The Ohio State Football All-Decade Teams Face Off: 1990s vs. 2000s vs. 2010s

 

 

Two National Championships. Ten BCS Bowl games. Three National College Football Playoffs. 14 Big Ten Championships. Three Rose Bowls. A 19-10-1 record against Michigan. 

 

These are the stats over 30 years of Ohio State football that encompassed the coaching tenures of John Cooper, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, and the beginning of Ryan Day, with a faint splash of Luke Fickell. The teams also encompassed starpower: 63 different players named All-Americans nearly 100 times overall in this span. The talent comprised different strengths and talents at different times throughout this stretch, but never experienced any significant dropoff for more than a year or so. 

 

With this glut of talent at OSU over the last three decades, how would one compare the best players of the three decades individually. It got us interested in evaluating the All-Decade teams from each. So here is our comparison between the All-Decade Ohio State Football teams from the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s:

 

Quarterback:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: None

  • 2000s: Troy Smith

  • 2010s: None

Other significant players;

  • 1990s: Joe Germaine, Bobby Hoying, Kent Graham

  • 2000s: Terrelle Pryor, Craig Krenzel, Todd Boeckman

  • 2010s: Dwayne Haskins, Braxton Miller, Justin Fields, JT Barrett

 

It’s hard to compare across eras at QB, but the 50 touchdowns of Dwayne Haskins, the athleticism of Braxton Miller, the TD-to-interception ratio of Justin Fields, and the longevity of JT Barrett give the 2010s the edge over the 2000s as a unit. While Troy Smith was Ohio State’s one quarterback All-American over the three decades, and its lone QB Heisman winner, the 2010s are the only decade that saw four Ohio State quarterbacks finish in the top five in the Heisman voting.

 

Winner: 2010s; Second place: 2000s

Overall best player: Troy Smith

 

 

Running Back:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Eddie George

  • 2000s: None

  • 2010s: Ezekiel Elliott

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Robert Smith, Pepe Pearson, Michael Wiley, Raymont Harris

  • 2000s: Chris “Beanie” Wells, Maurice Clarrett, Antonio Pittman, Jonathan Wells

  • 2010s: JK Dobbins, Carlos Hyde, Dan Herron

 

Based on the starters alone, this is a nearly impossible decision. Eddie George’s 1995 season was the best in school history. Zeke’s run in 2014 and 2015 was the best two-year stretch since Archie Griffin. And Beanie Wells may have eclipsed even that had he not been hurt for most of 2008. Even at the second string this is a close race: Maurice Clarrett, had he stayed healthy, might have been an all-timer, and JK Dobbins has been beastly of late.

 

Winner: 2010s; Second place: 2000s

Overall best player: Ezekiel Elliott

 

 

Wide receiver:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, David Boston, Jeff Graham

  • 2000s: Ted Ginn

  • 2010s: Curtis Samuel

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Ken Yon Rambo, Dee Miller, Dimitrious Stanley

  • 2000s: Santonio Holmes, Michael Jenkins, Devier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher, Brian Robiske, Brian Hartline, Anthony Gonzalez

  • 2010s: Michael Thomas, Devin Smith, KJ Hill, Parris Campbell, Philly Brown, Terry McLaurin, Ben Victor

 

While Michael Thomas is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL today, the 2010s receivers’ corps is one of the most flawed groups on this list. Curtis Samuel’s 2016 season was impressive, Devin Smith’s emergence as a deep threat in 2014 was transformational, and KJ Hill’s longevity allowed him to set the all-time Ohio State receiving record in a pass-happy era. Still, the top-end talent of receivers in the earlier eras was even stronger. The athleticism of Galloway, Glenn, and David Boston that anchored the John Cooper teams of the 1990s is hard to beat, though a combination of Ted Ginn, Santonio Holmes, and Michael Jenkins, flanked by the reliability of workmanlike receivers like Brian Hartline and Anthony Gonzalez makes the 2000s group quite a deep corps in its own right.

 

Winner: 1990s; Second: 2000s

Best overall player: Ted Ginn

 

 

 

Tight End:

 

All-Americans: None

 

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: John Lumpkin

  • 2000s: Jake Stoneburner, Ben Hartsock, Ryan Hamby

  • 2010s: Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett, Marcus Baugh

 

Tight end has been a consistently serviceable, but overall weak position at Ohio State for a long time. There haven’t been many OSU superstar tight ends. The 2014 National Title team featured the tandem of Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett, but the best overall tight end on the list might have been Jake Stoneburner, a Tressel recruit.

