedy attacking midfielders (more on them below).

The two central defenders are typically taller, bigger guys, who can win balls in the air and battle big strikers. They still have to be athletic, because they can cover a lot of ground when the opposition counter-attacks.

I like Rickey Dudley and Jeff Heuerman for these spots. Both are tall, solidly built guys who can run. Dudley is 6-foot-6 and his build makes 6-4 Manchester City / Belgium star defender Vincent Kompany look like a runt.

Dudley could get off the ground and win those headers, even without his sizable height advantage. I’m not sure about Heuerman’s hops, but the kid is 6-foot-5 and would be difficult to move. I’d probably have him shed a few of those 255 pounds so he could last the full 90 minutes and keep up with opposing strikers.

My first sub at central back would be Eddie George and, if either Smith or Ginn were unavailable outside, it would be nice to have Devin Smith or Doran Grant in those spots.


I’m going with two holding (defensive) midfield players and two offensive-minded attackers.

My star attacking mid is Joey Galloway. I just don’t think anyone could handle Galloway in his prime, with his speed, moves and elusiveness. His movement would destroy back lines. My second attacking midfielder is Braxton Miller. At 6-foot-2, and around 220 pounds, Miller is deceptively strong. He has great speed and changes pace and direction on a dime. He’d be nightmare fuel for opposing defenders.

Winfield on the pitch
Winfield patrolling the midfield.

Holding midfielders allow your team to keep possession, cause turnovers, and get into passing lanes on defense. Who could be better suited for this role than Antoine Winfield? Winfield made a career out of solid defensive play, knowing where to be even before the snap, and controlling his area. These qualities would make him a good holding mid.

His holding midfield partner would be Shawn Springs. Springs possesses many of Winfield’s qualities, but with additional size. This duo would be slightly shorter than you might typically want for the position—especially Winfield at 5-foot-9—but their speed and ability in the air would likely make up for it.

I'd definitely have Ryan Shazier or Mike Doss as an additional defensive mid to bring into games in place of one of my strikers late in games to protect leads.


Strikers come in many forms. The diminutive Lionel Messi is often deployed at striker for his club team, Barcelona, and for Argentina. The U.S. uses the big, athletic Altidore (get well soon!) to hold off the defender while holding the ball and waiting for reinforcements from the midfield. Wayne Rooney is somewhere in between for England.

I prefer strikers in the mold of Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast—guys big enough to hold play, agile and quick enough to get around defenders, and with enough athleticism to get in the air and win headers. To this end, one of my strikers is David Boston. Boston is the same height as Drogba and had a similar build before bulking up as an NFL player. His route running has him well accustomed to quick changes of direction. And his ability to get up for jump balls on fade routes will serve him well in front of goal on set pieces.

Coming in behind him will be Dontre Wilson in a supporting striker role. Wilson, at 5-foot-10, is a bit shorter. He wouldn’t win many battles in the air and might not be able to hold up play as well as Boston, but his quick, darting movements would be Messi-esque.

He’d be the guy creating havoc and forcing the back line to lose its shape. As a guy who worked out of the backfield last year, he’s got strength in his lower body, which would translate into powerful shots on goal.

Pryor or Michael Wiley would probably make for some pretty decent backup strikers.

Soccer fans, like football fans, love to debate lineups and tactics. I’m sure you’ve got your opinions. Give us your starting 11 in the comments section below.


Comments Show All Comments

jamesrbrown322's picture

The team already has a mascot...


"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+10 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

Two words: Mike Nugent

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

+21 HS
Stinson's picture


"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

+7 HS
Stinson's picture

Oh my God. Everything about this is amazing. Especially this: 

I'm having a hard time picturing T.P. as goalie, though.

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

+7 HS
unknownmusketeer's picture

Keeper - Michael Bennett (for a big guy, he can certainly move; plus he is a personal favorite and needs a place on the pitch)

Sweeper - Mike Doss

Stopper - Ryan Shazier

Left and Right Back - Roby and Macolm Jenkins

Outside Midfield/Winger - Ted Ginn and Dontre

Inside Midfield - Maurice Clarett and Terrelle Pryor 

Striker - Braxton Miller and Michael Jenkins

-1 HS
Mizzillion's picture

Well, let's generate Brazilian nicknames for our Buckeye XI...

