Antonio Smith was perhaps the biggest surprise on the great 2006 team. As a former walk-on, he earned everything he got, and he earned a lot.
Smith was a stand-out student, and he brought that work ethic to the grid iron.
Not only did he go from a walk-on to a starting corner back on defense as a senior, he earned 1st Team All-Big Ten honors after recording 71 tackles (3rd on the team), 10 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and2 interceptions.
He busted his ass for four years to even get the chance to see the field, and he made the most of it when he got his chance.
On and off the football field, Antonio Smith is the perfect example of hard work and dedication paying off.
He has even bounced around in the NFL after graduating.
Oh yeah, and he is here today to remind us that there are 14 days left until Ohio State football.
That is two weeks, if you are counting.
The Buckeye Battle Cry will be counting down the Top 25 players of the past decade all spring/summer. Every Monday and Thursday, Jim will be announcing a new player. Our #1 player will be presented on Monday, August 30th. Three days later, the 2010 season officially begins. To view the previous entries in our Top 25, click here.
As a strong safety for the Buckeyes, Donte Whitner was a heat seeking missile locked on to any apposing player who was unfortunate enough to be holding the ball. His ability to “bring the wood” was a joy to watch and what every Buckeye fan hopes to see from the Silver Bullet defense.
The only potential knock on Whitner was that his time as a starter was artificially shortened by his entry into the draft, but oh what a time it was.
Whitner showed flashes of greatness in 2004, a year in which he recorded 69 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 interception. Despite these numbers, good enough to be the 4th leading tackler on the team, 2004 as a whole was a disappointing year for the Buckeyes, overshadowing any individual achievements.
If 2004 was a the year that Whitner showed flashes, 2005 was certainly the pinnacle of his Buckeye career. To top things off, 2005 was an excellent year overall for the Buckeyes, culminating in the highly enjoyable beat down of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
The 2005 team that went to the Fiesta Bowl was one of the best teams that Ohio State has fielded in the past decade, and the defense that shut down the vaunted Notre Dame offense, with Whitner as one of its leaders and stars, was one of the best ever. Read More
The Buckeye Battle Cry will be counting down the Top 25 players of the past decade all spring/summer. Every Monday through May and June, Jim will be announcing a new player. Starting in July, we will be announcing new additions on Monday and Thursday. Our #1 player will be presented on Monday, August 30th. Three days later, the 2010 season officially begins. For a look at the rest of the Top 25, click here.
LeCharles Bentley is another stand out center that was a two year starter for the Buckeyes. In 2001, Bentley was named a First-Team All-American as well as a First-Team All-Big Ten player.
For his efforts on the field in 2001, Bentley was also awarded the Rimington trophy, which has been presented to the “most outstanding” center in college football since 2000.
Bentley was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2002 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. He went on to have an outstanding rookie season at guard in which he was named the offensive rookie of the year by Sports Illustrated. He was also named to the all rookie team by Pro Football Weekly.
He followed up his outstanding rookie campaign by being named to the Pro Bowl in 2003, 2004 (alternate), and 2005. Bentley signed with his hometown Cleveland Browns in 2006, unfortunately for him and the city, injuries and complications prevented him from ever suiting up in a game for the Browns.
Despite his career being cut short, Bentley was clearly one of the best lineman in college football and in the NFL when he was healthy.
Slightly off topic, but between Mangold and Bentley, Ohio State has produced two of the finest centers college football has seen in the last ten years. Unfortunately, beyond the pair Ohio State’s offensive line has been below average, at least for Ohio State’s lofty standards. Hopefully that trend will be reversed this year from what looks like the best offensive line in the Tressel era.
Back on topic.
For his All-American and All-Big Ten season in 2001, as well as his short but Pro Bowl caliber NFL career, LeCharles Bentley is 21 on our countdown of the top 25 Buckeyes of the decade.
The Buckeye Battle Cry will be counting down the Top 25 players of the past decade all spring/summer. Every Monday through May and June, Jim will be announcing a new player. Starting in July, we will be announcing new additions on Monday and Thursday. Our #1 player will be presented on Monday, August 30th. Three days later, the 2010 season officially begins.
Clements is a player that is hurt by the fact that he just barely made it into the decade we are looking at.
Also hurting him are the teams he started on,which had the worst back to back seasons at Ohio State in two decades.
Despite these setbacks, Clements was undoubtedly one of the most talented players to wear the scarlet and gray over the past ten years, and a key player that helped establish Ohio State as a factory for first round cornerbacks.
Clements was named First Team All-Big Ten during his junior year in 2000, after which he declared for the draft. He was drafted 21st overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2001 NFL draft.
A large part of Clements story over the past decade has been his NFL career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2004, and in 2007 he signed what was at the time the largest contract ever for a defensive player in the NFL.
For his All-Big Ten season in 2000, his elite level of talent, and for representing Ohio State so well in the NFL for almost a decade, Nate Clements checks in at number twenty-three on our countdown.
Matt Wilhelm checks in at number 25 on our countdown of the top players of the decade.
He was an All-American and All-Big Ten performer in 2002 and was one of the leaders on the dominating defense that helped lead the Buckeyes to a National Championship.
Wilhelm led the team in tackles in 2002 with 121, but perhaps more impressively, he had 19.5 tackles for loss that year, good for the 6th best season in Ohio State history.
Being in the backfield characterized Wilhelm as a player. He was always attacking, always in the backfield, and even if he didn’t make the tackle, he was going to hit someone or something to disrupt the offense.
Wilhelm also has the 6th most career tackles for loss at Ohio State with 43.5, showing that his aggressive style of play was his signature throughout his three years starting at middle linebacker.
He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2003 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers, and is currently active with the San Francisco 49ers.
For his All-American and All-Big Ten season in 2002 and his key role on the national championship defense, as well as an ultra-aggressive style of play that made him one of my personal favorite Buckeyes of the decade, Matt Wilhelm earned his spot at number 25 on our countdown.
As promised, here is a look at various ten year periods of Ohio State football.
I threw this one in mostly for fun and cheated by including 2002. Even with that, this ten year period is behind in all categories… but not by much.
The record against Michigan and in bowl games, as well as a lack of Big Ten championships, is what really brings this decade down a notch. Read More
In order to help us get through the long summer months, we will be starting a countdown of the top 25 Buckeyes of the decade (2000-2009).
The staff submitted their ballots and the votes have been tallied. We will unveil a new Buckeye in the countdown once a week and as the season approaches the frequency may increase (I haven’t done the exact math to figure out how this is going to work out).
We will only be covering football players for this countdown, even though Ohio State has had some fine basketball players over the last decade as well, sorry Evan Turner.
One thing to note is that we didn’t really define what it means to be in the “Top 25 Buckeyes of the Decade.”
Do you measure on the field accomplishments? wins and losses? statistics? post season accolades? who you’d want most on this year’s team?
In the end, it is a mix of all of the above and then some, which means that different people will have different opinions about this list. We tried to eliminate some of the individual biases by polling all five writers here at the BBC, and I have to say I am happy with the results. However, by no means is this list definitive, so feel free to chime in with your thoughts.
And with that, here are the guys that didn’t quite make the cut for the top 25, but did receive votes, making them worthy of an honorable mention. Read More