*Disclaimer: I posted an article with this title by accident before it was finished. This is the finished product*
Getting shot in the face is not much fun at all. Neither is finding out that you are a quadriplegic who's paralyzed from the shoulders down as a result of such a malicious occurrence. However, that's the exact situation I dealt with after a friend and I haphazardly mishandled a small pistol when I was just two months shy of fifteen years old. The bullet traveled through my right cheek and into my C-4 vertebrae, stripping me of my ability to walk, talk, move my arms, and breathe effectively. The road I traveled immediately thereafter was one of many challenges, heartache, pain, depression, and sicknesses all wrapped up in one.
However, over the years I have developed a new ability to be appreciative of the little things in life, and I have gained a knack for finding the positive in negative situations. For instance, I am a member of a group on Facebook called, “College Football Smack Talk,” and one thing that I noticed there from the get-go is that there are a lot of people who simply love to hate on Ohio State football. Being a Buckeye fan through and through, I thought it was a bad thing at first. Why would I want to be a part of a group that consisted of so many members that hated something that I loved?
Then I realized that, for the Ohio State football program’s sake, it must be a good thing. Think about it. No one hates teams because they suck. They hate them because they can’t stand to see them win and be talked about all of the time. One person went on a rant in the group, saying that they can’t stand seeing talentless teams like Ohio State being talked about all of the time. I had to interject.
Talentless? Folks, outside of Alabama and Georgia, Ohio State puts as many players into the NFL as any school in the country. So, I googled “Buckeyes in the NFL.” The first thing that came up was an article that mentioned the handful of former Buckeyes that were playing in Super Bowl XVI alone. As I continued to do my research, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander. What if the NFL formed a team that consisted of nothing but former Ohio State players?
Before I get started, let’s go over the criteria that I used to define former Ohio State players. A former Ohio State player is someone who was on Ohio State’s active roster for at least two years and/or a scholarship player that got their degree from Ohio State University during their time there. It’s the same criteria that I used in an article that I wrote, entitled, “What If Urban Meyer Built an NFL Team of His Former Players?”
So, let’s evaluate what kind of team we could put together by using former Buckeyes. Could it win the Super Bowl? Let’s speculate.
Starter – Joe Burrow
Backup – Justin Fields
Storyline: I am well aware that Joe Burrow played a minimal role in Ohio State’s offense during his tenure as a Buckeye, going 29 of 39 for 287 yards and 2 TD, and rushing for 53 yards and a TD on 15 rushing attempts. However, in just three years in Columbus, he spent two of them as a backup to veteran J.T. Barrett and he graduated with a degree in consumer and family financial services.
With his degree, he'll be a Buckeye for life, regardless of what alma mater he claims.
As for Justin Fields, he’s just getting his feet wet in the NFL. It’ll be interesting how he progresses, as he had a very up and down rookie year.
Starter – Ezekiel Elliott
Backups – Carlos Hyde, J.K. Dobbins
Storyline – Despite a decline in numbers and enduring a PCL tear, Ezekiel remains one of the best running backs in the NFL. He has rushed for 7,416 yards since his NFL debut in 2016, which is the most by anyone in the National Football League in that time frame. Averaging 1,236 yards per season, he has been an integral part of the Dallas Cowboys offense from day one.
Ezekiel Elliott would start on this hypothetical team, with J.K. Dobbins being his backup. Dobbins was drafted in 2020 after setting a single-season rushing record at Ohio State with 2,003 yards in the 2019-20 season.
He has since worked his way up the Baltimore Ravens depth chart. Although he only started in just one game behind Gus Edwards, he rushed for more yards than him on ten less rushing attempts, leading the running backs in rushing yards (805) and touchdowns (9).
If all else fails, Carlos Hyde could come in for mop-up duty.
Starters – Michael Thomas, Terry McLaurin
Backups – Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Noah Brown, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill
Storyline: From 2016 to 2019, Michael Thomas led all receivers in the NFL with 5,512 receiving yards, living up to his twitter handle @cantguardmike which he has held since he was just a 3-star recruit out of Fork Union Military Academy. Terry McLaurin had 77 receptions for 1,053 yards, and 5 five TDs, averaging 13.7 yards per reception in 2021.
Although Michael Thomas has been out with an ankle injury since week seven of the 2020 season, he is expected to be fully healthy this coming season. When healthy, he’s easily a top-five receiver in the NFL, and some even think that he’s the best of the best.
Terry McLaurin has been the biggest surprise coming out of Ohio State, as he was the third-leading receiver behind K.J Hill and Paris Campbell in college. All he has done in the NFL thus far is outshine them.
Ohio State will have more depth at receiver in the NFL next season, as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson were selected back-to-back in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Wilson went tenth overall to the New York Jets, and Olave went eleventh to the New Orleans Saints, a franchise that now has seven former Buckeyes on its roster.
Starter – Jeremy Ruckert or Nick Vannett
Backup – Luke Farrell
Storyline: Although Nick Vannett has been primarily used as a blocker in the NFL, he had 9 receptions for 133 yards and a TD in 2021. The same applies to Luke Farrell, as he hauled in just 7 receptions for 56 yards.
