The All-Cooper Team: Cornerbacks

Antoine Winfield

We've reached the defensive backfield in our weekly vote in which you can choose the best players of the John Cooper era in this anniversary season, and this week's vote comes at one of the most talent-heavy positions Cooper had. Which of his cornerbacks, five of whom were first-round NFL draft picks, deserve this week's win? Let us know.

Twenty-five years ago this year, John Cooper coached his first game on the sidelines at Ohio State, and we at Buckeye Sports Bulletin are celebrating the anniversary by allowing fans to vote on the best players to play in the Cooper era to make an All-John Cooper team.

Cooper is a lightning rod among Ohio State fans, as his struggles against Michigan and in bowl games are well documented, but at the same time, he put Buckeye football back on the map and served as a bridge for the program into the modern era of college football while also remaking the team into a high-flying, nationally contending outfit.

For his efforts, Cooper has been named to the Rose Bowl and College Football halls of fame, and he joined the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame this fall.

We're almost done with the squad, as we move on to the cornerback position to see which players will join the defense. Here, we have some of the best players in OSU history at the spot, including five – yes, five – first-round draft picks.

What follows are thumbnail bios of the six contenders in chronological order.

Nate Clements: Started in 1999 and 2000 under Cooper. … Added 513 punt return yards in the year 2000, second all-time at OSU. … Had 131 of those yards that season vs. Purdue, fourth-best for one game. … Is sixth all-time in career punt return yards. … Posted 177 career tackles and seven interceptions, including four picks as a junior. … Was a first-round draft pick and had a 12-year career with stops in Buffalo, San Francisco and Cincinnati.

Ahmed Plummer: A three-year starter for the Buckeyes from 1997-99, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors his final campaign. … Was also an NFF scholarship winner that season as well as an Academic All-American. … Intercepted 13 passes in his three seasons as a starter, most of any Buckeye the past 25 years. … Selected a team captain in 1999 and went on to be named the Buckeyes' MVP that season. … Had an 83-yard interception return touchdown against Illinois in 1997, the seventh-longest pick-six at OSU. … Made 10 tackles in the 1998 Sugar Bowl win vs. Texas A&M. … Made 149 tackles in his three seasons as a starter. … Was a first-round NFL draft pick and played in parts of six seasons with San Francisco.

Antoine Winfield: Was a first-team All-American and All-Big Ten in 1997 and '98, winning the Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation his senior season. … Led the Buckeye team with 100 tackles in 1997, including 82 solo stops, fifth-most all-time at OSU. … Added eight tackles for loss and three sacks that season. … Perhaps the best tackling cornerback in OSU history, he had nine solo tackles and 10 overall stops in consecutive seasons vs. Michigan. … Had 75 tackles in 1998. … Was a team captain in 1998 and team MVP in '97. … A first-round draft pick of Buffalo, he played in the NFL from 1999-2012 with the Bills and Minnesota, earning three Pro Bowl nods.

Shawn Springs: Started from 1994-96, earning first-team All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors his final campaign. … Was also first-team All-Big Ten in 1995. … Returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown vs. Boston College in 1995. … Made 152 tackles in his three seasons as a starter … Had five interceptions in 1995, one of which he returned 60 yards for a touchdown vs. Iowa. … Averaged 26.8 yards per kick return in 1995, 10th-best at OSU. … Averaged 11.2 yards per punt return in 1996. … Was the No. 3 overall pick of the 1997 NFL draft and played through 2009 with Seattle, Washington and New England.

Marlon Kerner: Started in 1993-94, earning team captain status his final season. … Returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown at Purdue in 1993, tying the school record set seven years earlier in West Lafayette by David Brown. … Posted 82 tackles (second on the team) to go with two interceptions in 1994. … Had 44 tackles and two blocked kicks, including one that preserved a hard-earned tie at Wisconsin, in 1993. … Had a four-year NFL career after being chosen in the third round by Buffalo.

Vinnie Clark: Started from 1988-90 after joining hyped teammate Carlos Snow in joining the program from Cincinnati CAPE. … Made 144 tackles in three seasons as a starter. … Was a team captain as a senior in 1990. … A first-round draft pick, Clark played for Green Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans and Jacksonville in the NFL from 1991-96.


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