Ohio State's Football U: Defensive Back

Ohio State football boasts some of the best players in the sport's history at multiple positions and defensive back is no different. We wrap up our Football U series with a look at the best Buckeye DBs of all time.

This week we are running through the various majors of study that makeup Ohio State’s Football U. Schools around the country lay claim to various position groups, adopting the monikers of Linebacker U or Running Back U, but Ohio State possess such a rich depth of talent in its years of football excellence that it makes more sense for the Buckeyes to be dubbed Football U.

With President Woody Hayes and Provost Urban Meyer leading the university, we take a look at each different college of study. We got things started with The College of Running Back Monday and followed with The College of Wide Receiver and The College of Offensive Line. We covered one of the most decorated groups with The College of Linebacker yesterday and conclude the series today with the Buckeyes backline defense, The College of Defensive Backs.

Program Overview
Ohio State has built a number of dominant defenses in the school’s history and it’s impossible to do that without a dominant backline. That’s where The College of Defensive Back comes in. The Buckeyes have had 13 defensive backs named All-Americans and two have been honored with the Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation. Headlined by College Football Hall of Famer Jack Tatum, the list of Buckeyes to excel in the defensive backfield is long and illustrious. A total of 14 Ohio State defensive backs have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, including an absurd run of seven first-round picks in a nine-year window from 1997 to 2006. The College of Defensive Back has every type of member of the secondary a team could want from ball-hawks to sledge-hammer hitters and lockdown one-on-one corners, building a legacy deserving of a college in Football U

Dean: Jack Tatum
The aforementioned Tatum laid the foundation for generations of dominant defensive backs at Ohio State. A three-time All-Big Ten selection, Tatum was an All-American in both 1969 and 1970. He was part of the 1968 national championship team and headlined a Buckeye defense that helped the team to a 27-2 record over his three seasons as a starter and Ohio State allowed just 12.5 points per game over that stretch.

Tatum almost certainly would have won the Thorpe Award had it been in existence while he was playing as the defensive back finished in the top 10 in voting for the Heisman Trophy in both the 1969 and 1970 seasons and was the National Defensive Player of the Year in his final season on campus. Known for his bone-crushing hits, Tatum was nicknamed ‘The Assassin’ for his ability to eliminate ball carriers and is still known as one of the most devastating hitters in the history of the sport.

Tatum was selected with the 19th overall selection in the 1971 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders and played nine seasons in the NFL, hauling in 37 interceptions. He was named to the Pro Bowl three times and was a member of the Super Bowl XI Champion Raiders.

Tenured Faculty
Antoine Winfield: The first Buckeye to win the prestigious Thorpe Award, Winfield was a dynamic corner for Ohio State from 1995 to 1998. One of the greatest one-on-one tacklers in Buckeye history, Winfield led the Buckeyes in tackles in 1998 with 100 takedowns and his 82 solo stops that year ranks fifth all-time in school history in that category. Winfield finished with 278 tackles in his Ohio State career but because other teams often refused to throw in his direction he only recorded three interceptions. He was a unanimous All-American in 1998.

Winfield was a first-round selection in the 1999 NFL Draft, the 23rd overall selection by the Buffalo Bills. He played 14 seasons in the NFL, racking up 1,054 tackles with 14 forced fumbles and 27 interceptions for the Bills and Minnesota Vikings. He was named to the Pro Bowl three separate times and was a second-team All-Pro selection in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Mike Doss: The heart and soul of the dominant defense that propelled the Buckeyes to the 2002 National Championship, Doss is the only three-time All-American defensive back in Ohio State history, earning the honor in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The Buckeyes leading tackler in both 2001 and 2002 from his safety position, Doss finished his college career with 331 total tackles, the 11th-most in Ohio State history and the top mark among defensive backs. He is fifth all-time in solo tackles with 228. Doss ended his career as a deserving defensive MVP of the national championship game.

