College football operates so much differently from what we saw 10 years ago. Not only is there NIL legislation, but players can also transfer once without penalty. We saw just how impactful the transfer portal can be last year, when Michigan State rode former Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker III to an 11-2 record and a spot in the Peach Bowl.
Ohio State has been able to use the transfer portal to their benefit over the last five years. The Buckeyes were able to bring in Justin Fields to replace J.T. Barrett at quarterback, and they also were the preferred destination of former Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon, who rushed for a school record 331 yards in the 2020 Big Ten Championship Game, and followed that performance up with a big game in the blowout of Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Prior to the transfer portal, it wasn’t often that we saw the Buckeyes dip into the transfer market. Not that there wasn’t opportunities for Ohio State to upgrade teams in the past if they really wanted to. While some of these transfers are pipe dreams that weren’t close to ever happening, it’s fun to imagine what could’ve been.
Today’s question: What pre-transfer portal transfer player would you have wanted at Ohio State?
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: Randy Moss
The legendary wide receiver bounced around before even stepping foot on a college football field. Even though Moss had considered Ohio State because his half-brother had played offensive tackle with the Buckeyes, he ended up signing a letter of intent to play at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish rescinded their offer after Moss was involved in a fight and expelled from high school.
Following Notre Dame denying his admission, Moss went to Florida State and redshirted in 1995, but he would never get a chance to play for the Seminoles, as he tested positive for marijuana. Moss returned to West Virginia to play for Marshall, since at the time Marshall was an I-AA school, so he wouldn’t have to sit out another season. Marshall would become a I-A school the following season.
Just imagine if Moss had either transferred to Ohio State following his dismissal from Notre Dame, or even decided to sit out another season following his dismissal from Florida State. Ohio State was 11-1 in 1996 and 10-3 in 1997. Two of the losses for Ohio State in 1997 were by a combined 10 points to Penn State and Michigan. Had the Buckeyes been able to pair Moss with David Boston at wide receiver, you might not see Ohio State lose those games. They could have been playing for a national title in either one or both of those seasons if they had a weapon like Moss at receiver.
Meredith’s answer: Robert Griffin III
There are obviously so many great players who we could choose here, but in terms of a single player in a given year who could have made an impact for Ohio State, Robert Griffin III joining the Buckeyes in 2011 could have made a major difference for a team that had a lot of pieces but was missing a dynamic quarterback to run the offense.
As a reminder, 2011 was a year of upheaval in Columbus following the abrupt departure of Jim Tressel after Tattoogate. Luke Fickell was head coach of a team that would finish 6-7, lose to Michigan and lose their bowl game.
Braxton Miller was a true freshman at the time, backing up Joe Bauserman. Miller obviously had the talent to lead Ohio State as we would eventually see, but it was a tall order to expect him to thrive under the conditions in Columbus at the time. Miller would have benefited from the presence of a veteran quarterback with the run-pass skillset Miller would come to embody.
Griffin obviously won the Heisman in 2011 with Baylor, but had a strong showing in 2010 for a Bears team that finished 7-6 that year. It feels like if he played in the era of the transfer portal, he might have taken his talents to a team that had a chance at contending for a conference title (at least).
2011 was something of a lost season for Ohio State with the entire program in limbo. However, the defense was decent and there were some studs at skill positions. Adding an experienced quarterback to the mix was probably not going to drive toward a national championship that season. However, considering six of Ohio State’s seven losses that season were one-score losses, that marginal impact could have tipped the scales in a way that could have led toward a conference title.