Dave Thurman (11:22 am)

In this ongoing series TSB has already ranked the ten greatest receivers in Buckeye history...now on to the linebackers.

There have been so many great linebackers at Ohio State through the years that it might be easier to have a Top Twenty at this position, and even then we'd be forced to leave out some good ones.  But here, in my opinion, are the best of the best:

10. Pepper Johnson - An extremely big, physical linebacker, Johnson was a star at Ohio State and also in the NFL.  He was such a fine leader that he was chosen as a captain as both a junior and a senior.

9.  Steve Tovar - Good enough to work his way into the starting lineup as a true freshmen, Tovar totaled over 400 tackles in his career, leading the team three straight years.

8.   Matt Wilhelm - Wilhelm played middle linebacker on probably the best Buckeye defense of the post-Woody era, and not only led the team in tackles, but registered 19.5 tackles for loss for the National Champions in '02.

7.  Marcus Marek - Though undersized, Marek was a heat-seeking missile who always found his target, and wound up his career with 572 tackles to sit atop the list...more than any Buckeye in history! 

6.  James Laurinaitis - Baby Animal was a three-time All American who brought home as much hardware as any linebacker to play at OSU.  It is a testimony to how many great ones have worn the Scarlet and Gray that he is only sixth on this list.
5.  A.J. Hawk - Born to play linebacker, Hawk had size and instincts which allowed him to post 394 tackles, 15 sacks, 7 interceptions, and recover 3 fumbles in his career.

4.  Andy Katzenmoyer - One of the biggest, most intimidating linebackers in college history, Andy had 50 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in his three seasons in Columbus.  He also had one of my all-time favorite hits, when he decleated Missouri's Corby Jones in 1997.

3.  Tom Cousineau - A tackling machine, big Tom had an eye-popping 244 in 1978 including 142 solos, and is second on the career list, just 3 tackles behind Marek.

2.  Randy Gradishar - Although his stats aren't as flashy as some guys on this list, Woody called this two-time All-American the greatest linebacker he ever coached.  That's good enough for me.  Randy just happens to also be in the College Football Hall of Fame.

1.  Chris Spielman - Can anyone doubt that he deserves the top spot?  This class act wound up his OSU career with 546 tackles, including 30 for loss, and had 11 interceptions.  Amazingly Chris had 29 tackles against Michigan in 1986.  Rarely have I ever seen a player give more of himself on the field than did number 36.

Yes, there were plenty of other great ones.  Names like Ike Kelley, Stan White, Na'il Diggs, Lorenzo Styles and Bobby Carpenter come to mind.  And Penn State has the audacity to call themselves Linebacker U!

Up Next: Offensive Line


Royal Cola
05/30/2010 08:51

I loved little animal, but I don't know I would rank him as high as 6. I'm to young to remember Tom Cousineau, but 244 tackles/142 solo in one season is insane, those are beyond video game on easy numbers. Hat tip to Na'il Diggs, he was awesome.

05/30/2010 09:11

Royal Cola - I hear you on Laurinaitis. On my list I would put him at #10. That even includes Wilhelm ahead of him. No offense to little animal...but he was part of a class that lost a lot of big games in their tenure at tOSU. It's hard not to hold the big game blues against him and some of the other big names on those teams.

05/30/2010 10:04

maybe i'm a bit bias because i'm a huge little animal fan....but his individual accolades put him in the top five all time!

05/30/2010 14:57

Wow! The guy was a 3-time All-American who won the Nagurski, Butkas, and Lott awards and played in two national championship games. Hard to rank him lower than sixth!

05/31/2010 12:57

Another good list, Dave. Spielman's success at linbacker is only trumped by his success as husband and father; the true measure of a man.

Tough to leave Stan White off list, but then you'd have to go to Top Twelve.

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01/19/2011 21:24

5. A.J. Hawk - Born to play linebacker, Hawk had size and instincts which allowed him to post 394 tackles, 15 sacks, 7 interceptions, and recover 3 fumbles in his career.

03/07/2012 18:52

Dave is one of the finest players in their team, very athletic, intelligent and flexible in games.


He also had one of my all-time favorite hits, when he decelerated Missouri's Corby Jones in 1997.

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