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Ohio State Football Mount Rushmore: Running Backs Edition

Brian Hartline discussing the Mount Rushmore of wide receivers and paying homage to the greats before them made me think about who would be on Mount Rushmore for each position at Ohio State. Tyler Baker and I will create our own Mount Rushmore for each position. The main factor will be each player’s time competing at Ohio State. As with the Wide Receiver group, some of the greats will be left out of the top four.

The Ohio State Buckeyes have a rich tradition at the running back position. Six of the seven Heisman Trophy winners from Ohio State played running back in some capacity, and several others were stars on the gridiron. In this article, players who played quarterback will not be included. We will exclusively look at the running back position. This eliminates Buckeye greats like Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, Les Horvath, and Vic Janowicz.


Archie Griffin (1972-75)

The top running back discussion for Ohio State has to start with Archie Griffin. Archie is the all-time leading rusher for Ohio State, having rushed for 5,589 yards in his career, along with 26 rushing touchdowns. Archie is also the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in Buckeye history.


During his stay in Columbus, Archie led OSU to four Big Ten titles, four wins over That Team Up North (AKA Michigan), and four appearances in the Rose Bowl. He was a two-time first-team All-American, Three-time 1st team All-Big Ten member, Three-Time MVP of the Big Ten, and both Maxwell and Walter Award winner during his four-year stay in Columbus. There is zero chance Archie should be left off the mountaintop of all-time great backs at Ohio State.

Ezekiel Elliott (2013-15)

'Feed Zeke' was a recurring theme during his stint at Ohio State. The crop top jersey-wearing, bowl-eating monster rang loud in Columbus during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. During his time at Ohio State, Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns. This makes Ezekiel Elliott third all-time in rushing yards and fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns.


Zeke was the staple of Urban Meyer's offense, and when they needed a play, the ball usually was put into the belly of #15. Elliott ran with anger yet also had grace. A smooth runner while displaying SEC speed on the way to winning the first-ever National Title in the Playoff Era.


Not only was Zeke a very talented rusher, as shown by his draft selection during the NFL Draft, but Elliott was also an all-time blocker, leading the way during many of JT Barrett’s carries during their career together.


Ezekiel Elliott helped Ohio State win the Big Ten Championship in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He was a three-time 1st Team All-Big Ten performer, a unanimous First Team All - American selection during the 2015 season, and lastly, was Chicago Tribune's Silver Football Winner (Big Ten MVP). Although Ezekiel Elliott never won a Heisman, he put on multiple Heisman Trophy-caliber moments, like when he rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama.

Eddie George (1992-95)

Eddie George was a staple in the Horseshoe during the late '90s. Eddie George, born and raised in Philadelphia, was recruited by many schools to be a linebacker. Ohio State, however, wanted to keep the ball in George’s hands and keep him on the offensive side of the ball. That gamble paid off.


Eddie George was a brute between the tackles, finishing his career third all-time in rushing touchdowns with 44 and fourth all-time in yards with 3,768. Eddie finished his career by capping off a historic season by winning the sixth Heisman in school history, being the Big Ten MVP, All-American Selection, the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award, and Walter Camp Award during the 1995 season.

J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins burst onto the scene as a freshman; rushing for 1,403 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Dobbins could cut on a dime and show some power behind the pads, as he always found ways to finish a carry. J.K. Dobbins split carries amongst J.T Barrett and Mike Weber throughout his first two years on campus. In his final season, J.K. received over 300 carries and finished with 2,003 rushing yards seven with 23 total touchdowns. Dobbins finished 2nd in rushing yards with 4,459 and 6th all-time for the Buckeyes with 38 rushing touchdowns. J.K. Dobbins capped off his career by winning the Fiesta Bowl MVP and helped lead Ohio State to two Big Ten Championships before going to the NFL.

Running Back Honorable Mentions


Maurice Clarrett

Clarett may be the best back to ever play for Ohio State. Clarett's first year was excellent. He was the key clog on offense and led that team to a National Title over the Miami Hurricanes. He rushed for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns in his sole season running wild in the Horseshoe. The omission for Clarrett comes by default. His career lasted only one year. As great as that one year was, he had to be left off my Mount Rushmore. I believe had he stayed at Ohio State and not challenged the NCAA, bar injury, he, at minimum would be top 2 and possibly number 1.

Pete Johnson

As great as Pete Johnson was at finding pay dirt, he greatly benefited from Archie Griffin and Cornelius Greene. Pete Johnson is 1st in rushing touchdowns with 56. He also rushed for 2,308 yards during his stay at Ohio State.


Keith Byars

The Ohio Man missed most of his senior year and still has a compelling argument in the Mount Rushmore of tailbacks for Ohio State. He finished with 3,200 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns making him 2nd first for Ohio State. Keith Byars would've ranked top 6 all time in my opinion.


Tim Spencer, Carlos Hyde, and Chris “Beanie” Wells

Beanie Wells and the 28 jersey was an all-time favorite for me. As a former Offensive lineman, I loved watching him throw stiff arms and spin moves as a bigger back. Beanie finished 6th in rushing yards for Ohio State and 15th in rushing touchdowns. It feels like yesterday I watched the classic #1 vs. # 2 matchup against Michigan when Beanie Wells took the handoff, spun, and darted toward the end zone from about 55 yards out.

Carlos Hyde finished top 10 in rushing yards and 7th in rushing touchdowns all time during his time in the Horseshoe. He was a focal point in Urban Meyer’s offense during his last two seasons at Ohio State. He finished with 15 and 16 rushing touchdowns respectively in his last two seasons with the Buckeyes. Tim Spencer finishing top 8 in rushing touchdowns and yards is very argumentative and could be placed in your Mount Rushmore. In high school, I remember watching highlights of Spencer. He was so smooth and ran so hard. I remember the clip where they motioned the fullback out and ran a toss, and he scored, but there was a penalty. The following clip shown on the youtube highlight was a scat pass to Spencer and he lowered the shoulder and ran #3 clean over. Tim Spencer is easily a top 10 back of all time for Ohio State. As for me, my opinion is that Archie Griffin, Ezekiel Elliott, Eddie George, and J.K Dobbins stake their claim as the top Running Backs in Ohio State History. Many others deserve their praise and should be remembered as legends of Ohio State. These four, I think, are the staples of the running back positions. Next up, Inext, Linebackers.

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