Others like defensive end Simon Fraser, fullback Branden Joe and tailback Lydell Ross are also hopeful of hearing their name called. At the same time, former OSU tailback Maurice Clarett will be a big topic of discussion this weekend. It will be interesting to see if any team picks the controversial Clarett.
Once again this year, we have enlisted the help of Tony Pauline, editor of the TFY Draft Preview (www.TFYDraftPreview.com), to help us preview this draft. But before we get into the Ohio State contingent, we asked Pauline to give us his top four players on the board. His top four on the board are Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards, Auburn running back Ronnie Brown, Texas running back Cedric Benson and Auburn running back Carnell Williams.
Below is our look at OSU's key prospects for the draft. We provide a brief sketch of each player's OSU career, Pauline's thoughts on the player and projection and also my own thoughts on each player and projection. And, after a look at this year's OSU draft prospects, Pauline provides some comments on some current OSU players who will or could be draft-eligible a year from now.
K Mike Nugent
* Height, Weight -- 5-10, 180 pounds; Hometown -- Centerville, Ohio.
* OSU Highlights -- Ohio State's all-time leading scorer with 356 career points . winner of the 2004 Lou Groza Award as the nation's top college kicker and a first-team pick on the Football Coaches, Football Writers and Walter Camp All-America teams . voted by his teammates as Ohio State's 2004 Most Valuable Player (the first kicker to receive that honor) . first-team All-Big Ten selections by the coaches and media . team co-captain . owns or shares 22 school records . made 72 field goals and 140 extra points . made 81.8 percent of his field goals (72-of-88), including 65 of 74 the past three years . as a senior, made 24-of-27 field goal attempts and hit five times from 50 yards or more, including two 55-yard kicks . booted four field goals in the Alamo Bowl win over Oklahoma State, an OSU record for bowl game field goals . was perfect in 30 tries following a touchdown as a senior and converted his last 84 consecutive PATs . nailed the game-winning field goal from 55 yards against Marshall as time expired . made five field goals at N.C. State to tie the school record . made eight kicks from 50 yards or more in his career and 21 from 40 or beyond . had 20 career games with at least two field goals . named the team's special team's player of the week against Marshall, N.C. State and Indiana and was the Big Ten's Player of the Week after the Marshall, N.C. State and Wisconsin games ... was also an All-American during the national championship season of 2002, when he hit on 24 of 27 field goals.
* Pauline on Nugent -- "I think he is a consistent kickoff guy. I don't think he's as good a pro prospect as Nate Kaeding was a year ago. But with the need for kickers and the extra picks in the third round, he could fit into the late part of round three. He did not have a great combine, but he was very consistent in college. He didn't have a very good Senior Bowl. I was there for the practices and he looked OK. I would say late third or early in the fourth round for him."
* Helwagen on Nugent -- As I recall, Nugent's hometown newspaper, the Dayton Daily News, did an analysis. Over the last three seasons, only Baltimore's Matt Stover was as consistent as Nugent was kicking field goals for OSU. You'd say that is comparing apples to oranges, but the colleges use the same width goal posts and they kick off the ground just like the pros. I have seen Mike Nugent make far too many clutch kicks and long kicks (8 of 9 in his career from 50 yards and beyond) to say he is a flash in the pan. He is the genuine article. And he's no flake, either. He's a football player, too. Anybody who needs a kicker and doesn't take him beginning in the late second round needs a change at GM. A kicker can be worth three wins a year in the NFL. That's the difference between missing the playoffs and having homefield advantage.
DB Dustin Fox
* Height, Weight -- 6-0, 190 pounds; Hometown -- Canton, Ohio.
* OSU Highlights -- A co-captain and Ohio State's veteran leader in the defensive secondary . honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and media . in his career, had seven interceptions and 217 tackles . saw action in 47 games as a Buckeye and made 37 starts . missed three games early in the season with a broken arm, ending his string of 30 consecutive stats . finished season with 28 tackles, three passes broken up and one forced fumble . as a junior was a second-team All-Big Ten selection . started all 13 games and totaled 77 tackles, which tied for fourth-best on the squad . second team All-Big Ten selection . racked up a team-high 55 solo stops . picked off three passes, which tied Chris Gamble for the team-lead .
