USA Today - Rick Osentoski

Countdown To Kickoff: Best Buckeye Ever To Wear No. 15

As the countdown to Ohio State's season opener against Bowling Green gets closer, the Buckeye Sports staff is continuing its Best Buckeye Ever series. We stand just 15 days from kickoff, so it is time to reveal our pick for the Best Buckeye Ever to don that number.

For most of this series, we have had a hard time mentioning just one player as the Best Buckeye Ever to wear his number at Ohio State. 

This is not one of those times. 

Running back Ezekiel Elliott terrorized opposing defenses during his two years as a starter in 2014-15, helping Ohio State to one of its most successful runs in program history. After sitting behind Carlos Hyde in 2013, Elliott earned the starting job in 2014 but didn't get off to the hottest of starts. His first career start against Navy netted him just 44 rushing yards and the next week he accumulated just 32 yards as the Buckeyes lost a heart breaker to Virginia Tech at home. 

Even after the Buckeyes throttled Kent State 66-0 the week after the loss, Elliott rushed for just 65 yards on seven carries while freshman Curtis Samuel gained 100 yards on the ground. Elliott would finally explode onto the scene in his fourth game against Cincinnati, rushing for 182 yards and a score while also catching five passes for 51 yards.

After that, there was really no looking back. Elliott would finish the season with 1,878 rushing yards, the second best single season in school history behind only Eddie George's 1,927 in 1995. Nearly half of Elliott's yards that season came in the Buckeyes final three games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. In the Big Ten title game against the Badgers, Elliott ripped off 220 rushing yards helping Ohio State get the final spot in the College Football Playoff with a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin. 

In the semi-final game against Alabama, Elliott rushed for 230 yards and pair of scores, none more memorable than his 85 yard score late in the fourth quarter to help seal a 42-35 Sugar Bowl victory over the Crimson Tide. In the title game against the Ducks, Elliott accumulated a national championship record 246 rushing yards and three touchdowns to help Ohio State to its first national title since 2002. 

Elliott followed up his stellar 2014, with another impressive season in 2015 while the rest of the offense seemed to sputter. He recorded 1,821 rushing yards, despite playing in two less games as the Buckeyes missed out on the playoff after getting upset by Michigan State at home on Senior Night. The loss to the Spartans was the only game all season in which Elliott did not record 100 yards rushing. For his stellar 2015 season, he was named the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year, the Big Ten running back of the year and the Big Ten MVP. 

Elliott left Ohio State as a true junior, and was selected fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He leaves the Buckeyes as one of the most dominant players in school history. His 3,961 career rushing yards rank second in school history behind only Archie Griffin and his 44 career touchdowns rank fourth in school history. 

While Elliott is Ohio State's most decorated player to ever wear the No. 15, there are plenty of other names that deserve mention at this number. 

Wide receiver Dee Miller played under John Cooper from 1995-98 and was one of the top targets for Joe Germaine while in Columbus. Miller ranks eighth all time in school history with 2,090 career receiving yards and his 981 receiving yards in 1997 rank as the fifth best single season by a Buckeye wide out. 

Also deserving of a mention is a pair of former Buckeye signal callers, Mike Tomczak and Greg Frey. Tomczak ranks seventh in Ohio State history in passing yards with 5,569 while Frey ranks fourth with 6,316. Devin Smith also wore the number for two seasons before switching to No. 9 in 2013. We will consider Smith for consideration at No. 9.

The full list of No. 15's in Ohio State history can be found below. Who is your pick? Make sure to weigh in on our premium message boards. 

Boston, William...................1934-35

Boyle, William....................... 1971-72

Chiappini, Albert ...................... 1949

Craig, George .......................... 1956

Crissy, Mike..........................1991-92

Deeks, Harry.............................1951

Derbyshire, John...................... 1963

Elliott, Ezekiel..................2013-14-15

Fill, John..............................1964-66

Frey, Greg ...........................1987-90

Hall, Tony...................................1961

Howard, Cameron ................... 2015

Jackson, James................. 2009-10

Knecht, Gilbert....................1952-53

Lishewski, Richard................... 1986

McCleary, Tony......................... 1948

McMullen, Scott ..................1999-03

Miller, Dee...........................1994-98

Morgan, Luke.......................2013-14

Oliver, Nate ............................. 2009

Pacenta, James................... 1975-76

Perry, Joshua ........................... 2012

Polaski, Don M. ...................1967-69

Ross, Paul..................................1976

Ruhl, Kyle ...........................2005-08

Sensanbaugher, Dean S. ..........1947

Simione, John R..................1939-40

Smith, Devin......................... 2011-12

Springer, Fred .......................... 1936

Tomczak, Michael ................1981-84

Trapasso, A. J.....................2004-08

Vogelgesang, James............... 1933

Washington, Alvin ............... 1977-80

Wentz, William A. ................1959-60

Wolfe, Russell H. ...................... 1946

Zetts, Gary.................................1970


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