No average home finale for Ohio State Buckeyes

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No average home finale for Ohio State Buckeyes

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Ohio State’s Pat Elflein talks to reporters during Media Day on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Every other season something happens to make the Ohio State-Michigan game even more special.

In even-numbered years, the annual playing of The Game is also Senior Day at Ohio Stadium.

With that in mind, this will be no average home finale in Columbus, as Urban Meyer betrayed when asked about his players who will run out of the tunnel in scarlet and gray for the last time.

“It’s, unfortunately, a very small class because a bunch of those cats left on us last year,” Meyer said, feigning annoyance before adding, “who I love dearly.”

Those cats include members of his 2013 signing class Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Darron Lee and Middletown’s Jalin Marshall, all of whom entered the NFL draft last spring with college eligibility remaining.

A handful of players from Meyer’s first full-year recruiting effort are still on campus and have eligibility remaining for 2017 if they decide to use it, but punter Cameron Johnston and receiver Dontre Wilson do not.

“You’ve got a punter who, we don’t talk about him much, but I love him dearly,” Meyer said of Johnston, who was discovered in Australia four years ago. “He’s a guy, like you talk about a leap of faith — big leap, like across continents — and is a wonderful guy.

“Dontre Wilson, has (had) an injury-prone career, but a wonderful guy who’s all in with the team.”

And then there’s Pat Elflein.

A fifth-year senior from Pickerington North, Elflein is the last active player from the class of 2012.

A player Meyer called “one of the best football players I’ve been around” committed before Meyer became coach of the Buckeyes in November 2011, becoming part of roughly a dozen players who gave or maintained commitments to the program through the fallout of coach Jim Tressel admitting he committed an NCAA violation and subsequently being forced out that May.

Elflein was a three-star recruit and a standout wrestler, but not necessarily the type of elite prospect Meyer spends most of his time chasing.

In the years since, he might have been overlooked or ended up somewhere else. He could have gone elsewhere rather than stick with the hometown Buckeyes, too.

Ultimately, Meyer inherited a player who would become one of the pillars of the OSU offensive line for three seasons.

“It’s going to be emotional, especially with this game,” Elflein said. “We already talked about it was our last regular-season away game this last one and it was emotional talking about that. The last one in the ‘Shoe, senior day, senior tackle this week, against ‘The Team Up North,’ it gets very emotional. It’s going to be very exciting too. You couldn’t end it any better way.”

Burger Fada Meyer? The Buckeyes’ coach also took a minute to give a shout-out to Craig Fada and Joe Burger, a pair of fifth-year senior linebackers who began their careers as walk-ons.

“I joke around if I have any more children, I’m going to name him Burger Fada,” Meyer said. “That’s how much I love those guys. Two of the most selfless guys I’ve ever been around, and I’m so proud to be able to put them on scholarship. They’ll be Buckeyes the rest of their life.”

Exclusive club: Elflein, Burger and Fada also have a chance to join a select group in Ohio State football history: Those with five pairs of gold pants.

Buckeyes have been getting those small but coveted charms since the 1930s, but Ohio State never beat Michigan five times in a row until 2008.

The fifth-year seniors on that team as well as those who suited up from 2005-09 and ’06-10 all would have five sets but none who played before or since.

“It would be unbelievable,” Burger said. “To have the opportunity to have, for me, looking at that fifth gold pair of pants, that would be something.

“Screw the 2014 national championship, that would be the No. 1 source of pride.”

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