Editor’s Note: This is the second of a multi-part series.
LIMA — When the Big Ten Network announced its All-Decade team last week it reminded me how many great players I have seen play against Ohio State in writing about OSU football since 1992.
So, I decided to make a list of the best players I’ve seen at each position based on how they played when they competed against Ohio State and on their overall careers. Call it my All-Opponents All-Three Decades Team.
The No. 1 requirement was that they had to have been a starter in a game against Ohio State, which eliminated great players like Pat Fitzgerald and Dallas Clark. No. 2 was that I had to have been in the press box when they played against OSU.
Here’s my list of wide receivers and tight ends.
1. Braylon Edwards (Michigan). 2. Sammy Watkins (Clemson). 3. Amari Cooper (Alabama). 4. Andre Johnson (Miami). 5. Rondale Moore (Purdue).
Honorable mention: Lee Evans (Wisconsin), Wes Welker (Texas Tech), Plaxico Burress (Michigan State), Bobby Engram (Penn State), Eric Decker (Minnesota), Tyler Johnson (Minnesota), Allen Robinson (Penn State), D’Wayne Bates (Northwestern).
Say what you want to about Edwards’ career with the Browns but he always produced a big game against Ohio State.
In 2002 he caught 10 passes for 107 yards in a 14-9 Ohio State win that sent the Buckeyes to the national championship game against Miami. In 2003, a 35-21 Michigan win, he had 7 catches for 130 yards, scored on catches of 64 yards and 23 yards and had an 87-yard TD called back because of holding. In 2004, he had 11 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown in a 37-21 OSU win.
Watkins, who had 101 catches for 1,464 yards for Clemson in 2013, got 16 of those catches and 227 of those yards in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State. Cooper (9 catches, 71 yards, 2 TDs in the 2014 Sugar Bowl) and Johnson (4 catches, 54 yards in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl) didn’t have huge numbers but it was obvious they were elite.
Moore was a recruit who got away from Ohio State and got away from the Buckeyes’ defense in a stunning 49-20 loss to Purdue in 2018. The freshman wide receiver had 12 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He finished his first season of college football with 114 catches.
1. Kellen Winslow Jr. (Miami). 2. Travis Beckum (Wisconsin). 3. Jake Butt (Michigan). 4. Dustin Keller (Purdue). 5. T.J. Hockenson. (Iowa).
Honorable mention: Mike Gesicki (Penn State), Noah Fant (Iowa), Tim Stratton (Purdue), Anthony Fasano (Notre Dame), Kyle Brady (Penn State).
Winslow and Beckum were more like wide receivers than traditonal tight ends. Winslow averaged 58 receptions a game his last two seasons and caught 11 passes in the 2002 national championship game against Ohio State. Beckum had 61 and 75 catches in 2006 and 2007 at Wisconsin. He caught 9 passes for 140 yards against OSU in 2007.
Butt averaged just under 50 catches a season his last two years at Michigan in 2015 and 2016. Keller caught 56 and 68 passes his last two seasons at Purdue in 2006 and 2007. Hockenson was one of two Iowa tight ends, along with Noah Fant, selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.
Jim Naveau is the sports editor for The Lima News.