Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts. This week, however, things will go a little bit differently, as Gene and Josh will be looking for you all to cast your votes in deciding who drafted better on this past week’s episode of Hangout in the Holy Land. If you have not yet listened, be sure to check it out, as the guys looked to put together the best defense possible from the past decade of Ohio State’s best players.
This week’s topic: Who drafted the best ‘Defense of the Decade?’
Over the last two weeks on Hangout in the Holy Land — your favorite podcaster’s favorite podcast – Gene and I have drafted Ohio State all-decade teams for both sides of the ball. It was a ton of fun, and it would have been hard for either one of us to go wrong with so much Buckeye talent on the board, but I feel like we both knocked it out of the park.
Fan voting came in for our offensive draft, and we were both surprised that Team Dooley dominated to the tune of 75 percent of the votes. But like I told my wonderful co-host and editor on this week’s podcast: I think it comes down to a matter of preference. Some people prefer good teams and good strategy, while others prefer whatever Gene put together.
Joking aside, I do think personal preference played a big role in the offensive draft voting. I attacked big names with big production first, while Gene built a much better offensive line. My picks were flashy, and his were functional and strategic. Tomato/to-mah-to, the end result was that both rosters were filled with elite talent.
I think our defensive drafts were very different, in regards to strategy. Even more so than the offensive version. Gene came out of the gate with a few of the most exciting players on the entire board. I attempted to focus on what I perceived to be weak(er) positions. The players on my team also tended to be a bit older, whereas Gene gravitated towards more youth. Similar to our offensive draft, I think we both have an argument here for best team, but I love the guys I ended up with.
I took Ryan Shazier with the first overall pick, and I think I made the right call by going after Ohio State’s best linebacker (of the last decade). Chase Young or one of the Bosa brothers likely would have been the betting favorites, but we were getting peak value (not the same as a peak season) when we drafted these players. And I think LB was one of the weaker positions — as well as the only position with three spots to fill.
Shazier was great in 2012, but took his game to an unreal level in 2013. He finished the year with 144 tackles, 23.5 TFL, 7 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. His junior season blows away whichever season or period of dominance you think was the next best for a LB — but in case there’s any argument, I went ahead and drafted the only other guy in in the conversation. I also took Darron Lee before Gene could get one linebacker. That was by design, and so was finishing off the position with Raekwon McMillian midway through the draft. My goal was to corner the market. Give me two of the most exciting linebackers OSU has ever had – as well as a guy who racked up two 100-tackle seasons – all day, every day.
Up front, I got versatility, production, pass-rushing ability, and perhaps most importantly: players who were great against the run. Joey Bosa had better sack totals (single season and career) than his brother Nick, and in my opinion, was better against the run than Young. I got the total package as my first DL selection, and paired him up with John Simon. I barely snuck Simon in, as he finished his collegiate career in 2012, but I’m getting a mean, tough, nasty dude up front. And a well-rounded player.
Inside, I think it’s Johnathan Hankins and then “everybody else” at DT — at least when it comes to stopping the run. The big man swallowed up opposing lineman and also averaged 60 tackles per season during his last two in Columbus. Michael Bennett completed my defensive line, and with him, I’m getting 14 sacks in his last 26 games. The totality of their production is tough to beat, just like my front seven.
My secondary might not jump off the page, but a deeper look reveals a ton of talent — and outstanding production at one of the positions. My corners were Jeff Okudah and Denzel Burke, two guys who shut the field down but did not pick off many passes (or have not, in Burke’s case). All Okudah did was become OSU’s first and only unanimous All-American at corner, while Burke was a Freshman All-American in 2021. Passes don’t get picked if they aren’t thrown my guys’ way. I’ll take the value.
At safety, I fully admit that Gene got one of our (but especially his) favorite Buckeyes in recent memory to solidify the back end. I can’t argue with Malik Hooker as the top safety, but I can point out the production I ended up with. Vonn Bell: (2014-2015/28 games) 156 total tackles, 8 INT. C.J. Barnett: (2011-2013/35 total games) 215 total tackles, 8 INT. Stats, leadership, you name it and I got it with my safeties.
Gene also beat me to it at wildcard, but Jack Sawyer is not merely a consolation prize. He is a future stud. In fact, I would not be shocked if he ends up as the more productive Buckeye (J.T. Tuimoloau being the other wildcard). He was the top recruit before JTT, and has already shown off some positional versatility for the new coaches. We did not view the wildcard as a chess piece (like we did with the offense), but Sawyer could be used in such a manner by Jim Knowles and the defensive staff. If he plays as a stand-up rusher and ends up with high sack totals, I could be looking at a steal with my last pick.
