When Ohio State receiver Chris Olave announced on Monday that he would be returning for his senior season, it caught a lot of people completely off guard. There weren’t many who were giving the possibility much thought.
On a day of NFL announcements for the Buckeyes, Olave was the only shocker. Some were surely a little surprised by Tommy Togiai’s decision to enter the NFL Draft, but it was at least an option people were aware could happen.
All told, three Buckeyes announced their intentions to turn pro early on Monday’s deadline, adding to cornerback Shaun Wade and center Josh Myers who announced earlier in the weekend. Of course, not everybody decided to leave early, as evidenced by the return of Olave and others.
Also, because every college football player was granted a free year of eligibility, this means that some seniors could choose to come back next year – like Thayer Munford is doing. With that in mind, some Buckeye seniors like Baron Browning, Trey Sermon, Jonathon Cooper, Drue Chrisman, and Blake Haubeil all announced their intention to forego the extra year of eligibility and enter their respective names in the NFL Draft.
Senior cornerback Marcus Williamson has previously announced his intention to return in 2021. Senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett has not yet made a decision known, but the Buckeyes could be getting some good news from him here soon.
For those players who have played four years, the January 18 underclassman announcement date does not apply. They have until March 1 to ask the NFL to remove their names from the draft. It is unclear what happens to those players should they not tell the NFL, but it’s probably nothing since the league would have no recourse. But let’s digress…
At this point, there is little reason to expect any other senior scholarship players to return for the 2021 season aside from those mentioned above.
Overall, it was a pretty busy weekend for the Ohio State football program and a lot happened, so let’s go ahead and recap the comings and goings so that you didn’t miss any of it.
The cornerback was the first Buckeye to announce he was leaving, doing so early Friday afternoon. It was certainly not unexpected. After entering the season as a projected first rounder, Wade is now being talked about as a second- or third-round selection. In his absence next season, the Buckeyes will certainly have more options than they did this year, but outside of Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown, it is almost all unproven.
Myers was the second shoe to fall on Friday as he also announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft. This was also not an unexpected decision. The plan to replace him is a bit more cut and dried, as Harry Miller has been groomed for this spot for two years now. Luke Wypler could also factor in here as well.
The first big surprise happened on Saturday as the Buckeyes’ left tackle announced his decision to return. Of course, it wasn’t a surprise to members of the Ask The Insiders Board who were given the heads up on Wednesday that this was a real possibility, but it was still a very big deal. With the return of both Munford and right tackle Nick Petit-Frere, the Buckeyes can make a claim for the best pair of tackles in the nation, which is exactly the kind of claim a freshman starting quarterback loves to hear.
To the surprise of nobody, Fields announced his decision to enter the draft on Monday. He will leave Ohio State as arguably the best quarterback in school history, having led the Buckeyes to a pair of playoff appearances. In his place will be a group of freshmen quarterbacks in CJ Stroud, Jack Miller, and Kyle McCord next season. Spring football presumably gets started in a little under six weeks, which is going to make this a very intriguing spring to watch. (Not that anybody on the outside will get to watch anything.)
Shortly after Justin Fields announced his decision to leave, tight end Jeremy Ruckert announced his decision to stay. As the Buckeyes’ lone returning tight end with experience, 2021 could be a big season for Ruckert. He certainly has the talent that would warrant more passes thrown his way.
About five hours after Jeremy Ruckert announced his return, Chris Olave did the same and shocked everybody. Olave had a chance to become the first Buckeye receiver selected in the first round since Anthony Gonzalez in 2007, but he put that on hold for a year and will likely achieve that footnote in the 2022 draft instead. Whoever takes over at quarterback for Ohio State will have two of the best tackles in the nation, two of the best receivers, and one of the best tight ends. Things could be worse. (If you want, we can compare the setup for Michigan’s freshman quarterback one of these days.)
Davis announced his intention to enter the draft Monday night and shocked absolutely nobody. He already put the NFL on hold once and after the year everybody had this year, you can’t blame him for wanting to go get paid for this kind of work. Davis will be one of the top interior linemen in the draft and is expected to land somewhere in the first round.
The Buckeyes’ junior defensive end came on late in the year but announced that he would be coming back in 2021. While Smith has been effective in stints at Ohio State, he still has yet to put it all together into a complete package. He’ll have that opportunity next season as a senior and the expectations are that he could be one of the Big Ten’s best pass rushers.
Togiai’s departure is probably the one that raises the most questions when it comes to how he gets replaced. And if Haskell Garrett decides to leave as well, then those questions get multiplied. Right now, Togiai is surging toward a second-day pick, so you can understand his decision to enter the draft. Without him next year, the Buckeyes are going to rely on new players and old players, none of whom have been overly productive to this point. They will undoubtedly keep an eye on the transfer portal as well.