Our Choice For Best OSU Linebacker


The sports departments at 10TV and ONN went through a list of names and voted on the top ten linebackers in Ohio State history.

Using a system that awarded 10 points for a first place votes, nine points for second and so on, our list was determined. 

The criterion was only what the linebackers did while at Ohio State and their professional careers had no bearing.

SLIDESHOW:  Top Linebackers

Honorable Mention

Ed Thompson made 338 tackles in his career, still good for ninth on the all-time list at Ohio State. He led the Bucks with 126 tackles in 1975, when he was named All-Big Ten, not bad for a guy who came to Columbus as a quarterback. Thompson lettered from 1974-76.

Eighth on the career tackle chart is Alvin Washington with 345. His 120 stops as a junior in 1979 helped send the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl.

Lorenzo Styles was All-Big Ten in both 1993 and 94, leading OSU in tackles each season. His 282 career stops are 16th all-time.

Matt Wilhelm corralled 121 ball-carriers in OSU's national championship season of 2002. He earned All-Big Ten and All-American honors his senior year.

Better known as one of the NFL's greatest offensive tackles ever, Jim Parker was an outstanding linebacker at Ohio State as well. Although he played the position before it evolved into what we now know, he was responsible for one of the pivotal moments in Woody Hayes' career.

Dwight "Ike" Kelley (Watch Video)

Dwight "Ike" Kelley was the first Buckeye standout at the position that became to be known as linebacker. The Bremen, Ohio, native played in an era when the game of football was evolving.

Kelley was All-Big Ten and All-American in 1964 and 65, and served as the Buckeyes' co-captain his senior year. Ike paved the way for the rest of the guys you see on this list.

Steve Tovar (Watch Video)

Steve Tovar was also a two-time All-American. From 1990 through 1992, he led Ohio State in tackles, on the way to All-Big Ten honors. He's one of only four players to top OSU in that category three straight years.

For his career, the Elyria native made 408 stops, still fourth all-time among all Buckeyes. His 239 career solo tackles are fourth on that list. Tovar also made 35 career tackles for loss, seven of those being sacks.

As a senior, Tovar had 128 tackles, earning him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Andy Katezenmoyer (Watch Video)

No linebacker came to Ohio State with greater hype than Andy Katzenmoyer. Before starting his first game as a true freshman, Katzenmoyer received permission from Archie Griffin to wear the number 45.

Surrounded by incredible talent in 1996, Katzenmoyer made 85 tackles, 23 for loss, and registered 12 sacks. He also contributed four interceptions, being named All-Big Ten.

In the 1997 Rose Bowl, he tied a school record for five tackles for loss in a game, a major reason why the Buckeyes beat Arizona State to finish second in the polls.

As a sophomore, the Westerville product captured the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, on top of All-Big Ten and All-American laurels. He had a pair of interceptions, but the outstanding memory from that year was one of his 97 tackles.

Katzenmoyer was the center of attention in 1998, landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the Bucks were the preseason number one. Offenses keyed on him, but Katzenmoyer still was All-Big Ten, making 74 tackles.

Over his three year career, Katzenmoyer had 256 career tackles, 50 tackles for loss, which is fourth-most ever at OSU, 18 sacks and six interceptions. His 197 career solo stops still ranks sixth all-time.

Marcus Marek (Watch Video)

No one has brought down more ball-carriers as a Buckeye then Marcus Marek. A four-year starter from 1979 through 82, Marek made 572 career tackles, edging Tom Cousineau for the all-time lead.

From Vienna, Ohio, in Trumbull County, he was the first player in OSU history to lead the team in tackles three straight seasons, earning All-Big Ten honors each time.

In 1982, Marek was named All-American. His 178 tackles that year still represents the third highest single-season total in school annals. On senior day against Michigan, Marek made a career-high 21 tackles, and intercepted a pass to set up the Buckeyes final points in a 24-14 win.

Marek ranks first in all-time assisted tackles at Ohio State with 316, and his 256 solo stops place him third in that category.

Thomas "Pepper" Johnson (Watch Video)

Thomas "Pepper" Johnson was a two-timer at Ohio State, as in two time All-Big Ten, two-time captain, and two-time team leader in tackles.

From 1982 through 1985, he made 379 stops, which was third when his career concluded, and still the sixth-highest figure in school history. He was All-American as a senior thanks to 141 tackles, playing along-side another Buckeye legend, Chris Spielman.

In 1984, Johnson's 140 tackles were most on defense, helping Ohio State win the Big Ten, and reach the Rose Bowl.

The Detroit native was third on the team in tackles as a sophomore in spite of starting just one game. Although he could cover the field from sideline to sideline, Johnson was also a physical specimen at 6-3 and 235 pounds.

James Laurinaitis (Watch Video)

James Laurinaitis was one of the more well-decorated players at Ohio State. He won the Nagurski, Butkus and Lott Awards, as well as becoming just the eighth three-time All-American in school history. Blessed with physical ability and uncanny instincts, he was an every down player, a rarity in this current era populated by spread offenses.