* Pauline on Fox -- "He helped himself at the combine. He is somewhat of a 'tweener. He doesn't really stand out at cornerback, although he ran well at the combine. Cornerbacks always seem to go higher than originally projected. I think he is a second day (last four rounds) pick. He has football smarts and he is a guy they could use on special teams. He would be a solid middle round pick who somehow finds a way to make a roster at the next level. I'd look for him as a fourth- or fifth-round pick."
* Helwagen on Fox -- I think Fox's injury plagued senior year hurt him. He took a lot of lumps in OSU circles for playing soft zone coverages on the boundary side for much of the three years he started. But those coverages were part of an overall defensive scheme that was generally very successful. Since he was beaten for a touchdown in a freshman start against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, I do not recall Fox giving up a score in a game OSU lost. Over his last three years, OSU was also a robust 31-3 in games he started. The Buckeyes lost three of the four games he did not play in 2004 (he played one play, an extra point, in the loss at Purdue). He has the ability, in my mind, to play any of the four secondary positions and could be an ideal nickel back at the NFL level. Let's see how he develops. He is an incredible athlete with above average speed. My guess is he'll still be playing in the NFL, barring injury, five years from now. I'd take him late in the third if I needed a DB who could help immediately on special teams.
DE Simon Fraser
* Height, Weight -- 6-6, 280 pounds; Hometown -- Upper Arlington, Ohio.
* OSU Highlights -- A co-captain and the anchor of the Buckeye defensive line . voted Ohio State's Jack Stephenson defensive lineman of the year by his teammates . second-team All-Big Ten pick by the media . started all 12 games . played in all 51 games in his Buckeye career, totaling 88 tackles and 10 quarterback sacks . racked up 28 tackles as a senior, including five tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks . had four tackles against Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State . was also a member of the punt team and PAT/field goal team . was named the Ohio State attack force player of the week following the N.C. State and Michigan State games and had the hit of the week against the Spartans . entered the season as Ohio State's lone holdover from the 2003 d-line unit that sent three players to the NFL . is a three-time OSU Scholar-Athlete selection and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree . as a junior, started 12 of 13 games and recorded 34 tackles in 301 minutes of playing time.
* Pauline on Fraser -- "He is a workmanlike guy. He's not very athletic. He's a step down from (former Buckeye) Mike Vrabel. He would be a poor man's version of a guy like that. But his tenacity and the intensity he plays the game, those are his greatest assets. I'd think he would be a late round choice."
* Helwagen on Fraser -- The word is Fraser has bulked up to give himself a chance to play defensive tackle in the NFL. That my be a smart move because, other than some flashes, he was never the true impact player he was built up to be at defensive end at Ohio State. His coaches have always sworn by him, though, so there must be a good reason beyond simple production numbers in tackles, tackles-for-loss and sacks, because none of those were ever that great in his time with the Buckeyes. There is something to be said for playing assignment football. He had, perhaps, one of his finest games in the Alamo Bowl. He was my choice for defensive MVP in that game with the way he gummed up the Oklahoma State offense, and the media agreed by voting him to that award. He likely tested off the charts with the Wonderlic, so this is not a guy teams have to worry about. I see him, as Pauline does, as a workmanlike guy destined for a late round pick and, probably, at least a three- or four-year stay in the NFL.
FB Branden Joe
* Height, Weight -- 6-0, 235 pounds; Hometown -- Westerville, Ohio.
* OSU Highlights -- Bruising runner and blocker who played both fullback and tailback his senior year . appeared in 43 career games and made 11 starts, including ten games with two starts as a senior . two starts came at Iowa and against Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl . gained career-high with 57 yards on 13 carries in the Alamo Bowl . gained then-career high with 52 yards on 14 carries in 37-21 win over Michigan . finished season with 162 yards on 50 carries, both career bests . scored first career touchdown on 4-yard charge up the middle against Penn State . finished PSU game with 22 yards on nine carries . applied the hit of the week at Purdue . missed first two games of season with high ankle sprain and battled injury throughout first half of season.