Look for things to change this coming season. Being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round, I believe that Jeremy Ruckert was one of the biggest steals of the 2022 NFL draft. Although he played a minimal role in Ohio State’s pass offense, I think that he’s the best receiving tight end that Ohio State has ever had. They just didn’t target him nearly as much as they should have in the passing game.
As the number two tight end prospect in the country in the 2018 recruiting class, Ruckert was essentially a big-bodied wide receiver in high school, hauling in 222 receptions for 3,133 yards and 37 touchdowns, per Wikipedia.
Mark my words. Jeremy Ruckert will be one of the best tight ends in the NFL someday.
Starters – Taylor Decker, Isaiah Prince
Backups – Jamarco Jones
Starters – Pat Elflein, Wyatt Davis,
Backups – Billy Price, Andrew Norwell
Starter – Josh Myers
Backups – Corey Linsley, Pat Elflein
Storyline: When it comes to the offensive line, you could make any number of position shuffles and still end up with a pretty formidable bunch. Pat Elflein started at center and offensive guard at Ohio State with familiarity at both positions. But because Josh Myers has the starting center position locked up, Elflein would be a backup center while locking up a starting position at guard, and Corey Linsley would likely be the number two center on the depth chart behind Myers. Wyatt Davis would take the other starting position at guard while Taylor Decker would start at left tackle, and Isaiah Prince would get the nod at right tackle.
Billy Price, Andrew Norwell, and Jamarco Jones would fill in as backups wherever there would be a need with this hypothetical team.
Starters – Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa
Backups – Chase Young, Sam Hubbard
Storyline: You really can’t go wrong with anyone here
Sam Hubbard had 62 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 17 QB hits, 3 passes defensed, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries, Nick Bosa had 52 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, 32 QB hits, and 4 forced fumbles, and Joel Bosa had 51 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, and 7 forced fumbles
Starters – Cameron Heyward, Dre'Mont Jones
Backups – Davon Hamilton, Johnathan Hankins, Tommy Togiai
Storyline: Cameron Heyward had 89 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 17 QB hits, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one interception in 2021, He is a 3× First-team All-Pro (2017, 2019, 2021), and 5× Pro Bowler (2017–2021)
Dre'Mont Jones had 5.5 sacks, 31 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 11 QB hits, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 2021.
If any team had a defensive line that consisted of ONLY former Buckeyes, it would be by far the nastiest defensive line in the NFL. Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa, Sam Hubbard, Dre’Mont Jones, and Cameron Heyward alone had a combined total of 49 sacks, 305 tackles, 64 tackles for loss, 14 forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. To put that in perspective, only three NFL TEAMS as a whole had more sacks than that, and no team had as many forced fumbles in 2021.
Just imagine how much more impressive these numbers would be if Chase Young didn’t miss the entire 2021-22 season with a groin injury.
Starters – Chase Young, Malik Harrison, John Simon
Backups – Darron Lee, Raekwon McMillan, Baron Browning, Jonathon Cooper, Rashod Berry, Jonathon Cooper, Rashod Berry
Storyline: If there is one weak spot in the production of NFL players from Ohio State, it’s at the linebacker position. Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Darron Lee, and New England Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan were placed on injured reserve and missed the entire season as a result, while the others didn’t have much production in the 2021-22 season.
Speaking of the aforementioned Chase Young, due to the lack of depth at linebacker and an abundance of depth at defensive end, I’d start him as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. Being the fastest of the defensive ends on this roster, he is the most suited to help the defense in pass coverage, and with his length complimenting his speed, he would be the ideal cover man versus tight ends, matching their physicality better than your average safety or linebacker ever could.
Starters – Malcolm Jenkins, Vonn Bell
Backups – Nate Ebner, Malik Hooker
Storyline: Between Vonn Bell and Malcolm Jenkins, they had 2 interceptions, 176 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 13 passes defensed in 2021. They would be the starters, as Jenkins would provide veteran leadership for the younger Vonn Bell, and would make a decent one-two punch at the two safety positions.
Starters – Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward,
Backups – Eli Apple, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade, Bradley Roby, Kendall Sheffield
Storyline: Ward had 3 interceptions, 10 passes defensed, 43 tackles, and one pick 6, Lattimore had 3 interceptions, 19 passes defensed, 68 tackles, and Eli Apple had 2 interceptions, 10 passes defensed, 49 tackles, two tackles for loss. Lattimore and Ward would be the starters at corner in this secondary
Starter – Cameron Johnston
Storyline: At this point, the kicker is the only position void of a Buckeye in the National Football League. Cameron Johnston would have to handle both the punting and the kicking duties. Following the 2022 season, Noah Ruggles will be one of the best young kickers the NFL has to offer, as he shocked many by not going pro and staying at Ohio State for his last year of eligibility at Ohio State.
Needless to say, a team with this much talent on it would be as dominant a team as any that we’ve seen in a long time in the NFL, and its defensive line in itself would make it a force to be reckoned with. I’d feel comfortable stacking this team up versus any team in the league.