COLUMBUS — The busy offseason for Ohio State is just beginning.
The four-time reigning Big Ten champion Buckeyes are already starting to prepare to make a run at their third-straight College Football Playoff appearance, and they’re starting to have a clearer picture of the roster they’ll have to work with moving forward.
Monday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft. Although Ohio State now knows it has to find replacements for superstar quarterback Justin Fields, two offensive linemen, all of its starting linebackers, a member of the secondary and a talented defensive tackle, the Buckeyes should be loaded again next season all over the roster.
As is tradition at Ohio State, many of the stars for next season’s team, which will certainly be favored to win the Big Ten and return to the College Football Playoff, will have NFL decisions to make next January.
Lettermen Row is looking into the future at the five most-likely candidates to leave Ohio State early for the NFL draft after next season.
OL Harry Miller
Harry Miller seems to be on a familiar path for linemen at Ohio State. Centers before him have started their careers at guard, moved to center, become one of the best in the country and ultimately left for the NFL as an accomplished offensive lineman. After a season at guard, Miller could replace Josh Myers as the Buckeyes center next year, shifting the spotlight as the apex of the offensive line to the soon-to-be junior. If Miller takes another leap forward and proves he can be the five-star center Ohio State recruited three years ago, he could make the early jump to the NFL — and he might pick up some hardware along the way.
WR Garrett Wilson
The former five-star recruit from Texas has been living up to the hype he brought to Ohio State with him since he arrived. After showing flashes of greatness as a freshman, Wilson began his sophomore campaign this season with four-straight 100-yard receiving games before tailing off in production in the final four games of the season. He still averaged 90 receiving yards per game as he made the transition from outside receiver to slot weapon. If his progress continues into his junior season, Wilson will again explode with production next year and certainly have a chance to go to the NFL early.
DE Zach Harrison
Zach Harrison has all the tools to enter the same category as the Bosa brothers and Chase Young in the defensive end conversation at Ohio State. Can he finally put them together and dominate for an entire season? The rising junior and former five-star prospect has 38 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in his career through two seasons. With another offseason in the weight room and studying under legendary defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Harrison could elevate his game and become a top NFL draft choice after just three years for the Buckeyes.
RB Marcus Crowley
After a season in which the position was in flux until the final three games, the Ohio State backfield will be loaded with talent next season. In comes freshmen superstars TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor. Miyan Williams will have another year under his belt as he gained momentum toward the end of the season. Master Teague should return to give a physical presence. And Marcus Crowley will be finally ready to go after spending most of the year out with injury. Crowley seems to be bursting with potential, and if he can win the starting running back job at Ohio State, he might only have to prove himself for one year.
CB Cameron Brown
Ohio State came into last season with a talented group of defensive backs under the new management of Kerry Coombs. And Cameron Brown should have been one of the steady hands in the secondary. Brown’s season was derailed in Week Two by a torn Achilles, an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season and left the Buckeyes searching for ways to replace the talented cornerback. If he can attack rehab and find his way back on the field, Brown could be one of the breakout stars on what should be an improved and revamped Ohio State defense. With a big year, Brown might even be tempted to leave for the NFL after next season.