We are now on day six of our 10 part series breaking down the best Ohio State players to play their position in the first five years under Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer. Special teams have been a main focus for Meyer since 2012 and while its not the most glamorous group to discuss, Ryan McGlade, Tim Moody and I still went ahead and ranked our top five special teams players of the Meyer era at Ohio State.
T-No. 5 - Sean Nuernberger, Kicker
Nuernberger was the starting placekicker for the Buckeyes during the 2014 title season and converted on 13 of 20 field goal attempts with a long of 49 that season. However, he was beat out for the placekicking duties at the beginning of the 2015 season by Duke transfer Jack Willoughby. After Willoughby struggled for much of the 2015 campaign, Nuernberger took over for the rest of the season and made three field goals in Ohio State's 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Nuernberger then entered the 2016 season as the favorite to reclaim the starting role, but after suffering a minor injury, was beat out by Tyler Durbin and sat the entire 2016 campaign. Nuernberger is expected to reclaim the starting role in 2017, but could be pushed by 2017 recruit Blake Haubeil.
T-No. 5 - Tyler Durbin, Kicker
Durbin had just one year as Ohio State's starting kicker, but overall had a solid 2016 season. After beating out Nuernberger, Durbin converted on his first 10 field goal attempts. His 11th attempt led to Ohio State's lone regular season blemish as his 45-yard attempt was blocked and returned for the game clinching score by Penn State on October 22. Durbin made his next six attempts before missing a pair of chip shots against Michigan that nearly cost Ohio State a win and a chance at the College Football Playoff. His third attempt against the Wolverines stayed true and OSU was able to send the game to and eventually win in overtime. However, Durbin missed both of his attempts in the CFP semis against Clemson, ending his career on a sour note.
No. 4 - Liam McCullough, Long-snapper
There isn't much to say about McCullough other than that the less you hear the long-snapper's name, the better for your team. McCullough is the second Buckeye in school history to earn a football scholarship for a long-snapper out of high school, joining the third man on our list, Bryce Haynes. During the 2016 season, McCullough was the Buckeye long-snapper on field goals, extra points and punts for 12 out of the Buckeyes 13 games (missed the Oklahoma game due to illness). He also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors during his first year as Ohio State's long-snapper.
No. 3 – Bryce Haynes, Long-snapper
Haynes handled all of Ohio State’s snaps in 2014 and 2015 as a fourth-year junior and fifth-year senior, respectively. He shared the long-snapping duties in 2012 and 2013 with George Makridis. Haynes, a four-time academic All-Big Ten honoree and five-time OSU Scholar-Athlete, was accurate on 157 snaps during the Buckeyes’ national championship season of 2014.
No. 2 – Drew Basil, Kicker
Basil was Ohio State’s starting kicker from the first day of his freshman season in 2010 to his last game as a senior in 2013. Basil made 33 of 42 field goals (78.6 percent) and connected on 169 of 173 extra points (97.7 percent) in his career as a Buckeye. He went 9 of 10 on field goals (90 percent) in 2013 to own the best field-goal percentage for one season in Ohio State history.
No. 1 – Cameron Johnston, Punter
One of the most prolific punters in Ohio State history, Johnston unquestionably takes the top spot on this list. The Australian was named the Eddleman-Fields Big Ten Punter of the Year, a first team All-Big Ten and was Ray Guy award finalist as a senior in 2016. For the year, he averaged a career-best 46.7 yards per boot, good for fifth nationally and first in the Big Ten. His career punting average of 44.9 yards was a tick shy of tying Andy Groom’s program-record mark of 45.0 set from 2001-02.
James Grega: Cam Johnston was the easiest selection at No. 1, but I think Drew Basil is very underrated as an OSU kicker. Since he left, the Buckeyes have struggled to find a placekicker who can be counted on in tight games to make a big kick. Basil had a huge leg, as did Johnston as a punter. In addition, the long-snappers are vastly underrated members of a football team in general, and the less you have to hear their name the better as a fan. That just means they must be doing their job.
Ryan McGlade: Cameron Johnston occupying the No. 1 spot was about as obvious as it comes. I put Drew Basil at No. 2 for good reason. I then ranked Bryce Haynes and Liam McCullough at third and fourth, respectively, because if you don’t bring any attention to yourself as a long snapper then you’re doing something right. Sean Nuernberger was at No. 5 was out of default.
Tim Moody: This one is pretty straight forward. Cam Johnston is one of the best specialists in Ohio State history, so he easily gets top billing here. Basil and Durbin were solid kickers (though Durbin had his issues). Haynes and McCullough are great at what they do. I can't remember a missed snap on a punt or kick from either of them off the top of my head.