COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Pat Elflein won the Rimington Trophy in 2016 as the nation’s best center, it ended a mind-boggling drought for Ohio State.
Given the talent that Ohio State brings in on a yearly basis — as well as the player development that takes place in Columbus — it was surprising that the Buckeyes went nearly a decade without a national award winner. Ohio State had more than a dozen All-Americans during that stretch, but nobody had captured a national award since Malcolm Jenkins won the Thorpe Award in 2008.
Given the way Ohio State has recruited in recent years, it seems unlikely that Buckeyes fans will have to endure a similar stretch in the coming years. But which players have the best chance to follow in Elflein’s footsteps? Here are some candidates who could take home the next major award for Ohio State.
(A list of all College Football Awards can be viewed here.)
Price’s status as a national award contender is obvious. After all, he’s making the same transition from guard to center that Elflein made last year. He was an All-American at right guard last season, so he’s already incredibly well regarded for his work on the offensive line.
No school has produced back-to-back Rimington Trophy winners, but Price seems positioned to give Ohio State a shot at being the first.
It’s tough to put defensive ends and cornerbacks on this list. Those are the most talented position groups at Ohio State, but that depth leads to more rotations and fewer individual reps. The good of the team in this case comes at the expense of individual recognition, which is why none of Ohio State’s three defensive backs who are about to be drafted in the top 15 of the NFL draft were finalists for the Thorpe Award (nation’s best defensive back) in 2016.
Bosa might have the skill set to transcend that, however. His older brother Joey was a dominant force at Ohio State, and Nick already is drawing comparisons to him after bagging 5 sacks as a freshman.
He’ll be splitting reps again this year with three or four talented defensive ends, but he’s continued to build his skill set since arriving at Ohio State.
“I think he has got some good things that he is working on,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “If he can improve his game as a sophomore, that is all you can ask. I don’t think he is looking to compare himself to Joey, what Joey did his sophomore year. He just wants to be a great player, and whatever it takes to do it, he is all ears. That is what I like him about him.”
Barrett’s spot on this list is probably questioned more by Ohio State fans than it would have been a year ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. There are multiple quarterback-specific awards (including one just for seniors), and signal callers almost always take home the three player of the year trophies, as well.
Aside from the fact that there are so many chances to win one, it’s just reasonable to assume Barrett will have a bounce-back year. Two of the greatest offensive minds in college football are employed by Ohio State. The Buckeyes figure to use more tempo this season, which helped the quick-thinking Barrett to a fifth-place Heisman finish as a redshirt freshman in 2014. Ohio State’s wide receivers and offensive line should be better and, most importantly, the coaching staff has confidence in Barrett.
“I thought once again his accuracy was right on target, like it’s been most of the spring,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after Barrett completed 8 of 12 passes in the spring game.
Someone in the Class of 2017
This is a bit of a cop-out, but there’s so much talent in the incoming freshman class. From a timeliness standpoint, it would take a couple of years without any hardware before members of this class have a crack at it. But if that is the case, there are many young players on this roster with elite athleticism.
A few names to keep in mind: cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade, linebacker Baron Browning, offensive guard Wyatt Davis and wide receiver Trevon Grimes.