COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football is ending its regular season against Michigan, which is serving as both a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game and the college football playoff.
It also serves as a senior day and possibly final game for some very important underclassmen. Nathan Baird, Stephen Means and Doug Lesmerises of cleveland.com like to predict who will stay and who will go.
Last season only one Underclassman declared for the NFL Draft: Garrett Wilson was picked as the first Buckeye. The only other player anyone predicted would leave was Ronnie Hickman, with Nathan being the only one to predict otherwise.
2020, five Underclassmen explained: Justin Fields, Shaun Wade, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers and Tommy Togiai. We all predicted that Chris Olave would leave and he didn’t, while everyone but Nathan thought Jeremy Ruckert would stay.
2018, six Ohio State lower school students voted for the draft: Nick Bosa, Dwayne Haskins, Dre’Mont Jones, Michael Jordan, Mike Weber, and Kendall Sheffield. Jordan was the only one Doug predicted would stay on Senior Day.
only in 2017 three Underclassmen turned pro: Denzel Ward, Jerome Baker and Sam Hubbard. On Seniors’ Day, our consensus left six horse chestnuts.
2016, six OSU juniors, left: Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, Malik Hooker, Curtis Samuel, Raekwon McMillan, and Noah Brown. We all called on seniors day except brown.
2015, nine explained underclassmen what was the moment everyone knew how serious this could get as the Buckeyes started flooding the NFL draft with talent. That’s a number the Buckeyes could pass this season. Here are the candidates, with guesses from me, Nathan Baird, and Doug Lesmerises as to what might happen.
CJ Stroud, quarterback
Stroud could be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft next April, so it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Saturday will be his last game at Ohio Stadium. He becomes Ohio State’s third straight quarterback going into the first round, joining Haskins and Fields. If he goes at number 1, he’ll be the first Buckeye since then-St. Louis Rams drafted Orlando Pace in 1997.
Miyan Williams runs back
Miyan Williams was a better running back than most expected. He was no longer considered OSU’s running back after missing all of his original 2020 targets, but may be his best option this season if everyone is healthy.
Williams is a running back who functions more like a bowling ball violently rolling down the lane. He showed that with every carry. His situation has some similarities to Weber’s after the 2018 season. He may have to go because his stock is as high as it gets.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, wide receiver
It’s unfortunate that Smith-Njigba was unable to deliver an encore from his record-breaking 2021 season. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it was thought this would be his last season at Columbus as a guy with a shot at becoming the first wide receiver to be taken off the board. A hamstring injury could eliminate his chances of such a game, but he should still be the third straight — or fourth, depending on how you want to look at it — OSU wide receiver to go into the first round.
Julian Fleming, wide receiver
Julian Fleming finally got a chance to continue as a wide receiver for the Buckeyes this season after spending his first two years behind Olave and also struggling with a multitude of injuries. He started the year strong, scoring a touchdown in each of his first five games. If anyone would repeat what Lattimore did in 2016, turning into a first-round pick in a year by just finally getting healthy, it would be him.
He’s been waning in the past few weeks. He has 24 catches for 415 yards and six touchdowns this season, which is a good start for a player who’s the third option in the passing game. But it’s not enough to make him NFL-ready.
Paris Johnson Jr., offensive tackle
It’s unfortunate that there’s a real possibility Ohio State will have Paris Johnson Jr. at left tackle for just one season. But that’s what happens when you have too many tackles and ask him to play right guard for a year.
Johnson was everything he was hyped for as a five-star recruit and top tackle in the 2020 recruit class. He’s given up a sack in his career, and that came when he was a true freshman playing guard. This year was about confirming what everyone already knew about him, and he did. The question now is if he feels it’s enough for him to continue and if he will be the first tackle off the board in April.
Lukas Wypler, middle
Luke Wypler’s timeline as a starter was sped up last year because Harry Miller was no longer in the mix. He took the opportunity and has now been a quality center for two years. The problem is that he plays a position that isn’t always rated that highly, which could see him coming back, which would benefit the Buckeyes as they’re already set to lose three players from that offensive line. There’s a chance Wypler will eventually leave Ohio State as a four-year starter at center.
Lathan Ransom, security
This isn’t a list anyone would have had Lathan Ransom on at the start of the season. It was impressive enough that he recovered so quickly from a broken leg at the Rose Bowl, but he turned himself into a weapon for safety-focused defense. Leaving the ransom will be because he has no choice but to do it. He’s undoubtedly increased his draft inventory this season. The question is whether he raised it so high that it’s too good to pass up.
The 19 grantees set to play their final home game against Michigan:
WR Kamryn Babb, CB Cameron Brown, DT Jerron Cage, RB Marcus Crowley, DE Tyler Friday, LB Palaie Gaoteote, DE Zach Harrison, DE Javontae Jean-Baptiste, WR Xavier Johnson, OL Dawand Jones, OL Matthew Jones, OL Harry Miller and TE Mitch Rossi, SAF Josh Proctor and DT Taron Vincent.
Click here for the full list of players participating in Senior Day.
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