Best Buckeyes by State: Florida

Urban Meyer did not need to coach in the state to know Florida is a football talent hotbed. His Ohio State predecessors knew it, too, which is why so many Sunshine State natives have donned the Scarlet and Gray. But who was the best?

We conclude our survey of the best Buckeye recruits from out of state over the past 30 years with a look at Florida.

No other state has provided more Ohio State signees than Florida's 52 since 1985, and there have been numerous impact players among that group. More than half -- 27 -- have become at least part-time starters, and 13 have been drafted by NFL teams, so narrowing down the list was no easy task.

We ended up with six from which you can choose, a group that includes three who played offense, two who played defense and one who played both.

Michael Jenkins

A 6-4 target from Tampa Leto, Jenkins led Ohio State in receiving yards from 2001-03 and finished his career as the school's all-time leader with 2,898 yards. He is one of only four Buckeyes to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a season (1,076 in 2002), and his 165 catches trail only David Boston and Cris Carter in school annals. He was a team captain and most valuable player as a senior, but his most famous moment in scarlet and gray came in 2002 when he hauled in the game-winning 37-yard touchdown pass from Craig Krenzel at Purdue to preserve a perfect season that eventually ended with a national championship.

Chris Gamble

One of the few players to have a bigger impact on the 2002 squad than Jenkins, Gamble went from virtually unknown to absolutely indispensable between the beginning and end of that season. The 14th-ranked prospect in the state as a senior at Fort Lauderdale Dillard, Gamble became a household name by adding cornerback to his list of duties during his sophomore season. He had key interceptions against Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State, the last of which he returned 40 yards for a touchdown in one of the most scintillating moments in Ohio Stadium history to put the Buckeyes on top after trailing the Nittany Lions at halftime. He caught two passes for 69 yards in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami (Fla.), where he also contained star Hurricanes receiver Andre Johnson for most of the night. After starting all of the 2003 season at cornerback, Gamble declared himself eligible for the NFL draft and became a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. He finished his Ohio State career with 40 catches for 609 yards and 65 tackles. He was a two-time member of the All-Big Ten first team and shared team MVP honors in 2002 with Krenzel.

Santonio Holmes

Holmes was a member of the highly decorated 2002 recruiting class but played no on-field role in the national championship season. After redshirting, the four-star prospect from Belle Glade had a breakout performance in the second half of the 2003 season then came into his own in 2004 and '05. His biggest season was his last when he caught 53 passes for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns. That included an Ohio State bowl record 85-yard touchdown catch against Notre Dame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and a spot on the 2005 All-Big Ten first team. Holmes' 140 catches are still sixth at Ohio State, and his 25 touchdown catches trail only Boston and Carter on the career list. Holmes' 224-yard day against Marshall in 2004 is No. 2 in school history behind Terry Glenn's 253 yards at Pittsburgh in 1995. A first-round pick of the Steelers in 2006, Holmes caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIII and was named the MVP of the game.

Brian Rolle

Though overlooked by some for his height, Rolle was a four-star prospect at Immokalee in 2007 who stuck with a verbal commitment to Ohio State despite a late offer from Florida. He made an early name for himself as a kamikaze cover man on special teams before becoming a starter at middle linebacker as a junior in 2009. He made his starting debut against Navy a memorable one by making nine tackles and intercepting a two-point conversion pass and returning it for two OSU points to preserve the Buckeyes' 31-27 win. He finished that season second on the team with 95 tackles, including seven for loss, then led Ohio State with 76 tackles (11.5 for loss) during his senior season of 2010. He was also a captain in 2010 and earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition.

Carlos Hyde

A 2009 four-star fullback prospect from Naples, Hyde went to Fork Union Military Academy that fall before joining the Ohio State squad in 2010. He played in only seven games as a true freshman then showed glimpses of his ability during 13 games (including three starts) in 2011, when he ran for 566 yards on 106 carries. Hyde overcame an early season injury to rush for 970 yards as a junior then turned in one of the best seasons in school history as a senior despite a three-game suspension at the start of the campaign. Hyde started the last nine games of 2013 and ran for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns. He finished with the sixth-most career rushing yards (3,198) in Ohio State history, and his 6.1 yards-per-carry average broke Archie Griffin's long-standing record. He also set the school record for YPC in a season in 2013 at 7.3. Hyde's 1,249 yards during Big Ten play led the conference, as did his 14 rushing touchdowns, and he was chosen the conference running back of the year and first-team All-Big Ten.

Ryan Shazier

A slender four-star prospect from Plantation High School, Shazier enrolled early in 2011 and showed his potential as a playmaker early on. He did not earn his first started until the 11th game of the season but finished sixth on the team with 57 tackles, including 15 against Penn State in his first career start. He had 115 tackles as a sophomore, including a Big Ten-best 17 for loss, and made the All-Big Ten first team. He returned an interception for a touchdown that season at Penn State and forced a fumble at the goal line at Wisconsin that temporarily delayed the Badgers' attempts to tie the game. Last season as a junior, Shazier led the conference with 143 tackles, including a Big Ten-best 22.5 for loss, and earned All-Big Ten honors again before opting to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft, where he was picked in the first round by the Steelers. He finished 15th in school history with 306 tackles and sixth in Ohio State annals in tackles for loss (44.5).


Previously: Michigan




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