Eleven Warriors Roundtable: Taking Stock Ahead of an Open Week

By Chris Lauderback on November 1, 2019 at 8:35 am
Ohio State's Chase Young is the most devastating player in college football.
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Eleven Warriors roundtable doesn't observe open weeks and you're in for a treat today as a trio of chatty Cathies take center stage. 

Let me go ahead and get out of the way. Colin Hass-Hill, Jake Anderson and Matt Gutridge, the floor is yours. 

Chase Young looks like the best player in college football and his effort against Wisconsin was an all-timer. Where does he stand among the best defensive players you’ve ever seen in school history? Give us your top five all-time Buckeye defenders and briefly justify your order.

Colin: I’m going to cheat a little bit and only consider the past four seasons – 2016 to 2019 – because that’s the span I’ve covered Ohio State.

Here are my top five, in order.

  • Chase Young
  • Malik Hooker
  • Nick Bosa
  • Marshon Lattimore
  • Jeff Okudah

Honestly, I didn’t even consider placing Young anywhere other than the top spot. He’s the most impactful defensive player in the country, and he’s currently putting together the best season by any defensive end in Ohio State history.

Hooker earned the No. 2 spot for his ridiculous seven interceptions in 2016. Bosa never put up nearly the stats that Young has this season, but he was dominant as a sophomore and finished third on the team in sacks as a junior despite getting suffering a season-ending injury in the third game of the season. If he played a full third season, I have a feeling he wouldn't challenged for second on this list – if not first. It was basically impossible to separate the cornerbacks, but I went with Lattimore and Okudah, who I believe are the most talented of the bunch.

Among the others I considered: Denzel Ward, Sam Hubbard, Raekwon McMillan, Dre’Mont Jones, Gareon Conley and Tyquan Lewis.

Jake: Disclaimer: I only started watching Ohio State football on a weekly basis in, like 2012, when I turned 13 years old. Because of this, my list probably does not include a lot of players that may be on my counterpart’s list (A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, and Mike Vrabel are some of the first names that come to mind). 

  • Malik Hooker
  • Chase Young
  • Joey Bosa
  • Nick Bosa
  • Ryan Shazier

Malik Hooker and Chase Young are 1a and 1b in either order. I have always believed that pass coverage is more important than pass rush, and that’s why I gave Hooker the nod. Hooker was a one-year starter and turned in seven interceptions with three touchdowns. He was also the only player that got off the bus against Clemson despite playing with a torn labrum and sports hernia. 

Young is at the top of the list for obvious reasons. Have you read about him this week? He has a serious chance to be the first defensive player to earn a Heisman nomination since Manti Te’o went to New York in 2012. 

The Bosa brothers are next, in the same order of their births. Nick Bosa is probably the better overall player, but Joey’s legacy at Ohio State is significantly greater than his brother’s. Big Bear recorded 13.5 sacks in 2014 while winning the inaugural College Football Playoff and was double-teamed on every single play the following year. Nick Bosa was incredible for the Bucks in his two years, but an unfortunate injury stops him from surpassing his older brother. 

Before he was faced with one of the most devastating injuries in the history of the NFL, Shazier was the leader of an Ohio State defense that went undefeated in the regular season. The linebacker accumulated over 100 solo tackles and forced four fumbles in his final season. 

Matt: My list is based off of guys I have been able to watch play and includes one player from each defensive position. Before diving into that list, Jack Tatum, Tom Cousineau, Randy Gradishar, Jim Stillwagon and Bill Willis deserve to be recognized.

No. 1 CB Antoine Winfield (1995-98) pound for pound, Ohio State's first Thorpe Award winner is the hardest hitting player I have ever witnessed play the game. He was also a lock down corner who took away half of the field. Stud.

No. 2 LB Chris Spielman (1984-87) the Lombardi Award winner had a high motor, high intensity and was a high quality leader. If you never watched No. 36 in action, all you need to know is that he saved his best for The Game. In 1986, Spielman set the program record for tackles in a game (29) and the following season, he had 14 solo tackles in the 1987 version of The Game.

No. 3 S Mike Doss (1999-02) is not on this list because he was a three-time All-American. He's not on the list because his 331 tackles are a program record for players in the secondary. He's on the list because he passed up the NFL draft after his junior season to win the national championship. He came back to Columbus and delivered Ohio State it's first title in 34 years. Thank you, Mike Doss.

