Not surprisingly, Ohio State will officially be forced to replace a handful of departing talent if it wants to find itself back in the College Football Playoff chase in 2016.
After a few days worth of reports trickling out, OSU officially announced Thursday that nine Buckeyes have decided to leave collegiate eligibility on the table and make themselves available for the April NFL draft. The school wrote in the release that “[t]he group consists of three players who were fourth-year juniors (QB Cardale Jones, SAF Tyvis Powell and WR Michael Thomas), three who were true juniors in eligibility this season – SAF Vonn Bell, DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott – and three who were sophomores in eligibility this year but who also red-shirted one of their three seasons with the Buckeyes: CB Eli Apple, LB Darron Lee and WR Jalin Marshall.”
That should be the extent of the attrition as the only other draft-eligible Buckeye, offensive lineman Pat Elflein, has previously announced that he will be returning.
The school also noted the historical context of the number of departures:
While this number of underclassmen declaring for the draft is high for Ohio State, it is not a record, according to NFL.com. Although a public relations administrator for the site wasn’t sure of the record, he did indicate LSU had 10 underclassmen declare one year.
That would be the number of early entrants for the Tigers who declared for the 2013 draft. That number would actually be 11 if Tyrann Mathieu, dismissed from the Tigers football program in August of 2012 for what turned out to be the failure of multiple drug tests, is counted for LSU.
Regardless of where it stands in relation to LSU, it’s an extraordinarily high number of losses for an Ohio State team that has lost just four games in Urban Meyer‘s four seasons in Columbus.
“We have some young people – some fourth-year guys, two who have graduated – who have a national championship and have decided to chase their dreams,” Meyer said in quotes distributed by the school. “Everyone was so professional about it. … I’m a fan of great players and a bunch of those guys are going to play for a while. You have to look at it that way. We recruited well and the door is open now.”
The good news for Meyer & Company is that they have recruited very well, and should have the talent to replace those lost.
The Buckeyes have landed four Rivals.com Top-10 recruiting classes during Meyer’s reign, with rankings of fourth (2012), second (2013), third (2014) and ninth (2015). The class the Buckeyes are expected to sign is currently fourth, although they could get to at least No. 2 by signing day a month from now.