Urban Meyer’s first four-year cycle at Ohio State came to an unofficial end this past weekend.
The 2016 NFL Draft was the final Buckeye-related stop for anyone who saw the field on Meyer’s first team at Ohio State in 2012.
The three-day draft was a pretty awesome exclamation point for those first four years, as Meyer saw 12 of his former players get drafted - five of which went in the first round, 10 of which went in the first three rounds - and three more, so far, sign undrafted free agent contracts.
Thinking about all that talent that’s come through Columbus during Meyer’s first four years, we’ve decided to put together an all-time Ohio State team comprised of the players he’s coached.
Who’s the best QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, LB, S, etc. to play for Meyer in Columbus so far?
I try to answer that.
So here’s an all-time Meyer roster. It includes 11 offensive players (QB, RB, 3 WRs, TE, 2 OTs, 2 OGs, C), 11 defensive players (2 DEs, 2 DTs, 3 LBs, 2 CBs, 2 Ss), a K, P, KR and PR.
I’m basing these selections on what the players were like when they played for him, not taking into account anything they’ve done in the NFL. Think of it like this: which players were most consistently at the highest level of play at their position under Meyer?
Quarterback - Braxton Miller
Other options: J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones
Barrett set a bunch of Big Ten records and Jones led Meyer to his only national championship at Ohio State, but Miller’s actually a pretty easy pick here. Of course, we're talking about the Miller with a healthy shoulder, the one we saw for two seasons under Meyer.
He’s still, in my opinion, the most important player of the Meyer era, the one who set the tone for everything that’s happened since. The Buckeyes won it all without him during the 2014 season, but I don’t know if they win that if not for what Miller did to help elevate the program in ‘12 and ‘13.
Miller was - by far - Ohio State’s best player during the 2012 and ‘13 seasons, winning back-to-back Big Ten MVP awards.
He did stuff like this on a regular basis.
The fact that we no longer get to watch him play quarterback is a little depressing.
Running Back - Ezekiel Elliott
Other option: Carlos Hyde
Deciding between Elliott and Hyde was probably the toughest one vs. one call, but I think when they were both at their best, ‘Zeke was a little better.
This is best evidenced by Ohio State’s 2014 national championship run, when Elliott rushed for 220 yards in the Big Ten Championship Game vs. Wisconsin, 230 yards in the Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama and 246 yards in the College Football Playoff title game vs. Oregon.
Elliott’s also responsible for the signature play of the Meyer era.
They make T-shirts about that play. How could I not have Zeke as the starting RB?
Wide Receivers - Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Corey ‘Philly’ Brown
Other options: Evan Spencer, Braxton Miller, Jalin Marshall
The three picked are basically a perfect wide receivers’ trio.
You’ve got a ridiculous deep threat in Smith, a big wideout who makes the tough catches in Thomas and a speedy slot threat in Brown.
Smith was easily the player Ohio State missed the most during the 2015 season. If the Buckeyes had him back, they might’ve won another national title.
Leaving Spencer off would probably be tough for Meyer, who constantly raved about his development, leadership and blocking ability.
Tight End - Jeff Heuerman
Other options: Jake Stoneburner, Nick Vannett
Stoneburner was one of the most athletic tight ends to ever play at Ohio State and Vannett’s development was admirable, but Heuerman’s the clear choice.
He’s been the most productive tight end to play for Meyer in Columbus.
Heuerman snagged 51 passes for 698 yards and seven touchdowns from 2012-14.
Offensive Line - OTs: Taylor Decker, Jack Mewhort; OGs: Pat Elflein, Andrew Norwell; C: Corey Linsley
Other options: Marcus Hall, Jacoby Boren
I’m not sure if anything has developed more over Meyer’s tenure in Columbus than the offensive line.
The Buckeyes’ 2013 offensive line was probably the best of the four and four of those five starting offensive linemen - Decker, Mewhort, Norwell, Linsley - are represented here.
The fifth - Elflein - is a two-time All-Big Ten performer and a probable All-American in the 2016 season.
Defensive Line: Joey Bosa, John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, Noah Spence
Other options: Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett
Bosa, the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is choice No. 1 here, and a really easy one at that.
Spence’s inclusion might be a little debated, since he was dismissed from the program following his sophomore season, but he’s still a player Meyer refers to as “elite.” The difference between him and Bosa on the field is marginal, at best.
Hankins is the best true defensive tackle to have played for Meyer at OSU. He was an All-American in his final season and a second round pick by the New York Giants in 2013.
From a talent standpoint, the final spot might be deserved by Bennett, but Simon is possibly Meyer’s favorite player, ever, besides Tim Tebow.
Simon would be a little undersized constantly playing defensive tackle, but I can’t leave him off.
Linebackers - Ryan Shazier, Darron Lee, Joshua Perry
Other options: Raekwon McMillan, Zach Boren
Shazier and Lee are two of the biggest freaks to play linebacker in the history of the Big Ten. They’re both defensive back-fast along with being extremely powerful.
Playing together. It’d be unfair.
And there’d be no more perfect counterpart to those two than Perry, a stalwart who seemed to embody everything you’d want a linebacker to.
Defensive Backs - Bradley Roby, Vonn Bell, Christian Bryant, Eli Apple
Other options: Doran Grant, Tyvis Powell
Roby and Bryant led the Buckeyes’ secondary during Meyer’s first two seasons in Columbus and Apple and Bell did it the last two.
Both Roby and Apple went on to be first round picks in the NFL Draft, with the latter going No. 10 overall last Thursday.
">April 29, 2016
">April 29, 2016
Bryant over Powell might not be a popular choice, especially because it gives this lineup a pretty small safeties’ unit, but I like the leadership and toughness Bryant would bring to the defense.
Kicker - Drew Basil
Meyer hasn’t really had - or needed - a great kicker during his time in Columbus, but Basil was solid.
He played in 52 career games and was the starter from his freshman year through his senior year.
Punter - Cameron Johnston
What was said about the kicking position can be said about the punting position - Meyer really doesn’t like to punt all that much.
Johnston’s great when he does, though, and could have a future in the NFL.
Kick Returner - Jordan Hall
Hall is one of the most prolific kick returners in Ohio State history, ranking in the top-five all-time in number of kickoff returns (4th; 49), kickoff return yardage (3rd; 1,308) and average kickoff return (5th; 26.7).
Punt Returner - Corey ‘Philly’ Brown
The only player to get two spots on this team, Brown was pretty great as a punt returner.
His most memorable one?
Probably this 2012 return against Wisconsin.
QB - Braxton Miller
RB - Ezekiel Elliott
WRs - Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Corey 'Philly' Brown
TE - Jeff Heuerman
OL - Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein, Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort
DL - Joey Bosa, Jonathan Hankins, Michael Bennett, Noah Spence
LBs - Darron Lee, Joshua Perry, Ryan Shazier
DBs - Bradley Roby, Vonn Bell, Christian Bryant, Eli Apple
K - Drew Basil
P - Cameron Johnston
KR - Jordan Hall
PR - Corey 'Philly' Brown