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Malik Hooker intends to return to Ohio State in 2017

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Ohio State safety Malik Hooker intends to return to play for the Buckeyes next year rather than applying for early entry into the 2017 NFL Draft, a decision that would give OSU coach Urban Meyer an elite building block for his defense next year.

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"Right now it's 100 percent sure I'm coming back to Ohio State," Hooker said, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Hooker, a third-year sophomore, led the Big Ten with six interceptions this season, which was his first as a starter. An NFL scout compared him to former Baltimore Ravens star safety Ed Reed earlier this year, and he played a key role in OSU's 30-27 win over rival Michigan on Saturday. NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes Hooker has the most impressive ball skills of any defensive back in the college game.

Underclassmen have until a Jan. 16 deadline to apply for early draft eligibility, and Hooker could certainly change his mind -- which isn't uncommon for top-rated underclassmen -- before then. For now, however, it appears one of the game's best defensive talents will sharpen his skills for at least another season at the college level.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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