 

Winner: 2010s; Second place: 2000s

Best overall player: Jake Stoneburner

 

 

Fullback:

 

All-Americans: None

 

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Matt Keller

  • 2000s: Jamar Martin, Brandon Joe

  • 2010s: Justin Boren

 

There's not much to say about the Ohio State fullbacks, but for the fact that Urban Meyer all but eliminated the position at Ohio State. The 1990s and 2000s brought some good blockers at the position. 

 

Winner: 1990s; Second place: 2000s

Best overall player: Matt Keller

 

 

Offensive Line:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Orlando Pace, Korey Stringer, Rob Murphy

  • 2000s: Nick Mangold, LeCharles Bentley, Alex Stepanavich, Alex Boone, Kirk Barton, Mike Brewster

  • 2010s: Jack Mewhort, Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein, Billy Price, Michael Jordan

 

Offensive line has been a strong position for Ohio State over the last three decades. The lines under Urban Meyer have been deep and consistent with several strong NFL players. The lines of the 2000s were spotty at times, but produced a boatload of All-Americans. And the lines of the 1990s included the greatest offensive lineman of all time, Orlando Pace.

 

Winner: 1990s; Second place: 2010s

Best overall player: Orlando Pace

 

 

Special teams:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: None

  • 2000s: Andy Groom, Mike Nugent

  • 2010s: None

 

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Dan Stultz, Josh Jackson

  • 2000s: Ryan Pretorius, Devin Barclay, Josh Huston, BJ Sander,

  • 2010s: Drew Basil, Sean Neurnberger

 

Ohio State’s special teams play peaked in the Jim Tressel era, with the strongest collection of kickers, punters, and returners of any era on this list.

 

Winners: 2000s; Second place: 2010s

Best overall player: Mike Nugent

 

 

Defensive Ends:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Mike Vrabel, Matt Finkes

  • 2000s: Vernon Gholston, Will Smith

  • 2010s: Joey Bosa, Chase Young, Nick Bosa

 

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Jason Simmons, Rodney Bailey

  • 2000s: David Thompson, Jay Richardson

  • 2010s: Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, John Simon, Noah Spence

 

Ohio State’s defensive line play was good in the 1990s, great in the 2000s, and has been on another plane of excellence in the 2010s. The edge rushers of the Urban Meyer era have been high-speed dominant forces, led at the top by the powerful trio of Joey and Nick Bosa and Chase Young, flanked by other superstars like Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis.

 

Winner: 2010s; Second place: 2000s

Best overall player: Joey Bosa

 

 

Interior Defensive Linemen:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Dan Wilkinson,

  • 2000s: Tim Anderson, Quinn Pitcock

  • 2010s: Jonathan Hankins, Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Dre’mont Jones

 

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Winfield Garnett, Luke Fickell

  • 2000s: Kenny Peterson, Cameron Heyward, Thaddeus Gibson

  • 2010s:

 

Ohio State’s interior defensive line elevated from a strength in the 2000s to a game-changing force in the 2010s. Strong, fast players like Jonathan Hankins, Michael Bennett, and Dre’mont Jones have changed the face of the position over the last several years:

 

Winner: 2010s; Second place: 2000s

Best overall player: Dan Wilkinson

 

 

 

Linebackers:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Andy Katzenmoyer, Na’il Diggs, Steve Tovar

  • 2000s: AJ Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Matt Wilhelm

  • 2010s: Ryan Shazier, Raekwon McMillan

 

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Ryan Miller

  • 2000s: Bobby Carpenter, Brian Rolle, Joe Cooper, Marcus Freeman

  • 2010s: Jerome Baker

 

Andy Katzenmoyer was a generational talent, but the strongest linebacking collective was the continuum of dominance under Matt Wilhelm, AJ Hawk, James Laurinaitis, and Brian Rolle in the 2000s. The linebackers have been weak over the last decade, perhaps the weakest position group of the Urban Meyer era.