As a freshman, he saw spot duty until Bobby Carpenter was injured in the Michigan game. Laurinaitis started the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame, and was in the lineup ever since.

The first OSU recruit from Minnesota in 70 some years, Laurinaitis was All-Big Ten as a sophomore, topping the team in tackles with 115. His five picks paced the defense as well.

In 2007, he again led the Bucks in stops, with 121. He had a career-high 19 tackles against Wisconsin, and a BCS championship game record 18 against LSU. In addition, he intercepted two passes in the win at Washington.

Then as a senior, he made 130 tackles in earning back to back Big Ten defensive player of the year laurels.

One of the most beloved Buckeyes of all time, Laurinaitis finished with 375 total tackles -- seventh all time -- with 13 sacks and nine interceptions. While those stats are solid, they weren't spectacular, just like the player himself.

Randy Gradishar (Watch Video)

Randy Gradishar was in the middle of the greatest Ohio State defense in school history

That 1973 season saw Gradishar lead the Buckeyes in stops with 134. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, a feat even more impressive when you consider teammates John Hicks and Archie Griffin finished second and fifth, respectively.

Woody Hayes called him the "best linebacker he ever coached". A 1970 graduate of Champion high school in Champion, Ohio, Gradishar helped the Buckeyes win the 1972 and 73 Big Ten Championships.

Over his three seasons, Gradishar made 320 career tackles, at the time the OSU record, and currently the 12th best figure. He was all-Big Ten all three seasons he played, and was named All-American as a junior and a senior.

Gradishar was elected into the college football hall of fame in 1998.

Tom Cousineau (Watch Video)

Tom Cousineau was a tackling machine. From 1975 through 1978, he accumulated 569 tackles, establishing a new school record. Marcus Marek is the only Buckeye to pass that total, and he did so by just three.

One record that still stands are 211 stops in 1978, a single-season record that may never be broken. That year, he made 29 tackles in the season opener, still tied for the most in a single game. Against SMU, his 16 solo tackles remains the bench-mark in that category.

All-Big Ten his sophomore, junior and senior years, the product of Lakewood St. Edward High School was an All-American his last two years. The Buffalo Bills made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft, although Cousineau opted to play in the CFL.

Five of the top ten single-game tackle totals in OSU history can be found next to Cousineau's name. A physical fitness freak, he could have come from central casting.

A.J. Hawk (Watch Video)

Following high school, the OSU coaches weren't sure if A.J. Hawk would play linebacker or fullback. Recruited alongside Mike D'Andrea, Bobby Carpenter and Stan White Jr., the Centerville native was almost an afterthought.

As a freshman, Hawk scored a touchdown in just his second career game, on an interception return against Kent State. Pressed into the starting lineup against Penn State, he made another interception in a season that saw the Buckeyes win the 2002 national title.

In 2003, Hawk moved into the starting line-up for good, and paced Ohio State with 106 tackles, earning All-Big Ten honors. As a junior, he made 141 stops, again best among Buckeyes, and the most since Chris Spielman's 205 in 1986. For that, he added All-American to his resume.

His senior season brought all-Big Ten, All-American prestige once again, but he was also named the Lombardi Award winner as well the Big Ten's defensive player of the year. Hawk registered 121 tackles, 16 and a half of which were for loss.

For his career, Hawk's 394 tackles are the fifth-most in school history. His numbers also include 15 sacks, 41 tackles for loss, and 11 interceptions.

Chris Spielman (Watch Video)

Several figures are considered the embodiment of Ohio State football, and Chris Spielman is certainly one of them. A legend before he even wore the Scarlet and Gray, Spielman appeared on a box of Wheaties while still in high school at Massillon.

Ankle injuries limited him to just seven games and 45 tackles as a true freshman, although he contributed to a Big Ten title, and Rose Bowl appearance.

His sophomore year began a string of three-straight All-Big Ten campaigns. He had 104 tackles and three interceptions in a season that was most remembered for one game.

In 1986, Spielman made a school record 105 solo stops. His 205 total tackles was the second-highest single-season mark at Ohio State. He also made six interceptions, earning All-Big Ten and All-American honors. Against Michigan, Spielman had 29 tackles, tying Tom Cousineau's single-game record.

His senior year brought the same recognition, with a Lombardi Award thrown in for good measure. Spielman came up with 156 tackles to go with four sacks and pair of picks.

His career stat line reads 546 tackles -- third all-time -- and 283 solo tackles, most of any Buckeye. His 263 career assisted stops are also third best. He also contributed 8 sacks and 11 interceptions.

While certainly an outstanding football player, even Spielman admits he was not gifted physically. 

While humbled to be on top of our list, Spielman is proud of the linebacker tradition at Ohio State, noting a similarity between many of the great players, especially in the middle.

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