Urban Meyer can't say exactly which of his underclassmen will head for the NFL draft after the season, but whatever the number, the Ohio State coach is bracing for a sizable roster shakeup.
In January, Ohio State became just the third national championship team since 2002 to escape the NFL's deadline for early draft entry without losing an underclassman. This year, Meyer expects no such fortune.
"My concern is, I think we're a very good team coming back, then there's a chance we're going to see an exodus of players, some very good ones, upperclassmen and a few underclassmen," Meyer said, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group. "And you're always thinking in your head, we always are, are we filling it back up the way it's filled right now? Because right now it's filled really good."
Top Buckeyes underclassmen that will have the option of applying for early draft entry in 2016 include defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott, quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, linebacker Darron Lee, safety Vonn Bell, receiver Michael Thomas and cornerback Eli Apple. That's eight players who have played a central role in the success of a program that is aiming for a second consecutive national title. Bosa is considered among the best of them, despite a sack total this season that hasn't met expectations.
Apart from that group, some key seniors are certain to move on, including wide receiver Braxton Miller, offensive tackle Taylor Decker, linebacker Joshua Perry and defensive tackle Adolphus Washington. Meyer told College Football 24/7 two weeks ago that he expects Miller to run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
For now, Buckeyes underclassmen aren't talking -- not with OSU focused on an undefeated (9-0) season -- as the team tries to maintain a No. 2 ranking from the College Football Playoff selection committee.
"Me and (assistant) coach (Chris) Ash said we'd talk about that at the end," Bell said. "I'm not worried about that. It's all about family and team with me right now. Just not even worrying about that right now because that's selfish. Just worrying about the team right now."
NFL rules require that draft entrants be at least three years removed from high school, which qualifies both juniors and third-year sophomores. The deadline for underclassmen to apply for early entry into the 2016 draft is Jan. 18, and the list of underclassmen granted eligibility for the draft will be released on Jan. 22.