Ohio State’s Super Sophomores

In February of 1967 the Ohio State Buckeyes brought in one of the all time great recruiting classes. This particular Buckeye recruiting class included 11 High School All Americans. The class was led by QB Rex Kern and DB Jack Tatum. This group of Buckeyes became known as the Super Sophomores in 1968 when they went undefeated at 9-0. Then, they went to the Rose Bowl and won 27-16 over USC and the National Championship.

 

Rex Kern was a spectacular athlete from Lancaster, Ohio and starred in 3 sports in high school. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals for baseball after his senior year. He was offered scholarships to UCLA and North Carolina among others in basketball. UCLA won 10 out of 12 National Championships in those days, so their offering Rex Kern a scholarship to play basketball there was kind of a big deal. They had the greatest basketball coach of all time, John Wooden, and he apparently knew basketball talent. So, apparently, Rex Kern was pretty good at basketball.

He was offered by everybody in football as well and decided on Ohio State to play both football and basketball. Kern injured his back while he was a freshman playing basketball and then focused on football.

 

Rex Kern was the glamour boy of this recruiting class because he was the Quarterback. But, the best player of the Super Sophomores was without a doubt, Jack Tatum, a Defensive Back. Tatum was a high school All American from New Jersey, one of the greatest players ever produced by that state.

Jack Tatum was the Assassin. He became more famous as an NFL player with the Oakland Raiders for his hard hitting style of play. Tatum was 1st team all Big 10 in 1968, 1969 and 1970 and he was 1st team All American in 1969 and 1970.

He was one of the greatest Defensive Backs to ever play the game at every level.

The Raiders drafted him in the 1st round of the 1971 NFL draft and he was All Pro for several years.

Jack Tatum was most famous for his involvement with the play known as the Immaculate Reception and for his hard hit on Darryl Stingley which left him paralyzed. Tatum passed away in 2010.

 

Jim Stillwagon was a Defensive Tackle/Nose Guard for the 1968-70 Buckeyes. Stillwagon was another All American from Mt Vernon, Ohio. Jim Stillwagon was undersized at 6-0, 240, but he was super quick much like Nebraska’s Rich Glover was on that 1971 super Husker team. They remind me much of each other which is a complement for either man. Stillwagon was a consensus All American in both his Junior and Senior season. He won the Outland Trophy in 1970 and he was the first ever winner of the Lombardi Award.

He was drafted in the 5th round by the Green Bay Packers, but opted instead for the Canadian Football League where he was a big star. Jim Stillwagon may have been undersized but he was a beast.

 

Another Super Sophomore was John Brockington from Brooklyn, New York. Brockington played Halfback for the Buckeyes in 1968 and 1969, but moved to Fullback in 1970 where he rushed for 1,142 yards and 17 TDs during his senior season.

Brockington was picked in the 1st round by the Green Bay Packers at the #9 spot and was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1971. John Brockington rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first 3 NFL seasons and wound up with over 5,000 career yards and 30 TDs.

He was a good example of the classic power back at 6-1, 225. He punished would be tacklers with his hard running style.

 

Mike Sensibaugh was an outstanding Defensive Back and another member of the Super Sophomores. Coming out of Cincinnati, Ohio Sensibaugh was highly recruited and decided to stay near home and play at Ohio State. Sensibaugh still holds Ohio State interception records with 22 career pick offs and 9 in one season.

He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and played there 5 years before finishing his career with the St Louis Cardinals.

 

Jan White played Tight End and was only 6-2, 215. He played WR as a sophomore but moved to Tight End in 1969 and 1970. He had 61 career receptions at Ohio State and was drafted in the 2nd round by the Buffalo Bills. He only played 2 seasons in the NFL but was productive during that time catching 25 passes. He was from Harrisburg, Pa.

 

Bruce Jankowski played Split End. Jankoski was the team’s leading receiver in 1968 and had 66 career receptions at Ohio State and keep in mind that Woody Hayes felt that 3 things can happen when you throw the ball and 2 of them are bad. So, the Buckeyes didn’t throw the ball all that much back in those days.

He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and only played a couple of years in the league. Jankowski was another Jersey boy being from Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

 

Tim Anderson was a Corner Back and he was a 1st team All American in 1970. Originally from West Virginia, he played 4 years in the Canadian Football League and then for the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills.

 

Larry Zelina played Half Back for 3 years at Ohio State. He never put up big numbers rushing for just over 600 yards and had 46 receptions for 810 yards and 4 TDs. Where Zelina really excelled was in kick and punt returns having several punt returns for TDs. Zelina was from Cleveland and passed away in 2005 from a heart attack.

