Next Man Up: How Buckeyes can replace leadership, find new Block O

Spencer Holbrook4 months
Haskell Garrett 2 By Birm-Lettermen Row
Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett is returning for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State had an incredible season last year on its way to the national title game, where it beat Clemson in the semifinal and fell short against Alabama. Many of the key players from that team moved onto the NFL. Who could step in to make plays similar to what the former Buckeyes made last season? Lettermen Row is breaking down key plays and who could make them. Next up: How the Buckeyes can replace lost leadership from a season ago and find a new deserving player to wear the Block O jersey.

COLUMBUS — Ohio State loses captains every year.

This season is no different — sort of. The Buckeyes will need to replace three-time captain Tuf Borland along with Justin Fields, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers, Jonathon Cooper, Justin Hilliard and Shaun Wade. All seven brought leadership to the football program both on and off the field.

But replacing one of them might be the most difficult, as the Buckeyes attempt to find leadership where Jonathon Cooper no longer leads.

Cooper was given the honor of wearing the newest Ohio State tradition, the Block O jersey. After wearing No. 18 for four seasons, Cooper switched to No. 0 for his final year with the Buckeyes, a new symbol of hard work, excellence and leadership within the program.

So who will be entrusted to carry on that Block O tradition for its second season of existence? Its not clear yet. But one thing is clear: It’ll be earned, not given.

Jonathon Cooper-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Jonathon Cooper was a leader last year for Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“It really should come from the offseason program and who has put years into the program and who has been through some adversity, who has worked through some things, who has fought through things and really lived our culture,” Day told Lettermen Row last season. “With everything that’s gone on this year and the great tradition that Ohio State has, how can we now create something that can be new? We thought naming the award after Bill Willis would be a great decision because it’s great way we can honor him. So, then you ask who it should be?

“When you think about Jonathon Cooper, he’s been through a lot, he’s fought through adversity, he’s played defensive end, he’s from Columbus, he’s a captain — it was just a great fit. He’s the perfect first guy to wear that Block O, and we’ll just keep that going. I hope it’s something that stays in the program for a long time.”

So which veteran Buckeyes will be in the running to carry the new tradition into its second year? Ohio State certainly has impressive candidates to become the next Block O recipient, and Lettermen Row is breaking down the options.

Ohio State options

Haskell Garrett: The first Buckeyes player to wear the Block O jersey was a defensive lineman. The honor may stay with the Rushmen for another season. Haskell Garrett is a leading candidate to earn the honor of the Block O, especially after the last two years. Garrett went from being shot in the face and having emergency surgery in August to having an All-American season for the Buckeyes. He also battled through COVID-19 at one point, as well. Garrett fought through adversity that would have knocked others down and became dominant for Ohio State. He’s the leading candidate to earn the Block O honor.

Thayer Munford-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State left tackle Thayer Munford is the top returning tackle in the country. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Thayer Munford: Thayer Munford was one of the lowest-ranked players who signed in Ohio State’s loaded 2017 recruiting class. But he may leave the program as one of the best players from that impressive haul of talent. Munford is entering his fourth season as the starting left tackle. He battled through injuries during his first two seasons as the starting left tackle, and he was finally healthy last year. That’s when he began to show signs that he can be a first-round pick as a blindside anchor of an offensive line. Munford has become a complete offensive lineman and leader during his time with the Buckeyes. Will those factors earn him a Block O recognition?

Chris Olave: The story of Chris Olave’s journey to Ohio State as a three-star recruit has been told plenty of times. Combine that with his performance through three seasons, his work ethic and leadership and his return for a final season with the Buckeyes despite being a projected first-round pick, and he is an obvious candidate for the Block O jersey honor. Olave has been a consistent leader on and off the field for Ohio State, and that will continue for a fourth season. He will be a preseason All-American, and he might just need a jersey change before taking the field this fall.

Marcus Williamson: This name could be the only possible dark-horse candidate to wear the Block O jersey. Marcus Williamson detailed his struggles through his career during a press conference this spring. He thought about quitting football before but has stuck in the Buckeyes program and battled adversity. Now a fifth-year senior who used the extra year of eligibility, Williamson has a chance to have a large role in the revamped secondary this fall — and maybe he’ll do that with a new jersey number.

Haskell Garrett-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Haskell Garrett is returning for another season at Ohio State — and he might be the best leader on the team. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The pick: Haskell Garrett

Forget what Haskell Garrett brings onto the field. He is a leader in the defensive line room and has battled through more than enough adversity. Garrett became one of the best defensive linemen in the country after being shot in the face last fall prior to the season beginning. He worked through the wound and rehab. Garrett started for the Buckeyes just a few weeks later.

He credited his All-American status as a team success rather than an individual achievement. Garrett has proven himself to be one of the leaders on and off the field for Ohio State.

And that’s why Haskell Garrett may need to ditch No. 92 for a new Block O jersey this fall.