Doss was a second-round selection by the Indianapolis in the 2003 NFL Draft and played four seasons with the Colts. After brief stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals he concluded his career with 261 tackles and seven interceptions.

Malcolm Jenkins: The only winner of the Thorpe Award aside from Winfield, Jenkins brought home the honor after his senior season in 2008. An All-American that same year, Jenkins was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in each of his final three seasons in Columbus and a second-team All-American in 2007. A corner capable of shutting down half the field, Jenkins won a Big Ten Championship in all four of his seasons at Ohio State. He concluded his collegiate career with 196 tackles, 13.5 tackles-for-loss and 11 interceptions.

The first defensive back selected in 2009, Jenkins was the 14th overall selection in the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Making the move to safety in 2010, Jenkins played five seasons in New Orleans, including playing for the Saints when they won Super Bowl XLIV. He played for Philadelphia last season and remains on contract with the Eagles. To date Jenkins has 438 total tackles with nine interceptions.

Shawn Springs: Starting a streak of three consecutive seasons with an All-American defensive back, Springs earned the honor in 1996. A dangerous return man in addition to his prolific cover skills, Springs starred for the Buckeyes from 1994-96. He was an All-Big Ten selection in his sophomore and junior seasons, his final two in Columbus, and was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1996.

The third overall selection of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, Springs is the highest drafted defensive back in Ohio State history. He played seven seasons with Seattle before spending five in Washington and concluding his career with one season in New England in 2009. A Pro Bowl selection in 1998 and an All-Pro pick in 2004, Springs finished his NFL career with 714 tackles and 33 interceptions.

Adjunct Professors
Chris Gamble: Arguably the most versatile player, let alone defensive back, in the modern era of Ohio State football, Gamble used his immense athletic gifts to develop into a lockdown corner while also serving as a return man and part-time receiver for the Buckeyes. A game-breaker of the highest order, Gamble started on both offense and defense five times during the 2002 national championship season. His elite athleticism led to him being selected by Carolina with the 28th overlal selection in the 2004 draft. After nine seasons as a Panther he retired holding franchise records for most career interceptions (27) and most passes defended (94).

Tim Anderson: A consummate winner for the Buckeyes from 1968-70, Anderson was a member of the Super Sophomores that powered Ohio State to the 1968 national championship. A two-time Big Ten Champion, Anderson was an All-American in his senior season. Anderson was selected with the 23d overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He played professionally for six seasons.

Neal Cozlie: An All-American in 1974, Cozlie recorded eight interceptions that season, still tied for the third-most in school history. He finished his career with 15 picks, still the fifth-most in school history. He remains the only player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same season, accomplishing the feat in 1973. An All-Big Ten selection in both 1973 and 1974, Cozlie was also an elite return man. Cozlie still holds the record for most punt return yards in a game with 170. He was selected in the first round of the 1975 draft, the 24th overall pick of the Oakland Raiders. He won Super Bowl XI with the Raiders and finished his nine-season career with 25 interceptions.

Current Students
Eli Apple: A freshman All-American in his first season as a starter, Apple has all the makings of a lockdown corner as he assumes the No. 1 role on the boundary in 2015. Last season Apple hauled in three interceptions while chipping in 53 tackles. Eligible to go pro after next season as a redshirt sophomore, where Apple finds himself in Ohio State history may depend on how long he remains a Buckeye.

Tyvis Powell: One of two ball-hawking safeties manning the backline for Ohio State, Powell introduced himself to Buckeye Nation with a season-saving interception against Michigan in 2013. He followed that up with four picks last season to give him five on his career along with a forced fumble.

Vonn Bell: The other half of the safety tandem, Bell led the Buckeyes and tied for ninth nationally with six interceptions last season. He has seven picks in two seasons at Ohio State and has proven an adept tackler with 92 stops last year to finish second on the team.

Gareon Conley: Penciled in as the 2015 starter opposite Apple by Urban Meyer this spring, Conley tallied 16 tackles and two pass breakups in limited action last season.

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