 

Winner: 2000s; Second place: 1990s

Best overall player: Andy Katzenmoyer

 

 

Cornerbacks:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield

  • 2000s: Nate Clements, Malcolm Jenkins, Chimdi Chekwa

  • 2010s: Bradley Roby, Denzel Ward

 

Other significant players:

  • 1990s: Ahmed Plummer

  • 2000s: Derek Ross, Chris Gamble

  • 2010s: Jeff Okudah, Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley

 

The top-end talent of Shawn Springs and Antoine Winfield anchored a dominant group of defensive backs in the 1990s, however the 2010s group has produced a broad and deep group of NFL talents.

 

Winner: 2010s; Second place: 1990s

Best overall player: Shawn Springs

 

 

Safeties:

 

All-Americans:

  • 1990s: Damon Moore

  • 2000s: Mike Doss, Will Allen, Donte Whitner, Kurt Coleman

  • 2010s: Malik Hooker, Vonn Bell, Sean Wade

 

No position encompasses the differences between Ohio State’s style of defense between the 2000s and 2010s better than safety. Malik Hooker was a dominant sideline-to-sideline force in pass protection, while Mike Doss was the best safety against the run in school history.

 

Winner: 2000s; Second place: 2010s

Best overall player: Malik Hooker

 

 

Total points tally:

 

  • 1990s: 13

  • 2000s: 23

  • 2010s: 24

 

So who would win if the three starting lineups faced each other?

 

1990s:

 

Offense:

QB Joe Germaine

RB Eddie George

WR Terry Glenn

WR David Boston

WR Joey Galloway

TE John Lumpkin

OL Orlando Pace

OL LeShun Daniels

C Kurt Murphy

OL Korey Stringer

OL Tyson Walter

 

Defense:

DE: Mike Vrabel

DE: Matt Finkes

DL: Dan Wilkinson

DL: Luke Fickell

LB: Andy Katzenmoyer

LB: Na’il Diggs

LB: Steve Tovar

DB: Shawn Springs

DB: Antoine Winfield

S: Damon Moore

S: Gary Berry

 

The 1990s team looks tremendously strong on offense, top to bottom. Only one offensive line spot would require even considering a non-generational talent to fill. Defensively the team would be weaker, with strong top-end talent but a few modest holes relative to the later teams at one spot each at defensive end, linebacker, and safety. The cornerbacks would be a strength.

 

 

 

2000s:

 

Offense:

QB Troy Smith

RB Chris “Beanie” Wells

WR Ted Ginn Jr.

WR Santonio Holmes

WR Michael Jenkins

TE Jake Stoneburner

OL Alex Stepanavich

OL LeCharles Bentley

C Nick Mangold

OL Kirk Barton

OL Mike Brewster

 

 

Defense:

DE: Will Smith

DE: Vernon Gholston

DL: Tim Anderson

DL: Quinn Pitcock

LB: James Laurinaitis

LB: AJ Hawk

LB: Matt Wilhelm

CB: Nate Clements

CB: Malcolm Jenkins

S: Mike Doss

S:  Donte Whitner

 

The 2000s team would be strong top-to-bottom on offense, with a moderately weaker offensive line the only possible cause for concern. On defense the 2000s team is solid if not exceptional at every position except linebacker, its strongest top-to-bottom unit.

 

 

2010s:

 

Offense:

QB Dwayne Haskins

RB Ezekiel Elliott

WR Michael Thomas

WR Devin Smith

WR Curtis Samuel

TE Jeff Heuerman

OL Jack Mewhort

OL Taylor Decker

C Billy Price

OL Pat Elflein

OL Michael Jordan

 

Defense:

DE Joey Bosa

DE Chase Young

DT Jonathan Hankins

DT Dre’mont Jones

LB Ryan Shazier

LB Raekwon McMillan

LB Jerome Baker

CB: Denzel Ward

CB: Marshon Lattimore

S: Malik Hooker

S: Vonn Bell

 

The 2010s team is tremendously strong on offense, with receiver the only group that could conceivably be questioned relative to the earlier teams. The defensive line would be a major anchor, with a strong defensive backfield, while the linebacking core would be the weakest top-to-bottom unit of any of the three teams.

 

So who would win? It could be close. The 2000s team would be solid and steady, while the 2010s and 1990s would each be dynamic in its own way. Both would give up some points to the other. A three-way game might yield a score of something in the neighborhood of 2010s 31, 2000s 27, 1990s 24.

 

 

 

 

 

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