No. 4 DT Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson (1992-93) was an offensive coordinator's nightmare. Not only did Big Daddy destroy opposing backfields, he required the offensive line to double team him on every snap. Even with the extra attention, Wilkinson racked up 40+ tackles every year he played. Hard to believe he was redshirted as a freshman. Big Daddy was the No. 1 pick of the 1994 NFL Draft for a reason.

No. 5 DE Chase Young (2017-19) is currently fifth on this list, but he will be moving up...way up. Two years ago, I had the great fortune of sitting next to The Predator's aunt and uncle (hi, Bernard) for two games. Late in the '17 Maryland contest, Chase came hard off the edge on a running play. He recognized the draw and reversed course in an instant. When Young went from three-yards deep in the backfield and tracked down the ball carrier for a two-yard gain, we knew he was a special player. 

Young's hard work has paid off and he is on track to become one of the all-time greats at Ohio State. Big ups to this little buster (11:00 mark) for recognizing The Predator's talent two years ago.

Stars like J.K. Dobbins, Chase Young and Justin Fields have been outstanding for the Buckeyes so far this season. Through eight games, who are two unsung or lesser-heralded players that have been most crucial to Ohio State’s perfect start?

Matt: This is tough. When a team is playing at the current level that Ohio State is there are a lot of players deserving of praise. I want to give credit to the offensive linemen for paving the way for Dobbins and protecting Fields. I want to give Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette credit for locking down opposing receivers. However, I'm going to go with Malik Harrison and Pete Werner.

Last year, the linebacker group was viewed as the weakest link of the porous defense. In 2019, Harrison is a tackling machine and Werner has been used like a chess piece all over the field. Kudos to both of them.

Jake: I would not exactly call him an “unsung hero”, but Chris Olave has been better than everyone expected. He leads the team in receiving yards, touchdowns, and total expected points added, an advanced metric that takes the situation of a football into account. Olave was clearly Ohio State’s best offensive option in the first half of last week’s game and his red zone prowess has been second to none. 

Pete Werner got a lot of flak this offseason and I was never too sure why. Sure, he did not live up to the lofty expectations of the Silver Bullets, but he was never the worst backer on the team. This year, he has effectively benched the defensive savior of last year in Brendon White because he has been so productive. Werner won’t wow you with his athleticism, but he’s played well and has been a major part of Ohio State’s defensive resurgence. 

Colin: I’ve been beating the Davon Hamilton drum the entire season, and that’s not stopping anytime soon. Ohio State hasn’t been gashed yet on the ground, which is attributable to many factors. But Hamilton wrongly – yet frequently – goes overlooked. He won a matchup last week with Wsiconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, arguably the best center in the nation. The penetration of Hamilton and the other defensive tackles has allowed the linebackers to fly around with more freedom and make plays against the run. Hamilton also had his first career solo sack last week.

As for somebody else, I’ll go with Jonah Jackson. He’s the starting left guard, so he’s not exactly under the radar, but he’s not as discussed as the other two interior linemen – Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis – despite arguably having the best season of the trio. J.K. Dobbins’ reestablishment as one of the nation’s best running backs can be partially attributed to an improved run-blocking line.

After passing the Wisconsin test with flying colors, Ohio State has an open week and then two layups versus Maryland and Rutgers before playing Penn State and Michigan in back-to-back weeks. Which game between hosting Penn State and going to Michigan represents the biggest threat to Ohio State’s perfect record? Which team outside the Big Ten do you think matches up best against the Buckeyes?

Colin: First off, this is an offensive question. The Maryland and Rutgers games are dunks, not layups.

To answer the first question, I’ll go with Penn State as slightly tougher than Michigan. It has the better defense. I’ll pick Ohio State to win both of them, but it should be a bit worrisome that they’re being played in succession. That raises the level of difficult.

As for the toughest matchup outside of the Big Ten? I’ll go with Clemson – though I almost picked Alabama. Both of those teams have quarterbacks viewed as arguably the best in the country, and they’re two of the few teams with athletes that can match what Ohio State puts on the field. Nobody has been able to run against the Buckeyes, but I wonder if that might open up a bit if a team with a talented quarterbacks and freakish wide receivers can penetrate a secondary that starts four future NFL players. 

