Our look at the best Ohio State players from throughout Ohio continues with a focus on the southwest corner of the state.
Despite standing just 5-8, Carlos Snow finished his career at the Cincinnati Academy of Physical Education with 7,856 yards rushing, then the most in Ohio high school history, and joined Emmett Smith of Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia among the nation's highest-rated running back recruits in the class of 1986. Snow chose Ohio State and went on to be a four-year letterman despite fighting injuries throughout his career. He led the Buckeyes in rushing in three different seasons (1988, '89 and '91) and remains No. 9 on the career rushing list with 2,999 yards. He is tied with Champ Henson, Art Schlichter and Jim Otis for eighth in career touchdowns with 35. Also a dangerous kick returner, Snow amassed 4,581 all-purpose yards, a figure still second only to Archie Griffin's career total at Ohio State. After returning from surgery on his hip to remove a benign tumor, Snow served as a co-captain and was named team MVP as a fifth-year senior in 1991.
A star football and basketball player at Kettering Alter, Jeff Graham was a three-year starter at wide receiver for Ohio State from 1988-90. He was a captain as a senior in 1990 and selected as the team's MVP after catching 40 passes for 763 yards that season. In addition to catching seven touchdown passes, he also threw a 60-yard touchdown pass and returned two punts for touchdowns. His 1,809 career receiving yards were fourth in school history when his career ended and remain 13th. His average of 18.3 yards per catch remains fourth in Ohio State history.
After an All-Ohio senior season at Piqua in which he totaled 15 sacks and rushed for seven touchdowns, Matt Finkes signed with Ohio State in 1993 and became a four-year letterwinner. In his first year as a starter (1994), he made 20 tackles for loss, tying teammate Mike Vrabel for the team lead and setting a new school record for a season. Finkes had 19 TFLs in 1995 and added 16 more in 1996, when he was one of the original "Silver Bullets" and made the All-Big Ten first team for the second time in his career. His 59 tackles for loss are still second in school history, and his 25 sacks are third. With 11 sacks in 1994, Finkes is one of only five Ohio State players to reach double digits in sacks in a single season.
A kicker has to be very special to make a list like this, and anyone who watched Mike Nugent play for the Buckeyes from 2001-04 knows he was that. After a shaky freshman season, Nugent put together three outstanding seasons and finished his career as Ohio State's all-time leader in points with 356. He won the Lou Groza Award in 2004 as the nation's top kicker when he made 24 of 27 field goals, including five of six from 50 yards or longer. He tied the record for longest field goal in Ohio Stadium history with a game-winning make from 55 yards as time expired against Marshall that season and later set an Ohio State record by going five for five on field goals in a victory at N.C. State. In addition to setting the school record for field goals in a season with 25 in 2002, Nugent is Ohio State's all-time leader in field goals for a career (68) and field goal percentage (.810). He was a captain and team MVP in 2004, when he also earned All-America and All-Big Ten honors for the second time in his career.
Despite being well-known to locals who saw him play multiple roles (including quarterback, running back and linebacker) for traditional powerhouse Centerville High School, A.J. Hawk entered Ohio State as an under-the-radar member of the star-studded 2002 recruiting class. Jim Tressel once remarked even a member of his staff saw Hawk as a "two-star fullback" on National Signing Day, but Hawk quickly made believers out of those inside the locker room and out. He proved to be a key reserve for the 2002 national championship squad then started for three seasons at linebacker. He won the Lombardi Award in 2005 when he made 121 tackles, including 16.5 for loss. He had 141 stops as a junior in 2004 and finished his career with 394 stops, a total still fifth in school history and the most of any Buckeye in the past two decades. A two-time All-American and three-time All-Big Ten selection, Hawk was voted a captain and team MVP in 2005.
Coming from Centerville rival Huber Heights Wayne, Braxton Miller had none of Hawk's problems garnering headlines. A four-year starter for the Warriors, Miller was a five-star recruit in 2011 and ended up ascending to the starting job early in his freshman year after Terrelle Pryor's exit and senior Joe Bauserman's struggles. Miller threw for 1,159 yards and ran for another 715 in 2011 en route to being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and he led Ohio State to unbeaten regular seasons in 2012 and '13. He was chosen the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football winner as the Big Ten MVP after each of the latter two seasons. He enters his senior season with the potential to set Ohio State records for wins by a starting quarterback, passing yards, pass attempts, pass completions, touchdown passes, total yards and touchdowns responsible for. He already leads Ohio State in career games with 200 total yards (22) and 300 total yards (10) as well as holding the school's official single-season records for total offense (3,310) and rushing yards by a quarterback (1,271), both set in 2012.
Honorable mention: Greg Frey (Cincinnati St. Xavier), Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson (Dayton Dunbar), Vinnie Clark (CAPE), Matt Keller (Cincinnati Moeller), Rob Murphy (Cincinnati Moeller), Tim Williams (Waynesville), Kirk Herbstreit (Centerville), Jerry Rudzinski (Kettering Alter), Dee Miller (Springfield South), Ahmed Plummer (Cincinnati Wyoming), Will Allen (Huber Heights Wayne), Nick Mangold (Kettering Alter), Kurt Coleman (Clayton Northmont), Andrew Norwell (Cincinnati Anderson), Michael Bennett (Centerville)