Ohio State football: Where do Buckeyes stand as NFL draft deadline looms?
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who else besides Ward and Hubbard and leaving early for the draft?
— finn cooley (@finncooley16) January 4, 2018
No decisions to head to the NFL at this point are likely to have caught Ohio State truly off guard, although Mike Weber’s hint that he will returning for another season should go down as a mild surprise. Denzel Ward, Sam Hubbard and Jerome Baker were always strongly expected to be skipping their final seasons of eligibility, and the Buckeyes were prepared for that when doing the scholarship math for the 2018 roster.
Ward’s case was a bit more intriguing down the stretch with the cornerback electing to skip the Cotton Bowl at the last minute, a decision that brought an expanding trend in the sport to Urban Meyer’s doorstep for the first time. But Ward’s first-round projection, Hubbard’s versatility and previous contributions to the Buckeyes, and Baker’s athleticism at linebacker all made for clear-cut choices.
So, who is left with the deadline to declare looming on Monday? Perhaps the player with the chance to make the biggest impact by staying or leaving is Dre’Mont Jones. Given how much production the Buckeyes are losing on the defensive line, keeping somebody with his ability and impact at multiple positions for that unit would be a huge boost for the Rushmen. Fellow defensive lineman Nick Bosa publicly made his prediction that Jones would return to help Ohio State next season. It’s true that Jones could boost his stock by coming back, taking on an expanded role and potentially getting more involved as a pass-rushing threat. But Jones also already has enticed scouts with what he can do for a team at various positions, so he just as easily could cash in now as well.
From there, the attention will go to a pair of experienced wide receivers. The Buckeyes would absolutely love to have Parris Campbell and his speed in the lineup for another year, but after breaking out when healthy last season, he’s been weighing his options since the Cotton Bowl. Johnnie Dixon was finally able to stay healthy and become the big-play threat the Buckeyes always have envisioned him being at wideout, but given his injury history, he may elect to move on now rather than risk another season in college.
There could also be some wildcards from the secondary who follow Ward to the draft. Position coach Kerry Coombs, though, indicated he was expecting both Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette to return and give the Buckeyes perhaps the deepest, most talented group of cornerbacks in the country next season.
So far, though, everything has gone essentially according to plan for Ohio State. And it’s almost reached the draft-decision finish line, a crucial first step to the starting blocks with the 2018 roster.
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