COLUMBUS, Ohio — For as accomplished as Ohio State has been under Urban Meyer, a Buckeyes player has yet to win a major individual national award under the direction of the fifth-year OSU head coach.
Buckeyes center Pat Elflein could be the first.
On Wednesday evening, the Football Writers Association of America announced Elflein as one of five semifinalists for the Outland Trophy, which honors the nation’s outstanding interior lineman.
A two-year starter at guard, Elflein converted to center prior to the start of the 2016 campaign. He has started in each of Ohio State’s 10 games this season, spearheading an offensive attack that ranks 10th nationally in rushing (267.0) and 22nd in sacks allowed per game (1.40). The Buckeyes also rank second nationally in scoring (46.5 points per game), 11th in yards per game (511.4 ypg) and 16th in passing efficiency (152.42).
Entering the season, Meyer said the Ohio State offense would go as Elflein and quarterback J.T. Barrett go.
“If you were trying to break in a new quarterback and a new center, you probably have no shot,” Meyer said. “The fact that these two guys are back, we have a shot. I think we have a decent shot of being good on offense. And it’s mostly due to those two guys coming back.”
With two games left in the regular season and the second-ranked Buckeyes in the picture for the College Football Playoff, Ohio State has seemingly made the most of that “decent shot.”
Should he go on to win the Outland Trophy, Elflein would become the Buckeyes’ first major award winner since 2008, when Malcolm Jenkins took home the Thorpe Award. Orlando Pace is the last Ohio State player to win the Outland Trophy, doing so in 1996. Former Buckeyes who have also won the award include John Hicks (1973), Jim Stillwagon (1970) and Jim Parker (1956).
For all Ohio State has accomplished in four-plus seasons under Meyer, the lack of national award winners is somewhat surprising.
At Florida, Meyer’s players were more successful in their award show appearances. Tim Tebow won the 2007 Heisman Trophy, as well as the Maxwell Award and the Davey O’Brien Award. Maurkice Pouncey won the Rimington Trophy in 2009, the same year Aaron Hernandez secured the John Mackey Award. In 2010, Chas Henry won the Ray Guy Award, presented annually to the nation’s top punter in 2010.
Should Elflein make it to New York as a finalist, he might not be the only member of the Ohio State contingent on the red carpet. On Tuesday, the Lombardi Award announced Elflein and Barrett as two of its 20 semifinalists, and Barrett is also a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award. Cameron Johnston remains in the hunt for the Ray Guy Award as well.
Finalists for the awards will be announced on Nov. 22 on ESPNU, with the winners revealed on ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 8.
At that point, Ohio State is hopeful it will be focused on other hardware. It never hurts, however, to add to your trophy case.