Monday, March 10, 2008

Ohio State Football All 1980's Squad

The 1980's were the first decade without Woody Hayes as coach since the decade in which the Nazi's were toppled. After Woody's demise the program was entrusted to Earle Bruce, a Woody disciple who had successfully turned around the program at Iowa State. But after his first season, in which a late USC drive in the Rose Bowl left Ohio State two points shy of a national title, Earle was never able to take his teams quite so far. Towards the end, the program had slipped and the decade ended on a very sour note.

In investigating why "9 and 3" Earle lagged behind his mentor and predecessor, it immediately becomes apparent that the defense softened during these years. The offensive stars of the 1980's compare favorably enough with past decades, and the linebackers were as strong as any group yet, but there is a distinct paucity of the high quality defensive backs with whom OSU had thrived under Woody and, after Earle's first class graduated, a complete lack of the powerful defensive linemen who used to fill the trenches on Saturdays.

The final scores demonstrate this decay of the Buckeye defense. From 1981 to 1985, Ohio State registered one shut out, and Earle Bruce teams had only three in his final seven seasons. Compare this to Woody's 1977 and 1973 squads, who each registered four shutouts. In this seven-year span, nine teams scored 30 or more points on the Buckeyes, compared with only two teams in the 1968-1977 period, and none managed it in the regular season. From '68-'77, only 21 teams put up 20 or more on the Bucks, while 33 teams did it in the '81-'87 period. While it is true offenses opened up in the early eighties, the top ten scoring defenses were not dramatically different, and though Ohio State was consistently in the top ten in the 1970's, they never once made the top ten list in the 1980's.

But for all that, it was still a successful decade. Earle Bruce got five bowl wins, even though many of them were lesser bowls than the Buckeyes were used to, and Ohio State still managed four wins over Michigan. If the defensive talent had been as deep and broad as the offensive talent, it might have been a tremendous decade indeed, but there is still plenty to celebrate. Let's see who tops the list.


QB Art Schlichter - Oh what he might have done in the NFL without fewer off-the-field problems! He still was the Big Ten MVP in 1981 and a good enough passer that people forget how well he ran.

FB Keith Byars - The era of the Woody fullback was over, but this tailback, who nearly won the Heisman Trophy when he wasn't injured, was big enough to play some FB in the pro's.

TB Tim Spencer - One of Ohio State's all-time leading rushers, room must be made for him even if it means shifting Keith around a bit.


WR Chris Carter - Probably had the best hands in Ohio State history, a phenomenal All-American and long time pro player. His presence on the 1987 team might have been enough to turn that season around.

WR Gary Williams - A fine and nearly forgotten receiver from the early eighties; one of Schlichter's favorite targets.

TE John Frank - Little dispute over this one, perhaps the finest receiving tight end OSU has had in the modern era.

OL Jim Lachey - Yeah he was All-American, yeah he was a multiple All-Pro, but did you know he finished second in the state track meet in the hurdles?

OL Kirk Lowdermilk - Mr. Lachey's buddy on the O-line, he had a long and distinguished NFL career.

OL Joe Lukens - Three-time All-Big Ten honoree, probably should have been an All-American

OL Bill Roberts - Passed over by awards committees, this powerful tackle was a first round NFL pick.

OL Jeff Uhlenhake - An All-American, Cooper's favorite of his early linemen.


DT Jerome Foster - The one true star of a group that lacks punch, Mr. Foster was a sack specialist for the early Bruce teams.

DE Erik Kumerow - Earle's OLB were DE's too. Erik stands out among a moderately talented bunch.

DE Rowland Tatum - Another solid OLB/DE, an All-Big Ten selection.


LB Chris Spielman - There was defensive talent at Ohio State in the 1980's, you just have to know where to look. No one was ever better than All-American and future All-Pro #36 Chris Spielman.

LB Marcus Marek - All-American and all time tackles leader at OSU. A four year starter.

LB Pepper Johnson - An All-American with a distinguished pro career, this Detroit native found his true home in Columbus.

LB Orlando Lowry - A solid OLB/DE and future NFL player. Paired up with Rowland Tatum in the first part of the decade.


DB William White - A good cover man at the end of Earle's Buckeye tenure, All-Big Ten, he had a nice pro career.

DB Shaun Gayle - Another solid DB with a long pro career, he labored on the forgotten 1983 team.

DB Sonny Gordon - Another All-Big Ten pick who played along side Mr. White.

DB Garcia Lane - All-Big Ten and partner to Shaun Gayle on the 1983 team.


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