When the Big Ten Network announced its All-Decade team last week it reminded me how many great players I have seen play against Ohio State in writing about OSU football since 1992.
So, I decided to make a list of the best players I’ve seen at each position based on how they played when they competed against Ohio State and on their overall careers. Call it my All-Opponents All-Three Decades Team.
Today, here’s my list of wide receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen:
1. Braylon Edwards (Michigan). 2. Sammy Watkins (Clemson). 3. Amari Cooper (Alabama). 4. Andre Johnson (Miami). 5. Rondale Moore (Purdue).
Honorable mention: Lee Evans (Wisconsin), Wes Welker (Texas Tech), Plaxico Burress (Michigan State), Bobby Engram (Penn State), Eric Decker (Minnesota), Tyler Johnson (Minnesota), Allen Robinson (Penn State), D’Wayne Bates (Northwestern).
Say what you want to about Edwards’ career with the Browns but he always produced a big game against Ohio State.
In 2002 he caught 10 passes for 107 yards in a 14-9 Ohio State win that sent the Buckeyes to the national championship game against Miami. In 2003, a 35-21 Michigan win, he had 7 catches for 130 yards, scored on catches of 64 yards and 23 yards and had an 87-yard TD called back because of holding. In 2004, he had 11 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown in a 37-21 OSU win.
Watkins, who had 101 catches for 1,464 yards for Clemson in 2013, got 16 of those catches and 227 of those yards in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State. Cooper (9 catches, 71 yards, 2 TDs in the 2014 Sugar Bowl) and Johnson (4 catches, 54 yards in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl) didn’t have huge numbers but it was obvious they were elite.
Moore was a recruit who got away from Ohio State and got away from the Buckeyes’ defense in a stunning 49-20 loss to Purdue in 2018. The freshman wide receiver had 12 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He finished his first season of college football with 114 catches.
1. Kellen Winslow Jr. (Miami). 2. Travis Beckum (Wisconsin). 3. Jake Butt (Michigan). 4. Dustin Keller (Purdue). 5. T.J. Hockenson. (Iowa).
Honorable mention: Mike Gesicki (Penn State), Noah Fant (Iowa), Tim Stratton (Purdue), Anthony Fasano (Notre Dame), Kyle Brady (Penn State).
Winslow and Beckum were more like wide receivers than traditonal tight ends. Winslow averaged 58 receptions a game his last two seasons and caught 11 passes in the 2002 national championship game against Ohio State. Beckum had 61 and 75 catches in 2006 and 2007 at Wisconsin. He caught 9 passes for 140 yards against OSU in 2007.
Butt averaged just under 50 catches a season his last two years at Michigan in 2015 and 2016. Keller caught 56 and 68 passes his last two seasons at Purdue in 2006 and 2007. Hockenson was one of two Iowa tight ends, along with Noah Fant, selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.
1. Joe Thomas (Wisconsin). 2. Jeff Hartings (Penn State). 3. Steve Hutchinson (Michigan). 4. Matt Light (Purdue). 5. Jake Long (Michigan).
Honorable mention: Flozell Adams (Michigan State), Robert Gallery (Iowa), Jon Jansen (Michigan), Aaron Gibson (Wisconsin), Marco Rivera (Penn State).
Thomas, the former six-time first-team All-Pro left tackle with the Cleveland Browns, is generally regarded as the best offensive lineman ever at Wisconsin where he played from 2003-2006. Hartings, from St. Henry, was recently named the greatest offensive lineman ever at Penn State by a panel of former players and media members. He was a first-team All-American in 1994 and 1995 and was first-team All-Big Ten three times.
Hutchinson was first-team All-Big Ten four years in a row from 1997-2000 and was a unanimous All-American as a senior. He was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year after an 11-year career in the NFL.
Light began his college career at Purdue as a tight end but became a three-year starter at offensive tackle. He was first-team All-Big Ten in 2000 on the first Purdue team to go to the Rose Bowl in 34 years and went on to start on three Super Bowl winning New England Patriots teams. Long was first-team All-Big Ten in 2006 and 2007 and was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau