Today's installment of my All-Time Ohio State Football Team was the most difficult to construct.
The linebacker position at Ohio State is — in my opinion — the deepest of all, and no matter how I try to cut it down to my starting three, I am still going to be leaving off some multiple-time All-Americans and All-Big Ten talents in the process.
Make no mistake about it, Ohio State is the real "Linebacker U!"
Sorry Nittany Lions.
Note: In case you haven't read the previous columns of my team, I have added a recap of my previous picks at the end of the article.
Tom Cousineau (1975-78)
Cousineau's name is littered all over the OSU defensive record book. He is first all-time in total tackles in a season with a ridiculous 211 (1978), second in total tackles for a career with 569 — just three off leader Marcus Marek — and is also tied for the most total tackles in a game with 29, coming against Penn State in 1978. Cousineau also recorded 28 against SMU (1978).
Cousineau was a two-time consensus All-American (1977, 78) and a first-team All-Big Ten selection three times (1976, 77, 78). He was the first overall selection of the 1979 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
I SELECTED HIM BECAUSE ... You cannot ignore the production. Cousineau is the most productive linebacker the Buckeyes have ever possessed. Here's a little food for thought: Cousineau has recorded more than 20 tackles in a game six times at Ohio State — including twice against hated Michigan. The only other OSU player to ever log multiple 20-tackle performances was Chris Spielman. And he only did it twice.
That's unreal, folks!
Chris Spielman (1984-87)
Spielman was a two-time consensus All-American (1986, 87), a three-time All-Big Ten first-team selection (1985, 86, 87) and the winner of the Lombardi Award (given to the nation's best lineman/linebacker) in 1987. Spielman is the Buckeyes' all-time leader in solo tackles (283) and third in total tackles (546) for a career.
Spielman is tied with Cousineau for the all-time record for tackles in a game at Ohio State with 29, which coincidentally came against arch-rival Michigan in 1986. He also collected 22 tackles at Washington that season. He is one of just two players in OSU history to record more than 200 total tackles in a season.
I SELECTED HIM BECAUSE ... When I was first beginning to watch football as a child I had a problem trying to figure out which guy had the football. I remember my father sitting me in front of the television — with an Ohio State game on — and telling me to "just keep your eyes on number 36 and you will soon find the ball."
When it comes to natural linebacking instincts, Spielman has no equal. He could get from point A to point B quicker than any linebacker I have ever seen play the game, regardless of playing level.
In a nutshell, when I think Ohio State football ... I think of Spielman.
A.J. Hawk (2002-05)
Hawk was a two-time consensus All-American (2004, 05), a three-time All-Big Ten first-team selection (2003, 04, 05), as well as a winner of the Lombardi Award (2005). He is fifth on the Buckeyes' all-time list for total tackles in a career with 394 and seventh in solo stops with 196. Hawk led the Buckeyes in tackles in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Although he wasn't a starter, he was a big contributor on the defense that won the national championship during his freshman season in 2002.
Hawk tallied the sixth most votes in the 2005 Heisman Trophy race. He was the fifth overall selection of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers.
I SELECTED HIM BECAUSE ... Hawk is sort of a Spielman-clone. He was an instinctual player who always had a way of getting himself to the football. He is the only player I have covered that could diagnose a play before it even developed. He was also extremely athletic. Not only could he rush the passer or take on linemen in run support, but he could literally cover wide receivers in pass protection.
From a pure athletic standpoint, he's the most gifted of any linebacker I've seen in a Scarlet and Gray uniform.
Tomorrow on my All-Time Buckeyes squad: Quarterback.
Here's a recap of my all-time team (click on position) ...