G - Prya

Backline - Gson, Robisco Da Costa

Midfield -  Galloweca, Braxtisco, Winfieto, Sprisco, Ryeiro, Dinhosa

Stikers -  Davito, Wilsinhosa Santos



+6 HS
German Buckeye's picture

I guess I'll have to take your word for all this as I don't know the positions in soccer other than goal keeper. Does this make me a bad person?

+4 HS
Buckataltitude's picture

I hope not because that means I am a bad person too.

+1 HS
BuckeyeSki's picture

No, it makes you #Merican

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

+5 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

Pace is every bit as mobile as Pryor.  Anyone who ever saw him play high school basketball could testify.  I think his goal kicks would go into the opponent's net. 

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

+1 HS
TheBadOwl's picture

Sam Thompson for backline. He'd win every header ever.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

+2 HS
Michael Citro's picture

Yeah, this would look much different if I included hoops players.

VintonCountyBuck's picture

I would hope your Hoops list included Lawrence Funderburke at Goalie..

Man that dude swatted everything.

“Right now, Michigan is not at the pinnacle of college football, and that’s all Urban Meyer cares about...He’s been there and knows what it takes to get there.” 

Wilkins78's picture

Using my current FM2014 Piranhas formation:

Goalie:  Spiderman Chris Vance

First name that popped into my head.  Gotta have good hands.

LWB:  Chris Gamble
CB:  AJ Hawk
CB:  Mike Vrabel
CB:  Mike Doss
RWB:  Antoine Winfield

Speed to burn on the edge (Gamble seemed another obvious choice as a two-way player), stout, punishing D in the middle.

B2BCM: Troy Smith
BWCM:  Jack Tatum
B2BCM:  Braxton Miller

Creative forces driving the attack that can create for themselves.  A ball winning midfielder that strikes fear into the heart of any opponent attacker.

ACM(SS):  Tedd Ginn

Lightning in a bottle that can't be contained causing havoc and making streaking runs through the defense.

ST(DLP):  Terrelle Pryor

Strength to hold the ball to dish off to the ACM, ability to create for himself when needed.

+1 HS
HouseHarleyBuilt's picture

Can we maybe alter the title? I read "The Buckeye 11" and thought we had our 11th commit.

Treat every opponent as if they are capable of beating you, because guess what? They are.

-2 HS
Jason Priestas's picture

Pryor playing goalie didn't tip you off?

Michael Citro's picture

And the Roman numeral?

jdagrava.1's picture

Very surprised A.J. Trepasso did not make this list after his glorious spring game hits and his fake punt for the Tennessee Titans in the preseason a few years ago - not to mention his monster leg.  Some other additions that come to mind:

Cameron Johnston (duh), Bradley Roby (speed and agility), Chris Gamble (endurance), and Anthony Gonzalez (1 - That leaping catch against TTUN looked a lot like a soccer header and 2 - what's a futbol team without a Latin American?)

"It takes a little something special to be a great player.  What you got in you, we're going to find out.  And if there's a touch of greatness in there, how cool would that be?"

-Urban F. Meyer


If we are replicating the current US formation with the diamond, then I would go with the following in mind:

It would most definitely start with past skill players (sorry, but can't imagine a sport built on speed and control using linemen), and assume these players in their prime

Goal Keeper: Chris Carter (give me size, reflexes, and a penchant for finding the ball!)

Back 4: Shawn Springs/Antoine Winfield on the outsides, and Eddie George/Andy Katzenmoyer on insides to force all play outside as well as kill set pieces with their height [no one should dare try going up against such physically imposing and athletic beasts - players like Messi would end up like Corby Jones and get wrecked]

Mids: Since diamond, then Back Center would be RDS if we're holding a lead, and Braxton Miller if tied or going full tilt on offense.  If RDS is in, then Braxton on the left, Pepe Pearson on the right (shifty, quick, and great with feet to score even without a shoe!), and Troy Smith up top to distribute to our killer strikers.  If Braxton is back center, then keep everyone and add David Boston for size/athleticism - especially on set pieces

Strikers: speed, shiftiness, and skillz... 1. Joey Galloway (great pic Michael), and 2. Jake Stoneburner (I like strikers in the RVP, Thierry Henri mold - tall, big, fast, and practically impossible for defenders to handle)



"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

Buckeye Knight's picture

I know this was geared more towards OSU football.  But I can't help but wonder how a guy like LeBron might play goalie.  Talk about wingspan, height, and quickness.

