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NFL decisions loom large for Buckeyes moving forward

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could skip the season to prepare for the NFL. (Courtesy/Ohio State Dept. of Athletics)

Ohio State Football

NFL decisions loom large for Buckeyes moving forward

COLUMBUS — The news is two days old for Ohio State. It won’t be playing football this fall.

Maybe even worse news? There is no plan in place for when the Buckeyes will play again or who will be playing for them.

Plenty of Buckeyes have the opportunity to enter the next NFL Draft in the coming spring. But that might also be when they can play college football again and prove themselves to scouts, general managers and coaching staffs in the pro rank.

That’s why getting a plan in place for a spring season — one that Ryan Day thinks should start in January — is so important moving froward.

“Regardless of what happens, the NFL draft isn’t going to be until next spring,” Day said during his Wednesday press conference. “We have everything in place here in Columbus to help those guys. We have the best strength coach in America. We have all the resources here that they would need. We are going to test continually, give them meals, meet on football, watch film, and just get them better physically, football-wise, football IQ, all of the above. If by chance they want to go somewhere in the spring, they still have all spring to do that.”

Day knows he has NFL talent on the Ohio State roster. It was pegged to be one of the most talented teams in the country heading into the season. And now without a fall football schedule, potential NFL draft picks will have to choose between competing in a likely-Big Ten only schedule in the spring or training for the draft.

The Buckeyes want to talk to their players and explain why it would be smart to stay in Columbus to train, even if they will not play in the spring for Ohio State.

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has a decision to make about his future. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“In a normal cycle, they wouldn’t be leaving anywhere until January, anyhow,” Day said. “So to go somewhere right now, to me, doesn’t make a lot of sense when you have everything right here. And I also don’t think it’s good for them mentally to go off somewhere and just be by themselves in isolation. We’re going to provide them everything they need to get better, to get stronger because we have those resources here at Ohio State.”

The most glaring question mark is, of course, Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Fields. He’s expected to be a top-10 pick. So is Shaun Wade. A couple others have first-round draft grades, too. But if Day gets his wish and football can start in January rather than later in the winter months, some of those NFL-bound Buckeyes might stick around for more experience and another shot at some kind of title.

“In our conversations, I think Justin wants to see what the schedule is and I think it’s our job and we owe it to these guys that we get a schedule and put a plan together quickly so that someone like Justin can plan on his next year, the next few months,” Day said. “There was a report that the NFL would consider maybe moving the NFL Draft back, and us having a winter season or a spring season or however that works out, I think we need to start in the first week of January to allow players like Justin the opportunity to play in the season and also get himself ready for the draft. I think we need to get on this right now and give these guys some answers.”

The original answer is off the board. Ohio State can’t play a fall football season.

But the decisions that will shape the Buckeyes roster for the future are beginning to be sorted out right now. If the Big Ten can come up with a January-start on a season, maybe the Ohio State roster will still look like it would have for a normal schedule.

Spencer Holbrook

Spencer Holbrook covers Ohio State football and basketball for Lettermen Row. A graduate of Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism, he's in his second year covering the Buckeyes. He was previously the sports editor at Ohio's student newspaper, The Post, where he covered Ohio University football and men's basketball.