We previously discussed the top commits in program history, and also explored some of the most surprising (see bottom of this page for both recent stories). But, what about those recruits that were already considered good… yet exceeded expectations even more in turning out to be program greats?
They were decently-ranked among their position groups in respective recruiting cycles, but also somewhere in the bottom half of the national Top 300. Some evolved mightily at their position while others ended up becoming standouts at a different spot on the field.
See below for the Top-10 Buckeyes, working our way down from highest-to-lowest ranking per the 247Sports composite database, along with the position they were recruited at.
Taylor Decker, OT
(Overall: 178, Position: 19)
Decker played in all 12 games as a true freshman on special teams, took over as the starting right tackle as a sophomore, switched to left tackle as a senior and ultimately became a national champion in 2015. The massive 6-foot-7, 315-pounder was drafted midway through the first round by the Detroit Lions and recently signed a $60 million contract extension.
Bobby Carpenter, OLB
(Overall: 187, Position: 9)
Carpenter appeared in 50 college games, helping win the 2002 BCS National Championship and going on to be a 2x All-Big Ten selection. He was eventually picked No. 18 overall by the Dallas Cowboys and spent seven years in the league.
John Simon, DT
(Overall: 188, Position: 16)
Yes, Simon was recruited as a defensive tackle before ultimately making his stellar mark on the end. He was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, and a third team All-American, before getting selected in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens. The Youngstown native has strung together an admirable career since, signing a nice contract with the Colts before catching on in New England… where he became a Super Bowl champion.
Troy Smith, Dual QB
(Overall: 191, Position: 8)
Smith became the starting quarterback midway through his redshirt sophomore season after Justin Zwick got injured. The rest would be history, as he led the Buckeyes to an epic win over Michigan in 2006 en route to securing the Heisman Trophy. His squad made the BCS National Championship contest and he later spent a few years in the NFL.
Sam Hubbard, ATH
(Overall: 192, Position: 13)
Recruited as an athlete, Hubbard was also a lacrosse star and initially committed to play the sport at Notre Dame. Instead, he decided to play football for the Buckeyes and redshirted as a true freshman. Hubbard played in 40 games from that point, delivering 42 tackles and seven sacks as a junior, before declaring early for the NFL Draft. He went in the third round to Cincinnati and is now a starter on the defensive line.
Billy Price, DT
(Overall: 211, Position: 18)
Courted as a defensive tackle on the recruiting circuit, he then switched to offensive guard in college before transitioning to center along the way. He blossomed into a 3x All-Big Ten performer, 2x All-American, won the 2017 Rimington Trophy and was drafted by Cincinnati in the first round.
Carlos Hyde, FB
(Overall: 227, Position: 1)
Listed as a fullback, Hyde learned the ropes as a college freshman and progressed nicely every season going forward. He ran for 3,057 yards across his final three seasons in Columbus, scoring 41 touchdowns and helping the team go undefeated in 2012. He was later picked in the second round by San Francisco and has enjoyed a very nice NFL career.
Terry McLaurin, WR
(Overall: 248, Position: 36)
Not even ranked as a top-35 receiver out of high school, the Indianapolis native played six games on special teams as a freshman before seeing limited offensive time the following year. He eventually compiled 1,137 receiving yards across his final two seasons, scored 19 touchdowns overall and was drafted in the third round by Washington. Now, he is among the NFL leaders in multiple categories.
Denzel Ward, CB
(Overall: 270, Position: 26)
Also a track star in high school, Ward wasn’t super highly-touted on the gridiron but exploded to begin his sophomore year at OSU. He made 60 tackles and defended 24 passes over the next two campaigns, becoming a consensus All-American as a junior and declaring for the NFL Draft. Cleveland took him No. 4 overall and he is now a Pro Bowler.
Joe Burrow, Dual QB
(Overall: 280, Position: 8)
Categorized as a dual quarterback from Athens High School, Burrow spent three years in Columbus and the last two backing up J.T. Barrett. After realizing Dwayne Haskins would be the next starter, Burrow transferred to LSU and ultimately delivered one of the greatest seasons for a QB in college football history. He won the Heisman Trophy, led the Tigers to a national championship, and was the No. 1 overall pick to Cincinnati.