1MechEng's picture

Disagree on David Boston as the Striker. Good height, but he was never shifty enough. I know you're thinking of someone like a Gareth Bale frame, but I don't see Boston doing that - especially once he got into the pro's and went 240 lbs ...

I might instead choose Michael Jenkins (6' 4"), who was more agile than Boston, and still had good height.

Also, what about a running back a la Warren Ball?

+1 HS
Barnsey69's picture

Hey if Suarez can bite his way through he competition, why can't we just field a team of big hitters (a la Shazier, Winfield, Doss, etc.) and just take everybody out? It would literally take 3-5 minutes before the entire opposing team is..Chris Tucker--a lil help please "knocked the f()k out!"

World, meet American Football.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+2 HS
Idaho Helga's picture

^This is why I liked the Jack Tatum and A J Hawk suggestions above.  Let the flopping begin!

+1 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

Is that Luis Suarez's head rolling down the field?" "Yeah, he just bit Jack Tatum..."

+2 HS
1MechEng's picture

And we're all forgetting the former soccer player / kicker from a couple of years ago, Devin Barclay!

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Good lord,

Could we actually envision W.W. Hayes combing the sidelines for this team?

Guess yard markers might be safe.

+2 HS
BROSEPH's picture

I'd like to see what Aaron Craft could do on a soccer field.  Shannon Scott too for that matter.

+1 HS
AMoujaes's picture

That postgame interview with Pyror at the end of the World Cup...

"Terrelle, will you be back in four years?"


+2 HS
shadybuck's picture

It took some thinking but I got my starting XI

4-1-2-1-2 formation


Roby      Dudley         Ballard       Winfield


    Nugent                            Santonio


             Ginn              Boston

Roby and Winfield playing that Patrice Evra / Demarcus Beasley role

Ballard and Dudley being those big body linebacker type players in the middle

Shazier playing that Kyle Beckerman type shutdown role

Nugent as a free kick and PK specialist also in a position to strike from range

Santonio being that quick jump Alejandro Bedoya type

Braxton making plays like he does so well in that Michael Bradley role

Ted Ginn for the speed up front and David Boston in that big body Jozy Altadore type role

southbuc's picture

Can you imagine Sam Thompson on corner kicks?...

Young_Turk's picture

Need to find a space for Archie.  Could cut like a waterbug and had deceptive power and speed.


+2 HS
chirobuck's picture

Troy Smith needs to be in the midfield.....athletic enough to create on his own yet has the field vision to find the open guy anywhere on the field, I would also like O Johnson as a center defender


^ best post ever ^

JohnnyKozmo's picture

This is the ONLY reason the USA is not the dominant Soccer team in the world.  Our best athletes play other sports.  Soccer is maybe 6th, possibly 5th or 4th, depending on your opinion of Golf and Ice Hockey, in terms of popularity in this country.  Can you imagine Lebron or Megatron as the Goalkeeper?  AP or D Rose as a striker?  Ed Reed or Richard Sherman on D?  There wouldn't be a team that could score on us, let alone stay within 5 or 6 goals.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+3 HS
Johnnycake's picture

Why would they play such a wussy sport?



+1 HS
Zaphod Beeblebrox's picture

Outside of the World Cup I'm not a soccer fan but I wouldn't call them a bunch of wussies. Flopping & faking injuries aside you have to be in great shape to be a soccer player. I'd like to see some of these fat baseball players try & run up & down the field for even 10 minutes, let alone for 90.

Zaphod Beeblebrox's picture

You have earned a red card for your comment!

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Rickey Dudley

Jack Tatum
Antoine Winfield

Malcolm Jenkins
Shawn Springs

Chris Gamble
Carlos Snow

Joey Galloway
Cris Carter
Terry Glenn

Archie Griffin