Over the weekend, C.J. Stroud became the eighth Heisman Trophy finalist from Ohio State since 1982. While Stroud finished fourth in the final voting, since he is just a redshirt freshman, the quarterback is a favorite to return to New York City in 2022 as a finalist for the award given annually to the best player in college football.
The Buckeyes have had six players with college football’s most prestigious award seven times, with Archie Griffin being the only two-time recipient of the Heisman Trophy. Troy Smith was the last Ohio State player to win the award, bringing the golden stiff-arm to Columbus in 2006. Since then four Buckeyes have been Heisman Trophy finalists, with all four of them coming since 2018.
While the list of Ohio State players to win the Heisman Trophy has some pretty big names, the Buckeyes who came up just short of winning the award is even more impressive. Since 2018, the three other Buckeyes aside from Stroud to be invited to New York City for the ceremony have all been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, and it looks like that same fate could be in store for Stroud, possibly in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Today’s question: Who is your favorite Ohio State player that fell short of winning the Heisman Trophy?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Orlando Pace, offensive tackle
Times were quite different at Ohio State, as well as in college football, over 20 years ago. Orlando Pace was just the second-ever true freshman to start on opening day. Pace came to Columbus from Sandusky, where he was not only a Parade All-American as an offensive lineman, but also a USA Today All-American defensive lineman. While expectations were sky-high for Pace, he not only met those expectations, he surpassed them.
What Pace did on the offensive line for Ohio State was unheard of. Pace was credited with bringing popularity to the “pancake block”. Even though some teams had been using the term “pancake block”, usage of it really gained steamed with Pace’s dominance on the offensive line. Not only was Pace the only player to win the Lombardi Award twice, he also won the Outland Trophy, joining Dave Riminigton as the only other player to total three combined Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award victories.
What makes Orlando Pace my favorite Buckeye to fail to win the Heisman Trophy, is he is the only offensive line to finish in the top-four in Heisman Trophy voting since fellow Buckeye John Hicks finished second in 1973. Pace received 599 votes for the Heisman Trophy, which was less than 100 behind Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer, who finished in third place. Florida’s Danny Wuerffel went on to win the award with 1,363 votes.
It’s likely that we will never see another offensive lineman named a Heisman Trophy finalist, which just proves how special of a talent Pace was. With the frequency that quarterbacks and running backs are honored for the Heisman, it’s extremely rare than a defensive player is named a finalist, let alone an offensive lineman. While offensive linemen are recognized through other awards for their contributions, they don’t get the respect they truly deserve. There will never be an offensive lineman quite like Orlando Pace.
Meredith’s answer: Chase Young, defensive end
The narrative around defensive players winning the Heisman Trophy has been well worn. It seems that in years where no one wants to win college football’s biggest award, the committee throws a bone to the other side of the ball and lets a defender in the milieu just to keep things interesting.
But then Chase Young had his 2019 season, and the call for Young as a true Heisman contender was rooted in the fact he truly was among the nation’s best players (he would, after all, go on to be the No. 2-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft behind Heisman winner Joe Burrow). Through 13 games, Young had 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Like Aidan Hutchinson this year, Young was an unstoppable force on the field — there was nothing even elite college offensive lines could do to contain him — and he altered the outcomes of games like few defenders could do on their own.
I’m not saying Joe Burrow didn’t deserve the Heisman — he had a monster season with LSU. However, we see quarterbacks with monster stats year in and year out (because, spoiler, they touch the ball on every offensive play). It’s not often that we see a game changing force on defense a la Young. Young would ultimately finish fourth in the Heisman voting behind Burrow, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts and teammate Justin Fields.
2019 was a fun year in the Heisman race for a lot of reasons. Besides Burrow (who, for the purposes of this column, we’ll consider an Ohio State product) and Fields, JK Dobbins finished sixth in the voting. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor finished fifth, bringing a strong Big Ten bend to the season’s award.
Young would have been an amazing Heisman winner for Ohio State because his performance in 2019 was the culmination of years of success at the defensive end position for the Buckeyes, and would have been an incredible nod to Larry Johnson and his efforts in bringing that consistency year in and year out.
The cry to include more defensive players in the Heisman conversation has grown stronger in recent years. Michigan’s Hutchinson did finish second in the voting behind Bryce Young over the weekend, so perhaps someday soon we could see a defensive end as disruptive as Young take home college football’s ultimate prize.