I expect the voting to be much closer this week, but I am confident in the defensive unit I put together. Pass rush? Check. Ability to stop the run? Check. Playmaking linebackers? Surely you jest. And you already know my secondary is sneaky good, and that I ended up with a monster as my wildcard. I love my draft, Gene, and I’m going for a sweep!
Look, I'll admit my first draft did not go quite as well as planned. I thought I was going the practical route by stocking up on offensive linemen early on, and while I stand by my team as an incredibly strong unit overall, the fan vote did not quite go in my favor. I probably should have seen that coming, as while I certainly had the stronger blocking unit up front, missing out on the trio of Justin Fields, Ezekiel Elliott and Chris Olave was simply too much to overcome. I thought I could offset it with C.J. Stroud, J.K. Dobbins and Garrett Wilson, but alas, I did not.
That being said, I think I nailed it this time around with my draft on the defensive side of the ball. Not only did I put together a team that I think would be incredibly dominant on the field, but I also managed to pick up more than a handful of fan favorites and flashy names along the way to even further make my case. Like Josh said, this draft was a lot different than the first one, as the two of us went in different directions with our selections. In the end, I found it interesting that Josh went more old school and I went more new school, and I'm curious to see how that plays out for us in the voting process.
Moving on to my roster, we can start with what would be perhaps the most dominant defensive line in college football history. My first overall pick was Chase Young, and I got to bookend him with Nick Bosa after Josh selected his brother Joey with his second overall pick (his first of the double-pick being Shazier). We established before the draft that each player taken is the best possible version of that player, so while the younger Bosa brother didn’t quite get a chance to put his full skillset on display in Columbus, we got to see flashes of that potential at Ohio State and now even moreso in the NFL. Young speaks for himself as one of the most dominant defensive players in program history.
I did not prioritize defensive tackle as much as Josh, but I still wound up with Tommy Togiai and Dre’Mont Jones as my guys up the middle. Togiai slots in as my top run-stuffing defensive lineman, while Jones provides a bit more pass-rushing ability up the middle having experience playing off the edge as well. In addition, I snagged J.T. Tuimoloau as my wildcard selection, whom I can sub in for either Young or Bosa when they need a breather or put together Larry Johnson’s dream Rushmen package of Young, Jones, Tuimoloau and Bosa. Imagine an offensive line attempting to block that quartet of studs?
Josh nailed it at his linebacker spot, but im still very happy with my selections of Jerome Baker, Malik Harrison and Pete Werner. Baker was a tremendous athlete at Ohio State with a flare for the dramatic, putting up some of his biggest performances in the team’s biggest games. Harrison was the lone star on a unit that really struggled elsewhere, leading the Buckeyes in total tackles in both 2018 and 2019. Werner got the short end of the stick in his time in Columbus as he was lumped in with some of the other poor performers on his unit, but he was asked to do a lot from his linebacker position and did it all more than well for Ryan Day’s squad, and is now showing off that skillset with the New Orleans Saints.
While my defensive line is full of studs, I think my secondary may be even better. I snagged Denzel Ward and Marshon Lattimore as my two cornerbacks. Each member of the duo has experienced tremendous success at both the collegiate and professional level, and it would be an opposing quarterback’s nightmare to have them both at their peak on the same team. Behind them are my safeties in Malik Hooker and Jordan Fuller, which I think creates the perfect compliment to one another. Hooker is one of my favorite Ohio State players ever, and was one of the most impressive ball-hawking talents I've ever seen. Fuller was the perfect eraser at the back end, making sure nobody gets past the last line of defense and keeping opponents from breaking off any big plays.
I think my team came out about as well as I could have hoped. Young, Jones, Tuimoloau and Bosa will keep opposing quarterbacks from having any time to throw the ball, and on the off chance they do Ward, Lattimore, Hooker and Fuller are back there to make a play on it. Togiai and the linebacker trio of Baker, Harrison and Werner are there to clean up the rest and put a kibosh on the ground game, though the guys around them are pretty adept at stopping that as well. This Buckeye unit would do a great service to the Silver Bullets namesake.
The Final Rosters:
DL: Joey Bosa, Jonathon Hankins, Michael Bennett, John Simon
LB: Ryan Shazier, Raekwon McMillan, Darron Lee
CB: Jeff Okudah, Denzel Burke
S: Vonn Bell, C.J. Barnett
Wildcard: Jack Sawyer (DL)
DL: Chase Young, Tommy Togiai, Dre’Mont Jones, Nick Bosa
LB: Jerome Baker, Malik Harrison, Pete Werner
CB: Denzel Ward, Marshon Lattimore
S: Malik Hooker, Jordan Fuller
Wildcard: J.T. Tuimoloau (DL)
Who won the ‘Defense of the Decade’ draft?
This poll is closed