July 19, 2010
In our ongoing series, we have already looked at the following positions: wide receiver, linebacker, offensive line, defensive back, fullback and tight end, defensive line, quarterback, and specialists.
The rich tradition of Ohio State football includes All-Americans at every position. Still, the signature position, at least in the minds of most fans, is tailback. For that reason, we have saved this spot for last, and conclude our series by looking at the 10 greatest halfbacks in Buckeye history.
10. Michael Wiley
He burst onto the scene in 1996, scoring three long touchdowns in his first game as a true freshman, and went on to rush for nearly 3,000 yards in his career, averaging close to six yards per carry. Dangerous as a receiver, too, Wiley was a home run hitter who was always a threat to take it to the house.
9. Raymont Harris
This big guy nicknamed himself "The Ultraback" because of his versatility, and though he played for John Cooper, there is no doubt Woody Hayes would have loved Raymont's power and durability. As a senior, he ran for 1,344 yards, and ranks 10th on the Buckeye career rushing list.
8. Antonio Pittman
Pittman had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, before bolting early for the NFL. All told, Antonio rushed for 2,945 yards in his career, but was often overshadowed by Troy Smith, Teddy Ginn, and company.
7. Robert Smith
When he arrived as a freshman in 1990, it was with lofty expectations, and Smith immediately delivered. Until Maurice Clarret came along, it could be argued that Smith was the most impressive first-year runner in OSU history. Although he only played two seasons, Robert excited fans with his speed, which Indiana coach Bill Mallory described as a "rocket in his butt."
6. Tim Spencer
Sometimes overlooked in discussions of best Buckeye tailbacks, Spencer was a force in the early '80s and still ranks third on the career rushing list with 3,553 yards.
5. Chris "Beanie" Wells
Blessed with an amazing combination of size and speed, Beanie rushed for 1,609 yards as a sophomore, including two 200-yard games. He might have been the front-runner for the Heisman his junior year if not for injuries, but still topped 1,000 yards before heading to the NFL early.
4. Howard "Hopalong" Cassady
The only one on this list I didn't get to see personally, Cassady was a shifty, speedy runner, who scored three touchdowns in his first game at OSU, led the team to a National Championship in 1954, and won the Heisman Trophy in '55.
3. Keith Byars
Big Keith was a massive running back who looked like he should have been on the defensive line, but had amazingly quick feet. He rushed for 1,764 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior, including a five-touchdown game against Illinois, tying Pete Johnson's team record. Many in college football circles thought he deserved the Heisman that season, but Byars finished second to Doug Flutie. Unfortunately, a broken bone in his right foot kept him from competing for the Heisman as a senior.
2. Eddie George
Tall, strong, and fast, Eddie had a body that looked like it was chiseled out of stone. Although he was plagued by fumble problems early in his career, he went on to rush for 3,768 career yards. His senior season featured a 300-yard game against Illinois (the only in Buckeye history) and two 200-yard games. George finished that season with 1,927 yards, 47 catches, and 25 total touchdowns, which allowed him to bag a ton of hardware, including the Heisman.
1. Archie Griffin
A local legend from Columbus, Archie unexpectedly found himself carrying the ball in the second game of his freshman year, and ended that contest with 239 yards. The only player to lead Ohio State in rushing for four straight seasons, Archie is also the only player in college history to win the Heisman Trophy twice. Possessing quick feet, patience, and an uncanny ability to read blocks, he completed his career with a Buckeye-record 5,589 yards.
Players who were considered but missed the cut: Pepe Pearson, Cal Murray, Carlos Snow, Maurice Clarett, Jeff Logan, Ron Springs, and Jonathan Wells. Other excellent runners like Jim Otis, Bob Ferguson, and John Brockington were included in the list of best fullbacks.
Hope you enjoyed this series, which reminds all Buckeye fans how blessed we have been with great players wearing scarlet and gray through the years.