Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ohio State Football All-1950's Squad

With all apologies to Kansanians, some of whom have some rudimentary knowledge of reading and might stumble across this page, it must be acknowledged that the game of football has evolved, much like a language or a species. If you go back far enough, you could find young men playing an almost unrecognizable sport that would eventually become football, soccer and rugby. Any interested Kansanian could go follow the progress of the sport through time and notice the accumulation of small changes that turned it into the sport we recognize today. Notice, if you take the journey, that the leather wearing brutes of 1918 did not suddenly show up to a game one day in 1919 wearing face masks, modern helmets and pads, playing a nickle defense on third and long and sending the wingback in motion to put him in a better position to block the outside linebacker, which seems to be your understanding of how the evolution of species works.

At any rate, because of the gradual nature of the evolution, it is difficult to locate a single moment in time when football became the modern sport played today and left behind its roots. My opinion is that the 1950's represent this bridge between modern football and its paleo predecessor. If the good reader were to watch a football game from the 1960's, he would see a very recognizable sport whose differences from the game played today are principally stylistic and hardly worth mentioning. On the other hand, the 1940's seem very different indeed.

The 1950's had a fairly well developed specialization at each position. It is true that players generally played on offense and defense, but each particular position, regardless of who played it, had well defined duties and required skills. Tailbacks no longer led their teams in passing, for instance, and a definite difference in the body types and skill sets of halfbacks and fullbacks had arisen. Passing was coming into greater popularity, partly because the shape of the ball had finally been settled on and was more aerodynamic. Also, facemasks came to be used sometime around 1955, if photographs are to be believed. This is an important development because it affects how a defender is willing to defend, what he is willing to do to his body and therefore what an attacker must endure. If the good reader does not believe us, we invite him to view rugby, which does not give its players much in the way of armor, and contrast it with a good football game today.

If the 1950's was the beginning of modern football, or at least on the threshold of it, and if Ohio State is the greatest program in football history - a proposition against which no serious argument can be raised - then it is worth asking what greatness looked like when the modern game was just developing. What, it may well be asked, is the best of the best of the decade? In considering all Ohio State teams, which players would form the All-1950's squad?

The humble blogger must confess to having only a little experience in watching the players of this era. If there were a remedy for this he would certainly avail himself of it, but alas he must make do with reputation and contemporary reports. Also, a decision must be made as to whether a given player should be on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. For better or worse, this is his vote for best of the best of the 1950's:


QB John Borton - Probably Woody's most prolific passer, he set a record that would not be broken at Ohio State for a quarter century.

HB Hopalong Cassady - Heisman Trophy winning HB was Woody's best until a certain number 45 came around. Led Ohio State to the 1954 national championship.

HB Don Clark - Forgotten two-time All Big Ten Halfback, a mainstay on the other national championship squad of 1957.

FB Bob White - A bruising fullback (aren't all fullbacks so described?) and All-American who teamed up with Clark in the Buckeye backfield.

Offensive Line/Ends

OL Jim Parker - The greatest offensive lineman in history. Eight time All-Pro and college All-American, Mr. Parker opened up large holes for Hop Cassady.

OL Aurealius Thomas - Cassady had his Parker, and Clark had his Thomas. An All-American.

OL Ernie Wright - After laboring in undeserved obscurity at Ohio State, he anchored NFL lines for many years. Also on the 1957 team.

OL Dick Schafrath - Yet another standout from the 1957 team. Longtime NFL lineman and the first man to canoo across Lake Erie. At least, the first with white skin...

OL Jim Tyrer - Played two years in the 1950's, one year in the 1960's and then fourteen in the NFL. First round draft pick.

TE Dick Brubaker - Ohio State's main receiver on the 1954 squad.

TE Leo Brown - The main receiver for the 1957 squad and two-time All Big Ten.

Defensive Line

DE Jim Houston - Two-time All-American and mainstay for the Browns in the 1960's. Led the Buckeye defense on the 1957 title team.

DE Dean Dugger - All-American, the Houston of the 1954 squad.

DT Jim Marshall - A second All-American DL for the 1957 team, he played in the NFL for about 67 years.

DT Francis Machinsky - All Big Ten DL/OL from the 1954 squad.

LB Jerry Reichenbach - All-American Guard/LB from the 1954 squad.

LB Bill Jobko - After helping OSU to the 1957 title, he had a good career in the pros.

LB Hubert Bobo - LB/FB from the 1954 team.

Defensive Backs

DB Vic Janowicz - Won the Heisman as a HB, but may have been even better on Defense.

DB Fred Bruney - Went on to multiple All-Pro seasons in the NFL.

DB Dick LeBeau - Another underappreciated 1957-man who went on to multiple All-Pro seasons in the NFL.

DB Don Sutherin - Several qualified candidates for this fourth spot, we'll go with yet another 1957 man with a short NFL career.


RP O'Reilly said...

Great idea. Great team, would be hard to beat.

Spirit of 73 said...


Thank you, sir. A team such as that could only be beaten by... the best Buckeyes of another decade.

Stay tuned...

Anonymous said...

Ironically, Don Clark did in fact lead the team in passing.

Anonymous said...

Jim Tyrer did not play 14 years in the NFL. He played 9 years in the AFL and 5 years in the NFL.

Plus, I would put Aurelius Thomas on the defense. He made the HOF more for his defensive play than for his offense.

Spirit of 73 said...

Anonymous I,

This is true, but my comment was referring to the state of the game in general. On Woody's teams, post-Borton, it didn't take many passes to make you the passing leader.

Anonymous II,

A fair correction. I should have said that he played 14 years in the pros.

As for Thomas, that is interesting. If this is true, than his position was more of a linebacker than an offensive lineman, since defensive guard and center later came to be called linebackers. Perhaps this could be rethought a bit...

Anonymous said...

Annonymous is very wise in the ways of Buckeye Football is he.

Spirit of 73 said...

Much does he have to teach.

Wes from Canada said...

Don Clark went on to have an excellent though short 4 year career in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes. Injuries limited his playing time, but he consistently averaged over 6 yards per carry and scored 6 touchdowns in his last 8 games in 1963 before suffering a career ending injury. He is still well-remembered in Montreal almost 50 years after his pro debut.

Anonymous said...

there was a nov 11 game that i recall #11 scored for osu and clock read 11:11. c b hardin (

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Dave, former Ohioan said...

OK, I have a question then....John Borton was Captain of the 1954 squad. You mention him as a "prolific passer"...but why, then, was Dave Leggett the starting QB? I don't ask to be contrary; I'm really wondering. Leggett looks to be pretty solid, even in the passing department, based on films I see (great season highlight film at Your thoughts?

Dave, former Ohioan said...

OK, I found the answer on another blog (buckeye battle cry). Apparently, John Borton was fighting injury that season. I did see, on the aforementioned highlight reel, that he did get into some games. Anyway, forgive my ignorance. I'm a big Buckeye fan, and love to study their history; but it hasn't been as easy to find information (and video) on the 50s (nor the Paul Brown teams in the 40s). So, thank you for the information here.

(O-H-I-O, Go Bucks!)

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