Matt: Penn State. I'm not sold on their quarterback, Sean Clifford, but wide receiver KJ Hamler is the real deal and is difference maker. The biggest threat the Nittany Lions have to Ohio State's season is keeping the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten Championship game. It will suck donkey balls if Day and company lose to Our Rival, but it wouldn't prevent Ohio State from going to the Big Ten Championship game. A loss to Penn State would likely shatter that goal.

Selfishly, I'm going to say that Clemson is the team that matches up best against the Buckeyes. It's a selfish wish because Ohio State is currently 0–3 against the Tigers and I want to see that streak end.

Jake: Ohio State has beaten the Nittany Lions by a combined two points in the last two years. At some point in each of those games, the Bucks had less than a 1% chance to win, per ESPN’s win probability calculator. 

I expect more of the same on November 23. 

Listen, The Game will always be a competitive contest, but the Buckeyes look like a generational team while the Wolverines look more like a flashback to 2003. They finally won a big game against Notre Dame so maybe that gets them going, but Ohio State has looked better in every aspect of the game thus far. 

Outside of the Big Ten, Alabama is always the biggest test. LSU has looked good, but the defense is not quite there. Clemson has had its fair share of offensive struggles but looks to be trending up once again. Tua, his ridiculous receiving corps, and that secondary are once among the best in the nation. 

The most surprising aspect of Ohio State’s blistering 8-0 start is…

Jake: The team’s composure and consistency. The Buckeyes have not suffered a letdown all year long, thoroughly dominating their opponents for all four quarters. 

In the past few years, we have discussed the possibility of “trap games” to sneak up on the team. The energy and mindset of the team look far too strong to suffer a mental lapse to a clearly inferior opponent. 

Colin: The ease. A 45-21 win. A 42-0 win. A 51-10 win. A 76-5 win. A 48-7 win. A 34-10 win. A 52-3 win. A 38-7 win. 

And we’re not even yet counting the impending 84-2 win against Maryland and the 103-3 victory when the Buckeyes go on the road to face Rutgers. I can’t imagine any team in Ohio State history has ever won each of the first 10 games of a season by at least 24 points, but that’ll be the case in a few weeks. And it’ll be happening in Ryan Day’s first full season as a head coach. I expected the Buckeyes to impress this year, but I didn’t expect these margins of victory.

Some inside baseball for all of you: Dan Hope writes the instant recap that publishes the moment the football game ends, and I leave the press box with 5-8 minutes remaining so I can get video of the post-game festivities on the field. Usually, I enjoy getting that vantage point. But this fall I’ve barely seen Justin Fields play from field level because whenever I get down there, Ohio State already has had such a margin that Ryan Day has inserted Chris Chugunov. I don’t expect that to change in the next two weeks.

Matt: Ohio State has defeated every opponent by 24 or more points. If you are wondering, this is the third time in program history that the Buckeyes have defeated eight consecutive opponents by 24 or more points. I believe the incomparable Dan Hope will expand on this topic in the near future.

Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt are a pretty solid television announcing crew. Gus is the hype man and Klatt is an intelligent and opinionated color analyst. If you were a debonair, high-powered network TV executive and could pick any two people, dead or alive, who would make up your No. 1 announcing team? 

Matt: Paul Keels and Mitch Hedberg. Keels is blessed with deep velvety pipes and is the Voice of the Buckeyes. With the Moeller alum calling the action there isn't a need for anybody else in the booth.

So, why put Hedberg in there when the Dennis Miller MNF experiment didn't work? Because I'm a greedy bastard and miss Hedberg's delivery and sense of humor. Yeah, Keels and Hedberg. Make this train wreck happen, Chris.

Colin: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt. Easy enough.

Personally, I think Johnson is the easiest pick in the world. He’s always been a favorite of mine. And Klatt has ascended quickly in recent years. And Maria Taylor on the sideline. She’s the best sideline reporter in the country regardless of the sport.

Jake: Mike Breen has to be my play-by-play choice. Breen, ABC’s NBA play-by-play broadcaster, has been one of my favorites for a number of years. His energy is simply unmatched on the basketball court. 

Cris Collinsworth would be my choice as a color analyst. Collinsworth uses a number of analytics in his broadcasts, bringing a new and fresh perspective to the game every Sunday night. He may not always be the most exciting (his reaction to Odell’s miraculous catch in 2014 was subpar at best), but you can learn something from him almost every time he is in the booth.

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