Ohio State's Football U: Running Backs

Ohio State football boasts some of the best players in the sport's history at multiple positions. We've given the Buckeyes the deserving moniker of Football U and begin our break down of the best positions in program history today with running backs.

When you think about college linebackers, what’s the first school to come to mind? What about wide receivers? Or running backs?

A number of universities and their fanbases will lay claim to these position groups, asserting that their school has produced the most talented players in that unit, but for nearly every position on the field Ohio State has a legitimate argument to be considered the best.

When you get down to it, Ohio State shouldn’t identify with just one position group. It's too historically deep at too many positions. The Buckeyes aren’t Linebacker U or Running Back U. No, Ohio State is really home to Football U.

So what would you like to major in? Ohio State’s Football U offers elite degrees in the college of Linebacker, Defensive Back, Lineman, Running Back and Wide Receiver and the Buckeyes have the hardware and history to backup each specialization.

President of Football U, Woody Hayes, oversees it all while Provost Urban Meyer serves as his right hand man. Each college, however, has a prestigious dean and an illustrious list of faculty. This week will be offering a crash course in each major that Ohio State has to offer here at Football U.

College of Running Back
Program Overview
Perhaps the deepest and most historic position group in Ohio State history, the Buckeyes are synonymous with the running back position. The Buckeyes boast five Heisman Trophy winning running backs who total six trophies. In fact the six Heisman’s won by Ohio State running backs alone would be the third-most trophies won by one school in the history of the award. Buckeye running backs also boast a Walter Camp Award and have been named All-Americans 13 times in the school’s history. Nine Ohio State running backs have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft with seven Buckeye ball carriers enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. The prestige of this position group in Ohio State’s history is unassailable.

Dean: Archie Griffin
Two Heisman Trophies. Is there really anything else that needs to be said about the Dean of this college? Despite multiple challengers this century, Griffin remains the only two-time winner of the award, bringing home the sport’s most prestigious individual award in both 1974 and 1975. The Ohio State legend is emblematic of the program that he helped take to new heights.

A three-time All-American, Griffin was a fifth-place finisher in the Heisman voting as a sophomore before taking home the trophy each of the next two seasons. Unsurprisingly his name is still all over the Buckeye record books. He has two of the five highest single-game rushing performances in program history, the fourth-highest season total (1,695 yards in 1974) and his 5,589 career rushing yards outpace the next best Buckeye by over 1,800 yards. He is also the all-time leader in all-purpose yards with 6,559. As a four-year starter, Griffin averaged 121.5 yards rushing per game in 46 career contests. He rushed for at least 100 yards in 34 of those games including an NCAA record 31 consecutive 100-yard outings.

A College Football Hall of Famer, the Columbus native was a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1976 and he has been one of the university’s greatest ambassadors since retiring from football.

Tenured Faculty
Eddie George: Second to Griffin in career rushing, George brought home the Heisman following the 1995 season which saw him amass a school record 1,927 yards. Even more impressive, George reached that number in 13 games, giving him a per-game average of 148.2 yards, an Ohio State record. He reached the end one 24 times that year, the second-most in program history. More than a one-hit wonder, George’s 44 career rushing touchdowns is third all-time in Ohio State history.

George was the 14th overall pick in the 1996 draft, selected by the Houston Oilers. He won the NFL Rookie of the Year award that year and went on to start every game from 1996 through 2003. A four-time Pro Bowler, George became the second running back in NFL history to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start and his 130 consecutive starts are second only to Walter Payton in the history of the position.

Howard “Hopalong” Cassady: The 1955 Heisman Trophy winner, Cassady was a two-time All-American for the Buckeyes under Hayes watchful eye and was a key cog in the 1954 national championship. He left Ohio State as the leader in career rushing yards with 2,466 (he currently sits 13th) and career all-purpose yards with 4,403 (currently 4th). He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Cassady was the third overall pick in the 1956 NFL draft. He scored 27 career touchdowns with the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.

Vic Janowicz: A do-everything back for the Buckeyes, Janowicz gave Ohio State its second Heisman Trophy in 1950. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a star of a different era, Janowicz was also the Buckeyes kicker, punter and safety.

Janowicz passed up the opportunity to play professional football to pursue Major League Baseball and can certainly teach students a thing or two about versatility.

Les Horvath: The Buckeyes first Heisman winner, Horvath brought home the trophy in 1944. Playing under Paul Brown until graduating in 1942, Horvath returned to the team with eligibility remaining in 1944. He was an All-American that season and led the Buckeyes to a perfect 9-0 record while calling all of Ohio State’s offensive plays.

Horvath, who like the rest of the tenured faculty is in the College Football Hall of Fame joined the Navy after college and later played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams.

Chic Harley: The only tenured faculty member without a Heisman Trophy to his name, Harley would likely have a trophy to his name had he not played before it was handed out. A star for the Buckeyes from 1916-19 with a one-year hiatus as a pilot in 1918, Harley played halfback, quarterback, kicker, punter and safety for the Buckeyes. Ohio State went 21-1-1 in his three seasons of play and Harley was the school’s career scoring leader until Cassady took the title nearly 40 years later.

The first three-time All-American in Ohio State history and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Harley generated enough excitement in Buckeye fans that he is in part credited for inspiring the building of Ohio Stadium.

Adjunct Professors
Keith Byars: A dominate force for the Buckeyes in the early 80s, Byars finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1984. A consensus All-American that season, Byars amassed 2,441 all-purpose yards in 1984 which still stands as a program record. He remains fifth in career all-purpose yards and career rushing yards despite missing nearly his entire senior year with a broken bone in his foot. A workhorse for the Buckeyes, Byars rushed the ball a school-record 336 yards in his Heisman season on his way to 1,764 yards. He was the 10th overall selection in the 1986 draft and played 13 seasons in the NFL, scoring 54 touchdowns and compiling 8,864 all-purpose yards.

Chris “Beanie” Wells: The youngest faculty member, Wells started at Ohio State from 2006-08. He rushed for 1,609 yards in 2007, still the fifth-highest total in Buckeye history and sits fourth all-time in career rushing yards with 3,382 despite missing thre games with injury his junior year and forgoing his senior season for the NFL. He rushed for an average of 93.9 yards per game over 36 career contests, the third-best mark in school history and is one of three Buckeyes with multiple 200-yard games. He was the 31st pick in the 2009 draft, though his professional career was cut short by injury.

Tim Spencer: Playing for Ohio State from 1979-1982, Spencer still possess two of the most productive seasons in Buckeye history with 1,794 all-purpose yards in 1981 and 1,822 the following season. He still ranks third on the career rushing list with 3,553 yards. Spencer played with three USFL teams before playing five seasons for the San Diego Chargers. Spencer coached the Buckeye running backs from 1994-2003 and is currently a coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Current Students
Ezekiel Elliott: A star pupil if there ever was one, Elliott nearly broke George’s single-season rushing record last year, gaining 1,878 yards in 15 games. He led the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship with three consecutive 200-yard outings in the postseason, tying him with George for the most 200-plus rushing performances in school history. His 246 yards against Oregon in the National Championship Game are tied with Griffin for the third-most rushing yards in a single game. After just two seasons, the first of which was spent as a backup, Elliott is 18th all-time in career rushing yards and could move into the top 5 after his junior season.

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