Cornelius Green led the Ohio State offense to heights not seen before or since, and the former Buckeyes quarterback is excited to see where it is going next season with Braxton Miller and beyond with head coach Urban Meyer.
“Especially with the quarterback being the No. 1 option,” he told BuckeyeSports.com in a recent interview. “I saw that with Terrelle Pryor and now I’m seeing it with Braxton.”
Green (who spelled his last name “Greene” in college but has subsequently dropped the ‘e’) was still Ohio State’s leader in rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season until this year, when Miller eclipsed his mark of 842 yards by juking and sprinting his way to 1,271 as a sophomore.
Next up, Miller figures to surpass Green’s career total of 2,066 rushing yards. He needs only 81 yards to do that and has two years of eligibility remaining. (Green’s mark remains the official Ohio State record in light of the vacating of part of the career of Pryor as a result of him playing games while ineligible because of accepting illegal benefits.)
While Miller was at times the Buckeyes’ only reliable offensive option last season, that was never a problem for Green, who became the school’s first African-American starting quarterback in 1973.
Together with tailback Archie Griffin and fullback Pete Johnson, he was part of the most productive backfield Ohio State fans had seen before or since. The Buckeyes ran for a school record 3,908 yards in ’73 then surpassed that mark with 4,199 yards a season later. The latter mark still stands as the highest total in school history while the ’73 team’s 355.3 yards rushing per game are still a record. The per carry average of 5.7 yards per game in ’74 has never been topped, nor has the rushing touchdown total of 48.
Griffin won two Heisman Trophies and remains Ohio State’s all-time leading rusher with 5,589 yards. Johnson added 2,308 yards rushing and still holds the school record with 58 touchdowns.
“I was the third option,” Green said. “Pete Johnson was going to get the ball or Archie was going to get the ball first, and then I was the third option.
“When you look at the final analysis of that backfield, I was the first quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a career and pass for 2,000 in a career. Of course, Archie ended up being the all-time leading rusher when we left, and Pete ended up being the all-time leading scorer. That was pretty heavy with those guys in the backfield leaving a mark like that.”
Over time, Green said he earned some more opportunities from Hayes, who along with assistant coach Rudy Hubbard recruited him from Washington (D.C.) Dunbar High School.
After playing one game as a freshman in 1972, Green took over as the starter in ’73 and led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season and a share of the Big Ten championship. Though they tied Michigan 10-10 in the season finale, the Buckeyes were awarded a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they thrashed USC 42-21 to finish 10-0-1.
With Green still at the controls, the Buckeyes won two more conference championships and returned to the Rose Bowl again following the ’74 and ’75 seasons, but they lost both of those editions of “The Grandaddy of Them All”.
Green admitted to feeling some pressure early in his time in Columbus.
“Of course coming to Ohio State being the first African-American quarterback was a little tough because I had to deal with a little more than just quarterbacking,” Green said. “I was getting letters from some hate groups and a little bit of everything that didn’t involve football, but it was still the total package. I had to take both sides in that part of the game in addition to trying to make Coach Hayes happy, which I wasn’t doing a good job of either as a freshman.”
Ultimately, of course, it worked out quite well. Green was named first-team All-Big Ten twice and as a senior won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football despite sharing the backfield with the Heisman Trophy winner.
“I think as I became better out there then Coach Hayes started making more plays for me as well,” he said. “They started getting me more involved in the offense versus just running plays off the option. They started designing plays for me, and that felt good.”
Green has settled back in his hometown, where he coaches basketball and football at the St. Albans School, and he remains a fan of his alma mater.
He likes what he sees in Miller and confirmed that he sees a lot of himself in the youngster.
“Our running style is similar, and I love his leadership skills,” Green said. “Braxton is able to turn an average play into a huge touchdown run or pass. I guess those are similarities I think of right now.”
He also sees the move to Meyer’s quarterback-centric offense as paying dividends both now and in the future. The numbers such as those put up by Miller figure to get the attention of top prospects far and wide.
“We’re going to be appealing to a lot of quarterbacks that are dual-threat-type quarterbacks, especially with this offense that Urban Meyer is running,” said Green. “It’s going to attract a lot of great quarterbacks across the country.”