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‘This or That’: WRU or BIA, which has been Ohio State football’s top position group?

The two position groups have produced an insane amount of top talent over the past two decades.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Ohio State v Georgia Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about taking sides in head-to-head debates. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”This or That” articles here.

It’s no secret that Ohio State football annually brings in some of the best talent in America. Just look at all the Buckeyes who end up being drafted and go on to lengthy NFL careers. Even more interesting is to see the rotation of positions that produce impact players in the scarlet and gray and then at the professional level.

Currently, the position where a carousel of tremendous talent is coming from most is wide receiver. Quarterback has been another strong position for the Buckeyes, but the great play has fallen off a little bit in the NFL. Justin Fields is trying to change the perception that Ohio State quarterbacks can’t make it in the NFL, while we’ll have to wait a few years to see if C.J. Stroud was worth the second overall pick in the draft, or if he is looked at as a bust.

On the defensive side of the football, in the earlier part of this century Ohio State was seen as the new “Linebacker U” after producing A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Ryan Shazier, and a number of others. More recently, some of the most feared defensive ends in college football were in Columbus, as Joey and Nick Bosa, along with Chase Young all went on to be top-five picks in the NFL Draft.

While the defensive ends at Ohio State might have had more star power, they can’t hold a candle to the defensive backs of the Buckeyes when it comes to depth. Since 2000, Ohio State has had a ridiculous number of defensive backs taken in the first round. Even though the secondary hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in recent years, there are signs that the unit is gaining some momentum and could be one of the most feared groups in the country again soon.

Today we have a simple question. Are you riding with WRU or are you BIA (Best in America)? Of course in the end all we really want is Ohio State firing on all cylinders on both sides of the football, but it’s still a fun question to see where your allegiances may lie when it comes to the talented position groups.


It has been to watch Ohio State’s wide receivers evolve over the years as the game of football has changed. Not that the Buckeyes didn’t have great receivers before the year 2000, as Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway are a couple of names that put up huge numbers in the scarlet and gray. While Ohio State was still pretty reliant on the run in the first few years with Jim Tressel as head coach, we did see guys like Michael Jenkins and Santonio Holmes make some clutch catches and go on to become first-round picks.

What put a jolt into the Buckeye wide receivers was the addition of Ted Ginn Jr., who was originally recruited as a cornerback. Ginn had jaw-dropping speed that was quite a sight to see when he was able to find the open field. The speed of Ginn also helped to open up things for Anthony Gonzalez, who ran crisp routes and had great hands. Both receivers would go on to be first-round picks in the 2007 NFL Draft.

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 01 College Football Playoff Semifinal - Allstate Sugar Bowl Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even though it would be 15 years before Ohio State would see another wide receiver drafted in the first round, they still were able to produce wide receivers that have left a mark in the NFL. After being drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, Michael Thomas caught 470 passes in his first four seasons in the league, capped off by an NFL record 149 receptions in 2019. Terry McLaurin, who was a third-round pick in 2019, became the first player in league history to catch at least five passes and a touchdown in each of the first three games of his career.

After the dismissal of wide receivers coach Zach Smith, the group of Buckeye receivers really ramped up their impact on the game when Brian Hartline was hired to fill the role. Since the addition of Hartline to the coaching staff, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba all have been taken in the first round. The future looks even brighter at the position, as Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are looking like they’ll be the next Buckeye wide receivers to be selected in the first round of the draft.


Since 2000, Ohio State has seen 13 defensive backs taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. The Buckeyes have produced a great mix of talented cornerbacks and safeties over the years. Even though some of the Ohio State defensive backs haven’t quite lived up to the hype that followed them to the professional level, there is no doubt that they were some of the most dominant secondary players in the country in college.

One name that comes to mind is Donte Whitner, who was drafted with the eighth overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2006 NFL Draft. Not that Whitner didn’t go on to have a productive NFL career, as he played for four teams over 10 years, he just didn’t quite have the impact expected of someone drafted with a top-10 pick. On the other hand, Vonn Bell was taken 61st overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, and an argument can be made that he is one of the more underrated defensive backs over the last decade.

Bell was part of the golden age of Ohio State defensive backs, as starting with the 2016 NFL Draft, Ohio State saw five defensive backs taken in the first round over the next three years. 2017 saw Marcus Lattimore, Malik Hooker, and Gareon Conley all selected in the first round. In 2018, Denzel Ward was taken with the fourth overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, making him the highest Ohio State defensive back to be taken in the draft since Shawn Springs was picked third overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 1997.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Ohio State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two years later, Jeffrey Okudah matched Springs’ spot when he was selected third overall by the Detroit Lions. Damon Arnette was picked later in the first round by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 19th pick. Since then, the only Buckeye defensive back to be taken in the NFL Draft was Shaun Wade, who was a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2021.

So which group is better?

Again, there is no wrong answer. As Ohio State fans, we are the winners since we have been lucky enough to watch two great collections of talent over the past couple of decades. After the Ohio State defensive backs dominated the NFL drafted from 2016-18, the Buckeye receivers have made the headlines lately. Iron sharpens iron and it’s obvious the receivers have raised their play after seeing the success of the defensive backs.

If we are talking about right now, the winner between the two units is the wide receivers since they have made the most noise lately. If we are talking about it as a whole since 2000, I’d have to go with the defensive backs just because of the number of draft picks from the first three rounds they have produced during that time. The wide receivers might have more top-end talent, but I’d say the defensive backs have produced more depth during that span.

Over the last couple of years, the defensive backs haven’t quite lived up to expectations. There are signs that the corners and safeties could be getting back to the level we have become used to seeing from them. There is a little more stability now with Jim Knowles in his second season as defensive coordinator. Ohio State also has brought in Davison Igbinosun from the transfer portal, along with Lorenzo Styles from Notre Dame to join brother Sonny Styles in the secondary. It feels like only a matter of time before the Buckeyes are seeing their defensive backs taken early in the NFL Draft again.