Four Kings: Orlando Pace, John Hicks, Korey Stringer and Paris Johnson Jr. Selected As Ohio State’s Four Greatest Offensive Tackles

By Dan Hope and Matt Gutridge on July 30, 2023 at 8:35 am
Orlando Pace, John Hicks, Korey Stringer and Paris Johnson Jr.

Who are Ohio State’s four greatest players of all-time at each position? We’re asking Eleven Warriors readers to help us decide.

After highlighting the four greatest guards and centers in program history in the third installment of Four Kings, we’re going back to the offensive line in the seventh installment of the series to take a look at Ohio State’s best offensive tackles ever.

While Ohio State has had All-American offensive tackles dating back more than 100 years, the first choice this week was overwhelmingly obvious, as Orlando Pace was such a unanimous choice that he broke our voting percentage formula. John Hicks and Korey Stringer also made the top four at OT by a comfortable margin, while Paris Johnson Jr. edged out Taylor Decker in a battle of two active NFL players for the fourth and final spot on the “Mount Rushmore.”

It’s time for a closer look at why those four offensive tackles can be considered the best blocking bookends in program history. After highlighting those Four Kings, we also take a look at some of the other offensive tackles who garnered consideration from our voters and Eleven Warriors’ Dan Hope and Matt Gutridge share their individual ballots with their rationale for each pick.

Orlando Pace (1994-96)

Theoretically, no player was supposed to receive more than 25% of the total vote at any position in our Four Kings balloting. Pace ran through that barrier the same way he pancaked defensive linemen throughout his Ohio State career, receiving 25.4% of the total votes as some readers who voted for Pace chose to vote for only Pace or less than four total offensive tackles.

It’s hard to argue with Pace receiving each and every one of those votes, as he’s not only the best offensive tackle in Ohio State history but arguably the best offensive lineman in college football history.

Just the second true freshman in Ohio State history to start a season opener, Pace became an immediate star in his first year as a Buckeye, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He followed that up with back-to-back All-American seasons in which he became the first and still-only two-time winner of the Rotary Lombardi Award. In his final season as a Buckeye, Pace also won the Outland Trophy as college football’s best lineman, won the Silver Football as the Big Ten’s MVP and finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

The then-St. Louis Rams selected “The Pancake Man” with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft. Pace went on to make seven Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, one year after he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, making him one of just three Ohio State players ever (along with fellow offensive lineman Jim Parker and two-way lineman Bill Willis) to be inducted in both Halls of Fame.

John Hicks (1970-73)

The only offensive lineman in the two-platoon era to finish higher in Heisman Trophy balloting than Pace, Hicks made history in 1973 when he finished second in the Heisman race behind Penn State running back John Cappelletti.

Hicks won both the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy that year, when he earned first-team All-American honors for the second year in a row. In three total seasons as Ohio State’s starting right tackle, Hicks led the Buckeyes to a 28-3-1 record and became the first player ever to start in three Rose Bowls.

Hicks was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He was selected by the New York Giants with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1974 NFL draft.

Korey Stringer (1992-94)

When Pace started his Ohio State career in 1994, he had a great blueprint to follow for Buckeye offensive tackle greatness in Stringer.

Like Pace, Stringer won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award as a freshman before going on to earn first-team All-American honors as both a sophomore and junior. He too won the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year award in each of his final two seasons as a Buckeye and was named team MVP after his junior season.

The three-year Ohio State starter at right tackle was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the No. 24 overall pick in the 1995 NFL draft. He went on to be a six-year starter in Minnesota, earning Pro Bowl honors in his sixth NFL season in 2000 before tragically dying when he suffered heatstroke during Vikings training camp in 2001.

Paris Johnson Jr. (2020-22)

Johnson was only a starting offensive tackle at Ohio State for one year, but his dominant play last season was enough for him to earn the nod from Eleven Warriors readers as Ohio State’s fourth-best offensive tackle ever.

In his lone season as Ohio State’s left tackle, Johnson was a consensus first-team All-American and a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. A stalwart pass-blocker who also brought plenty of run-blocking ability to the Buckeyes’ offense, Johnson was so impressive in that one season that he was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, becoming Ohio State’s highest-drafted offensive lineman since Pace.

Johnson also started at right guard for the Buckeyes in 2021, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors despite playing away from his natural position.

Honorable Mentions

Top 10 Offensive Tackles by Votes
Offensive Tackle Percentage of Ballots
JOHN HICKS 78.2% (258 VOTES)
Note: All percentages were multiplied by four
from their vote totals since each voter was able
to vote for up to four players.

The only other offensive tackle to receive triple-digit votes in our balloting was Taylor Decker, who helped lead the Buckeyes to a national championship as Ohio State’s starting left tackle in 2014 and followed that up by earning consensus All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2015.

Chris Ward, a two-time consensus All-American and three-time All-Big Ten honoree as Ohio State’s starting left tackle who is currently in his sixth year as a finalist for the College Football Hall of Fame, received the sixth-most votes among offensive tackles.

Dave Foley, who became Ohio State’s first unanimous All-American offensive tackle during the Buckeyes’ 1968 national championship season, finished seventh in the voting. He was followed by Chuck Csuri, who earned All-American honors in 1942 and went on to accomplish far more beyond football as a Bronze Star honoree in World War II and an Ohio State professor who was known as “the father of computer art.”

Rufus Mayes, who formed an All-American tackle tandem with Foley in 1968, received the ninth-most votes. 2013 All-American Jack Mewhort rounded out the top 10.

Dan’s Picks

Orlando Pace, John Hicks, Korey Stringer and Chris Ward

Pace was and will be the easiest selection in this entire series. Hicks’ historically great Heisman finish made him a no-brainer choice, too. Add in Stringer’s back-to-back Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year awards, and there’s really only one spot worth debating this week.

In my opinion, that spot should belong to Ward, who could become a clearer top-four choice if he ends up getting the call to the College Football Hall of Fame. While Johnson was a great Ohio State left tackle for one year, Ward was one of the best left tackles in the country for three years, making him well worthy of legendary status alongside Pace, Hicks and Stringer.

Matt’s Picks

Orlando Pace, John Hicks, Korey Stringer and Taylor Decker

Like the readers and Dan, I found picking Orlando Pace, John Hicks and Korey Stringer as the top three offensive tackles to be easy. The fourth spot had me playing mental gymnastics between Chuck Csuri, Taylor Decker, Dave Foley and Chris Ward.

Decker was my choice because the Buckeyes won 50 games and the national title during the four years he played in Columbus. The first-round NFL draft pick of the Detroit Lions helped the Buckeyes average 6.8 yards per carry in 2013 and 5.7 ypc in 2014, which were the two highest averages in school history at the time.

Photo of Orlando Pace via Matthew Emmons – USA TODAY Sports
Photo of John Hicks via Ohio State Dept. of Athletics

Photo of Korey Stringer via RVR Photos – USA TODAY Sports

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