All those wins become even more impressive when looking at what they lost. Yes, the loss of quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett were big, but those weren’t the only quality players the Buckeyes have lost. Seven Ohio State players from the 2013 team have started in the NFL this season with six making it to the playoffs.
“Seven players left our program and are starting, not playing, not backups, not practice squad; starting in the National Football League,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “In the history of college football, I'd like to know if that's ever been done. I don't think it has, starting. That tells you how good that team was last year.”
Three offensive linemen have started as rookies this season. Jack Mewhort is the starting right tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, Corey Linsley is the starting center in Green Bay and, despite going undrafted, Andrew Norwell is the starting left guard for the Carolina Panthers.
The loss of those linemen, all of whom are still playing in the NFL playoffs this weekend, makes the performance of the 2014 line all the more impressive.
“Our success as a team starts up front on both side of the ball,” quarterback Cardale Jones said. “Our offensive line the way they struggled at the beginning and now (Offensive line coach Ed Warinner) has them clicking. That’s the biggest part of our team.”
The offensive linemen the Buckeyes lost from the 2013 team led the way for standout running back Carlos Hyde, the second running back taken in last year’s draft.
Though his San Fransisco 49ers didn’t make the postseason, Hyde has also been suiting up on Sundays this year. Meyer’s first 1,000-yard running back has amassed 333 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries while supplementing Frank Gore this season.
Joining Norwell on the Panthers this season is Corey “Philly” Brown, a backup at wide receiver and the team’s starting punt returner. He has 21 catches for 296 yards and two touchdowns to go with 426 yards and a touchdown on punt and kick returns combined.
Those five players were joined in the draft last season by juniors Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier. Both defensive standouts were taken in the first round last June and they have contributed for the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.
Roby has two interceptions and 65 tackles for the Broncos while Shazier has 36 tackles on the season despite missing seven games with ankle and knee injuries.
“You take three offensive linemen, you take the starting tailback, best receiver, best linebacker, best corner, there's seven guys starting,” Meyer said. “That's why I knew, especially when the two juniors left, Shazier and Roby, as a coach, how do you replace that.”
You replace that with players like running back Ezekiel Elliott, corner Eli Apple, linebacker Darron Lee and linemen Jacoby Boren, Darryl Baldwin, Pat Elflein and Billy Price. Those players have stepped up this season, helping propel the Buckeyes to a berth in the CFP National Championship Game, propelling them to so many wins, despite all their losses.