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Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade declares for NFL draft

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Cornerback Shaun Wade, here breaking up a pass against Indiana, is the first OSU defensive back to be named the Big Ten's best in a season.

Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade first declared for the NFL draft in September after the Big Ten announced that the 2020 season had then been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wade returned to the team when the Big Ten reversed course, then on Friday confirmed that he plans to enter the upcoming draft. On his Instagram page, he posted a graphic announcing his departure and thanking OSU coaches, teammates and fans.

Wade wrote that the past four years provided "some of the greatest experiences of my life. It has given me the opportunity to not only earn my degree but to excel on the field and compete for national championships. My time as a Buckeye has prepared me to pursue the sport I love at the highest level, and I want to thank all who have helped me get to where I am today."

Earlier this week, Wade seemed to give the expected departure a second thought. After Monday's national championship game loss to Alabama, he hinted at a return for a fifth season in Columbus, saying it was “upsetting that we got here and we just didn’t accomplish the goal.”

But he ultimately stuck with previous plans, becoming the first Ohio State underclassman to declare for the draft. The entry deadline for underclassmen is on Monday.

Although Wade was a consensus All-American this season and the first Buckeye to be named the Big Ten's defensive back of the year, his final season came with mixed results. In moving from slot to outside corner, he at times struggled adjusting to his new position.

In eight games, Wade allowed seven touchdowns in coverage and 63.9% of the passes thrown his way to be completed, according to Pro Football Focus. Jeff Okudah, OSU’s top cover corner last season before he was drafted third overall, surrendered only one touchdown in 14 games and held opponents to a 43.4% completion rate.

Wade still made plays, intercepting passes in consecutive games against Indiana and Michigan State, including returning one for a touchdown in the win over the Hoosiers.

A desire to develop as an outside corner precipitated Wade’s previous return for a fourth season at Ohio State, a move endorsed by the coaching staff.

Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, who originally recruited Wade out of high school during his previous stint as an assistant, viewed him as a prototypical outside corner due to his size. Listed at 6 feet 1, Wade is taller than other defensive backs.

But the position switch might not have boosted his draft stock and NFL teams could pick Wade with the intention of sliding him elsewhere in their secondary, either at safety or slot corner.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman