Here at Buckeyes Wire, been going through putting an all-time roster together of former Ohio State players and it’s been a tough nut to crack (pun intended). We started with the offense, then moved over to the defensive side of the ball.
With so many great players to choose from that have worn the scarlet and gray, there are some really, really good players that were in consideration, that could have made the team, but were left off. It’s how things go when you have to choose from the best of the best at a place like Ohio State.
Now that we’ve taken a stab at both sides of the ball with former players, we are now turning our attention to special teams and the coaches that have been on the sideline for the Buckeyes. And with it, we’re taking a little different tact and not picking coaches that did amazing things while on the banks of the Olentangy, but looking at the big picture and pulling guys that went on to do great things at OSU and then beyond.
Unless you know your Ohio State assistant coaching history from pretty far back, some of these may surprise you. If we could pick any of the coaches that used to coach at OSU, here’s what we would come up with as an all-time coaching roster along with the specialists that we’d have taking their direction.
Check out our other College Wire all-time lineups: Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | Clemson | Colorado | Florida | Georgia | Iowa | LSU | Michigan | Nebraska | North Carolina | Oklahoma | Oregon | Penn State | Rutgers | Tennessee | Texas | Texas A&M | USC | Wisconsin
Starting Kicker: Mike Nugent
Sep 11, 2004; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes kicker #85 Mike Nugent gets congratulated by teammate #89 Stan White Jr after kicking a 55-yard game-winning field goal against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 24-21. Credit: Photo by Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports (©) Copyright 2004 by Matthew Emmons
Mike Nugent was so automatic, that he received a push for the Heisman and was a consensus All-American in 2004. He’s the absolute best to ever kick the ball through the uprights for Ohio State.
Backup Kicker: Lou Groza
Unknown date; Cleveland, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Cleveland Browns kicker Lou Groza (76) in action. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
I mean, when a kicking award is named after you, you are pretty good. Yeah, he only played on the freshman team at OSU before enlisting in the Army for WWII, but we’re counting it and taking him as a Buckeye.
Starting Punter: Tom Skladany
— Tom Adelsberg (@ShhhTAdelsberg) June 24, 2021
Many consider Tom Skladany to be one of the two best punters ever, the other being Ray Guy.
Backup Punter: Tom Tupa
I see your punter and raise you Ohio State punter/QB Tom Tupa pic.twitter.com/kZTerxOlyE
— Jim (@Bigtenman77) January 10, 2020
Tom Tupa could boom the ball and was an All-American his senior season. He was also the starting QB for Ohio State in 1987 and went on to punt and throw touchdown passes in the NFL. He was a “dual-threat” quarterback before it became the way of the position, just in a different way.
Starting Kick Returner: Ted Ginn Jr.
Oct 28, 2006; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback (10) Troy Smith, receivers (7) Ted Ginn Jr, and (11) Anthony Gonzalez get the call from head coach Jim Tressel against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes beat the Golden Gopher 44-0. Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports © copyright Matthew Emmons
Nobody had more kick return touchdowns than Ginn at Ohio State. There was fast, then there was Ginn fast.
Backup Kick Returner: Ken-Yon Rambo
3 Oct 1998: Wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs with the ball during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 28-9. Credit: Vincent Laf
Rambo never reached his full potential at receiver but was one of the best to ever return kicks at Ohio State. He was fast and elusive. We hear that’s important for a kick returner.
Head Coach 1: Woody Hayes
Oct 1973, Columbus, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Woody Hayes talks to offensive guard Richard W. Mack (69) at Ohio Stadium during the 1973 season. Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Woody was responsible for five national titles and 13 Big Ten titles while running the show at Ohio State. He made the Buckeye program one of the tops in the country and kept it there for a long time. No other OSU coach is close when it comes to longevity, national titles, and the number of games won. He has a statue built of him and that usually counts for something.
Offensive Coordinator: Ryan Day
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day watches during the spring football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on April 16, 2022. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network
The current head coach has ushered in the most explosive offenses Ohio State has ever seen. But before he was wearing the headset, he was running the show from the press box as offensive coordinator. He’s one of the best offensive minds and an elite play-caller.
Defensive Coordinator: Fred Pagac
Nov 11, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebackers coach Fred Pagac runs drills with players before the game with the Detroit Lions at the Metrodome. The Vikings win 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Believe it or not, defenses used to rule the day in the 90s, and Ohio State had an attacking and destructive style under Pagac. We don’t know if it would work today, but he’d find a way to disrupt offenses with both college and NFL experience.
Assistant Coach 1: Larry Johnson
Aug 4, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson leads drills during the first fall football practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch
Larry Johnson is arguably the best defensive line coach ever. He’s still getting it done today and is one of the main reasons Ohio State keeps getting and producing outstanding defensive linemen, especially on the edge. Penn State made a mistake letting him go to Columbus where he’s only gotten better with age.
Assistant Coach 2: Mike Vrabel
September 3, 2011; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebackers coach Mike Vrabel instructs defensive back Chris Maxwell (37) against the Akron Zips at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 42-0. Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Vrabel took his playing career and turned it into being a fantastic coach. First on the sidelines at Ohio State, and is now in the NFL making a name for himself.
Assistant Coach 3: Lou Holtz
Apr 15, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Former Ohio State Buckeyes assistant coach Lou Holtz prior to the annual spring game at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Before Holtz won a national title at Notre Dame and directed one of the most storied programs in the history of college football, he prowled the sidelines at Ohio State as an assistant. We’ll take all that experience, motivating speeches, and hardware, and turn him loose.
Assistant Coach 4: Nick Saban
Nov 9, 2019; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban reacts to a call during the second half of an NCAA college football game against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. LSU won 46-41. Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Surprise! Some of you know this, but other younger fans may not. Before Nick Saban was putting a resume together to be the greatest college football coach of all time he was on the sidelines at Ohio State as the defensive backs coach in 1980 and 1981. Need we say more?
Coaches Honorable Mention
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer watches a scoreboard replay during a game against Minnesota at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 7, 2015. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)
Urban Meyer (1 national title, 7-0 vs. Michigan, 3 Big Ten championships)
Jim Tressel (1 national title, 9-1 vs. Michigan, 6 Big Ten championships)
Paul Brown (first OSU national title, Pro Football Hall of Fame member)
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