Two big-name Ohio State juniors, quarterback Braxton Miller and linebacker Ryan Shazier, have asked for feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board and will make a decision on whether to turn pro after the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl. Another Buckeyes junior already appears to have made a decision.
Defensive tackle Michael Bennett (6-foot-3, 285 pounds), who emerged as one of the better interior linemen in the Big Ten this season, told reporters Wednesday that he did not submit paperwork to the advisory board.
Presumably, this means Bennett will return for his senior season and gain more experience. As productive as he was this season -- 38 tackles, seven sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles -- he could be one of the top five defensive tackles in the nation next fall. And that, presumably, would lead to him going much earlier in the draft than he would if he comes out this season.
Bennett was a reserve in each of his first two seasons on campus, playing end and tackle. He had 28 tackles combined in his first two seasons, then blossomed this fall. He played some nose tackle when the Buckeyes used a 3-4 set, and while he is not suited for that spot long term, his quickness was an asset when he was used there this season. Bennett is aggressive and physical, and moves well laterally. And there aren't many tackles nationally with his type of pass-rush skills, which had led some to speculate he would turn pro.
If Bennett does indeed return, he will be the bellcow on what could be the nation's best defensive line next fall. At the least, it should be one of the three best, with Bennett, fellow tackles Joel Hale and Tommy Schutt and ends Joey Bosa, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.