Monday is the deadline for underclassmen to let the NFL know they intend to enter the 2019 draft.
With one decision thought to be pending, Ohio State appears to have come out of the annual talent drain in pretty good shape.
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Running back Mike Weber and defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones had all been widely anticipated since before the season began to make the jump, and all three shared playing time with other accomplished players.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ decision was also considered a fait accompli at least since he torched Michigan on the last weekend of November, giving the coaching staff time to find a potential replacement.
Michael Jordan’s announcement he is leaving did come as at least a mild surprise to many who cover the team. Although he had an All-American season at center after stating for two seasons at guard, offensive linemen rarely leave after three seasons.
Entering Monday, Kendall Sheffield had not made any public declaration about his intentions, and there was no guarantee he would.
Sheffield, a transfer from Blinn College in Texas who began his career as a five-star prospect at Alabama, has typically avoided contact with the media and he could file papers with the NFL without making any type of public announcement.
Among players who have declared they will return are receiver K.J. Hill and cornerback Damon Arnette.
The league will publish a list of players entering the 2019 draft early on Friday.
Here are five things to know:
1. The quarterback position is in flux.
Although Haskins’ decision to go pro was seen by many as a slam dunk by the end of the season, that was not the case when 2018 began.
His exit — along with Joe Burrow’s decision to transfer to LSU after he failed to win the starting job in the spring — left the Buckeyes thin at quarterback even before 2018 backup Tate Martell reportedly began considering a transfer.
New head coach Ryan Day brought in highly touted transfer Justin Fields from Georgia last week, but he must receiver a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to play this fall.
If he does not (and Martell follows through on transferring), Ohio State will have only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this fall — Chris Chugunov, a senior who transferred from West Virginia last year, and Matthew Baldwin, a freshman who redshirted last year.
2. Jordan’s exit made the offensive line’s depth problem worse.
Thayer Munford is the only returning full-season starter, but there are heirs apparent at each of the other four spots even without Jordan.
With Miamisburg’s Josh Myers coming on late in the season, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa appeared to be leaning toward installing him as the starting center with Jordan and Wyatt Davis at guard, Munford at left tackle and Brandon Bowen or Josh Alabi at right tackle (and the other a reliable sixth man).
Instead, Bowen may move back to guard, where he was a starter in 2017 before suffering a broken leg that hindered him for much of last season, with Alabi at right tackle.
On paper, that looks like a solid group, but there is no one with appreciable playing experience behind them, and fourth-year junior Gavin Cupp is the only backup more than one year removed from high school.
Highly-touted Nicholas Petit-Frere will be a candidate for playing time at tackle this fall but needs to pack on some muscle before he will be ready to handle the rigors of Big Ten line play.
3. The Buckeyes were better set up to absorb the other losses — including potentially Sheffield.
Ohio State has rotated three cornerbacks regularly for the past few seasons, so Arnette’s return along with junior-to-be Jeffrey Okudah means there will be veterans available no matter what Sheffield does.
They will also have Shaun Wade, who struggled as the slot corner as a redshirt freshman last season but has the physical tools to excel on the outside, back along with a handful of highly regarded prospects who haven’t seen the field yet.
4. The defensive line should be fine.
Bosa’s ability to wreck a game proved irreplaceable after he was lost to a core muscle injury early in the season, but junior-to-be Chase Young was nearly unblockable once he got over injuries to both ankles that slowed him midseason.
Young and fellow starter Jonathon Cooper return and will be backed up by a group of ends that includes four four-star prospects from the 2018 class and adds 2019 five-star freshman Zach Harrison and four-star Noah Potter.
Jones was the best playmaker inside in 2018, but stalwarts Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton return with another handful of highly-regarded prospects pushing them after getting their feet wet last fall.
Ohio State will need a leap in production from a couple of second-year players, but the Buckeyes could be deep up front again if that happens.
5. Jordan Fuller could stabilize the secondary.
After losing six secondary players early to the NFL over the previous three years, attrition finally seemed to catch up with Ohio State in 2018, when poor safety play was arguably the biggest reason for Ohio State’s inability to prevent big plays.
With Fuller, who was pegged as a likely three-and-done guy when he signed three years ago as a highly touted prospect from New Jersey, deciding to come back for his senior season, this position appears to be in much better shape than it did a year ago.
One of the few veterans in the back seven, Fuller had a solid but unspectacular season while the other spot was a revolving door until Brendan White broke into the lineup late in the year.
The secondary as a whole could benefit from new coaches Jeff Hafley and Matt Barnes, too.
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