What caused this Buckeye boom?
Well, former head coach John Cooper strongly emphasized getting his players to the next level. He thought it was good for the players, good for the program and always used it as a recruiting tool.
From 1992-2001, Ohio State produced a whopping 17 NFL first round draft picks. Of those, 12 were early entry selections and just five were seniors. Let's take a closer look at those rare breed of Buckeyes who stuck around for all four (or five) years and still made it big on draft day.
• Wide receiver Joey Galloway pulled a "Mike Doss" following the 1993 season. Like Doss, most everyone thought Galloway was gone after his big junior year, but he returned in '94 to lead the Buckeyes to nine wins, including a 22-6 triumph over Michigan. And although his stats were down from the previous year, Seattle nabbed Galloway in the first round of the '95 draft.
• Tailback Eddie George was almost ran out of town as a sophomore, but of course went on to a great career that was capped by winning the '95 Heisman. George was taken by the Houston Oilers in the first round of the '96 draft, but was the second running back selected that year. Who was the first? None other than Michigan's Tim Biakabutuka by the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers' front office obviously placed too much emphasis on Biakabutuka's 314-yard performance against the Buckeyes in '95. That game had much more to due with Bill Young's ineptitude as a defensive coordinator than it did with Biakabutuka's skill. I'm still trying to figure out how a one-game wonder like B'Tooka could be taken ahead of a stud like George, but decisions like that give you a better idea of why the Panthers are one of the league's worst teams and why the Titans are one of the best.
• Despite playing just two seasons of football at OSU, tight end Rickey Dudley was a first-round selection by the Oakland Raiders in '95. Dudley, who came to OSU on a hoops scholarship, is currently on the Cleveland Browns roster.
• Cornerback Antoine Winfield was nabbed by Buffalo in the first round of the '99 draft. Winfield never had the best ball skills (zero picks as a senior), but the Thorpe Award winner was a fierce hitter and was one of the cornerstones of that great '98 team.
• Cornerback Ahmed Plummer was taken by San Francisco in round one of the 2000 draft. Plummer never received the recognition he deserved at OSU and is currently a starter for the Niners.
Well, that's it for the seniors. The 12 early entry first-rounders? They include, in order of year drafted: Alonzo Spellman, Robert Smith, Dan Wilkinson, Korey Stringer, Craig Powell, Terry Glenn, Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs, David Boston, Andy Katzenmoyer, Nate Clements and Ryan Pickett. Of interest, during the last 11 years (1992-02), only five Buckeyes who declared early for the draft were not taken in the first round. They include: Roger Harper, Lorenzo Styles, Na'il Diggs, Derek Ross and Darnell Sanders.
Judging by the recruiting class that Jim Tressel signed this year, the talent level at Ohio State is not going to drop off like some believe. Tressel might not place the same emphasis that Cooper did on getting players to the NFL, but he still wants the most talented players he can get for the program (I don't think he recruited Derek Morris for his algebra skills). Here's an interesting example on the differing views of Tressel and Cooper in terms of the NFL: In the 2000 Ohio State media guide (Cooper's last season), there is a two page layout on all the first round draft picks from OSU, as well as an all-time list of Buckeyes who have played in the NFL. In the 2001 media guide, there is nothing mentioned at all about Buckeyes in the NFL.
Another example is the popular "weight room debate." Cooper encouraged NFL players to come back and work out in the WHAC weight room. He thought the NFL guys had a positive influence on his players. You can't really argue with that logic: If you are an architecture professor at OSU and one of your former students is an accomplished architect, it would be a good idea to have him or her come back and speak to your class whether they ended up graduating from OSU or not. But Tressel doesn't feel that way. Former Buckeyes can only work out in the weight room if they have their degree, or are currently taking classes to obtain their degree. Many believe this debate is what caused Dave Kennedy to leave the program.
Former University of Michigan basketball booster Ed Martin pleaded guilty earlier this week of "conspiracy to launder monetary instruments." During the early-to-mid 1990's, Martin gave over $600,000 to four UM players, including Chris Webber. My question is: If a low-life like Martin is admitting that he gave $600K to these players, how much did he really give away? A million? Two million? And how many UM players were really in on this? Anyone want to guess it was more than just four?
The shame here is that Martin and the players on his payroll "cost" the Buckeyes a Final Four bid in 1992. Sure, if Chris Jent would have made that five-footer at the end of regulation, the Bucks would have won anyway, but the only thing worse than losing to Michigan is losing to a bunch of cheaters from Michigan.
Dick LeBeau is not the first OSU graduate to become a head coach in the NFL. A couple of e-mailers set me straight on that one. Gary Moeller was interim head coach of the Detroit Lions for a year and Don McCafferty was the head coach of the Baltimore Colts in the 1950's... Anyway, you can still expect a story on LeBeau's OSU days in the near future.
Check back soon for another edition of Bucknotes!