Prominent Buckeyes can’t dodge draft queries

Tim May
A breakout season by quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. has pushed him up in the NFL draft projections, but the Buckeyes' third-year sophomore says he is focused on the Rose Bowl for now. [Kyle Robertson]

Now that Dre’Mont Jones has made his intentions known, that he will leave Ohio State for the NFL after the Rose Bowl against Washington on Jan. 1, the wait is on to see which teammates will follow him.

One in particular, third-year sophomore Dwayne Haskins Jr., has moved to the top of the watch list. After setting several Ohio State and Big Ten records with 4,580 yards passing and 47 touchdown passes in his first season as a starter, several analysts have projected that he has the potential to become the top quarterback in the draft.

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Like most of his teammates who are still deciding whether to leave with college eligibility still remaining, Haskins is striking a diplomatic tone.

“I’ve always felt like my parents did a great job of raising me … and of course it’s great to have a future plan and know how to get to where you want to be,” said Haskins, who was third in Heisman Trophy voting. “But it takes work to get there. So just to be considered for the NFL or to be considered the top quarterback on the board, it’s what I’ve worked for since I was 8 years old.

“Right now, I’m the Ohio State quarterback. That’s where I want to be, that’s what I want to do, that’s what I practice for, and I’m not worried about being the first pick or the first quarterback taken, because that will all come in due time. Right now, I’m just focused on winning the Rose Bowl.”

Believed to be joining him in that group are receiver K.J. Hill, running back Mike Weber, and cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield, all fourth-year juniors; safety Jordan Fuller and linebacker Malik Harrison, both juniors; and perhaps junior offensive lineman Michael Jordan.

The Buckeyes already are set to lose six seniors who play regularly, all on offense: right tackle Isaiah Prince, right guard Demetrius Knox, left guard Malcolm Pridgeon, and receivers Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon.

With the exception of Jones, a fourth-year junior defensive tackle, no OSU underclassmen have declared.

Harrison summed up the general response to questions about NFL intentions.

“I’m not really worried about it right now. I’m just worried about this last game, finish out the season well,” he said.

Yet Harrison has sought input from former Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker, who stepped to the NFL after his junior season last year and was drafted in the third round by Miami.

“I talk to Bake a lot; me and him still have a close relationship, so I’ve just talked to him about it,” Harrison said. Baker’s advice has been “just be patient, just worry about the now.”

That seems easy to do, but the questions keep coming, and some of them come from inside the players’ heads. This time a year ago, Weber was splitting playing time with J.K. Dobbins and thought about making the leap. He returned and again shared time with Dobbins, and the question about his future have popped up again.

“I’m still thinking about it, really,” Weber said. “I want to win this game right now, then get with my family and see what’s best.”

Fuller has taken the same approach, but like several of Ohio State’s draft-eligible underclassmen, he also has asked for an assessment of his possibilities from the NFL.

“Just for research … just to make an informed decision,” Fuller said. “That doesn’t mean I am leaning either way.”


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