 

 

 

Doug Adams was an outstanding LB for the Buckeyes from Xenia, Ohio. After Ohio State he played several years for the Cincinnati Bengals. He was 6-1, 225 and a great run stuffer.

 

Mark Debevc was an All Big 10 Defensive End for the Buckeyes.

 

In 1967, the Buckeyes had a bad season for them, going 6-3. The Indiana Hoosiers went 9-2 and went to the Rose Bowl and played national champion USC.

 

The Super Sophomores were freshmen in the 1967 season and freshmen were ineligible in those years. I remember back in the day when colleges had their freshmen teams. It would have been a lot of fun to have seen this Ohio State Buckeye freshmen team play in 1967. I would guess that they steamrolled everyone that they played.

 

1968 rolled around and the Super Sophomores would get their shot.

The season started out with the Buckeyes rated #11. By week three, they were ranked #4 and hosted top rated Purdue who was usually strong back in the 1960’s. The Super Sophomores and company shocked the nation and the Boilermakers, with a 13-0 win, and the Buckeyes took the #2 ranking for the rest of the season. They squeaked by #16 Michigan State, 25-20, and then beat arch rival Michigan, 50-14.

The Buckeyes earned a trip to the Rose Bowl to play defending national champions, USC. The Buckeyes came from behind to beat the Trojans and Heisman Trophy winner OJ Simpson, 27-16, and they won the National Championship.

 

1969 was to be the year of the Buckeyes. They had just about everybody back and the magnificent class of 1967 were juniors now.

They started off by beating TCU 62-0. Their first 8 games were all blowouts with wins over #19 Michigan State, 54-21 and then they beat #10 Purdue 42-14. They were 8-0 and ranked #1 all season long.

Then, they played rival Michigan who was ranked #12 and with a brand new coach named Bo

Schembechler. It was a stunning upset with Michigan coming out on top 24-12.

Michigan won the Big 10 and in those days only the winner of the Big 10 and the Pac 8 got to go to the Rose Bowl with the runners up staying home for the Holidays.

The 1969 Ohio State Buckeyes were one of the better teams of all time, but didn’t even get to go to a Bowl game. Also, the Big Shootout between Texas and Arkansas would have never happened without the loss to Michigan. The Texas Longhorns would have never been National Champions.

 

The 1970 season saw much of the same with the Super Sophomores now an experienced group of seniors and ranked #1. But, some polls had defending champions Texas at #1 and OSU at #2.

The Buckeyes cruised through the first 6 games without a hitch. But, Notre Dame had been impressive and passed the Buckeyes in the Polls.

The Buckeyes just kept winning and beat everyone on their schedule including a vengeful 20-9 win over #4 ranked Michigan. The Buckeyes earned the Rose Bowl berth and faced the 12th ranked Stanford Indians. Unfortunately, Stanford pulled a huge upset with Heisman Trophy winner, Jim Plunkett and his team winning over Ohio State, 27-17.

 

The Super Sophomores went 27-2 during their 3 years in Columbus winning one national championship but coming up short 2 other times. They came within 2 huge upsets of possibly winning 3 national titles.

In 1970, Jan White at Tight End, John Brockington at Fullback, Jim Stillwagon at Nose Guard, Jack Tatum, Jim Sensibaugh, and Tim Anderson all made All American.

People often say that recruiting is overrated. But, the 1967 Ohio State recruiting class sure wasn’t overrated. It was an incredible group of guys and they went out and showed the world.

 

 

This post is for my new friend, Russell Lewis, who is a Buckeye fan.

7 thoughts on “Ohio State’s Super Sophomores

  1. Russell Lewis

    Brad, I remember when OSU lost the Rose Bowl to Stanford and Jim Plunkett. There was a period of time where it seemed that the Big 10 just couldn’t beat the Pac 10. I really hated watching those games. It is interesting that the year OSU won the championship was the year before Bo became the coach at Michigan. Bo had played for Woody at Miami and coached with him at OSU.

    Reply
    1. Brad Post author

      Yea, it has seemed at times as if the Pac 8 or 10 or 12 whichever it is at the time has ruled the Rose Bowl.

      Reply
  2. Pingback: 1971 NFL Draft | College Football Crazy

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    1. Brad Post author

      What do you mean you ‘used to be able to find good info from my articles’? There’s good info in almost all of my articles. I research them.

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