* Pauline on Joe -- "He is kind of a 'tweener. He doesn't really stand out. The fact he was not invited to the combine hurts him. When he was used as a feature runner, he was OK. He's the kind of guy I don't think will get drafted, but he'd have a chance to maybe make a roster as a backup fullback. He probably needs to add some bulk to his frame."
* Helwagen on Joe -- Injuries kept Joe from ever realizing his full potential at Ohio State. We saw glimpses like the Fiesta and Alamo Bowls and the Michigan game last November where he could just be dynamite in a one-back set. When he was in the game at fullback -- and healthy -- OSU's running game was marginally better. Depending on how teams have him ranked, he is probably a late round pick or a free agent. But he could make a team look real good if he stays healthy (somehow) over the next five years.
TB Maurice Clarett
* Height, Weight -- 5-11, 234 pounds; Hometown -- Youngstown, Ohio.
* OSU Highlights -- After earning USA Today national offensive player of the year and Ohio Mr. Football awards at Warren Harding in 2001, enrolled early for spring practice in 2002 . ended up starting the opener at tailback, going for 175 yards and three touchdowns against Texas Tech . then had an OSU freshman record 230 yards and two scores against Washington State . played in 11 of OSU's 14 games, starting nine, while battling shoulder and knee injuries . ended up with seven 100-yard games on the year . on the year, rushed for an OSU freshman record 1,237 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns as the Buckeyes rolled to the national championship . missed 2003 season after receiving illegal extra benefits . then tried to declare for the 2004 NFL draft, but lost a lawsuit against the league challenging its draft restrictions and had to sit out that season as well.
* Pauline on Clarett -- "The workout in his hometown helped him marginally. He went from a guy who wasn't going to be drafted to potentially getting drafted in the late rounds. I look at teams like the Raiders and Cowboys, possibly. They are the only teams that may be interested. He, himself, made some poor decisions and he had people make decisions for him that were not in his best interest. He has just left a bad taste in people's mouths everywhere he's gone. That includes Ohio State, the NCAA and the NFL. You have the ESPN article (last November). Then, he hurt himself at the combine when he sulked and didn't finish the workout. Then, he pulled out of the skills competition at the last minute. I don't think he's going to get drafted."
* Helwagen on Clarett -- I could write a dissertation on everything that has happened to lead Clarett -- or Reecie, as we once glowingly referred to him -- to this point. His career and his life have taken some unusual and largely unfortunate twists, many of them self-inflicted. I know he didn't test all that well. But somewhere in there is an NFL running back. It ain't pretty and he certainly is anything but politically correct. I just don't know how you go from being the Heisman Trophy front runner two years ago to chopped liver today -- and do it without playing one down of football. Sure, he's brittle and, yes, he could be a cancer in an organization if he doesn't check his ego at the door. But there is some untapped potential there. He will get drafted, probably in the sixth or seventh round. As scouts review his video from 2002, they'll see a guy who can play. In the NFL, a lot of times, that is all that matters.
TB Lydell Ross
* Height, Weight -- 6-0, 225 pounds; Hometown -- Tampa, Fla.
* OSU Highlights -- Team co-captain who played in ten games as a senior with six starts . had 117 carries for 475 yards and four touchdowns and added six catches for 49 yards . rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in the Alamo Bowl win over Oklahoma State . carried 17 times for 141 yards and one score against Cincinnati and followed with 24 carries and 90 yards against Marshall . ran for 51 yards and a TD at N.C. State and 31 yards and one score at Northwestern . rushed for 2,369 yards and 26 touchdowns during his career . also a fine receiver with 31 career receptions . as a junior, finished the season with 826 yards and 10 touchdowns on 193 carries even though he was hampered much of the first half of the season by a turf toe and pulled groin muscle
* Pauline on Ross -- "Ross could get a look in somebody's camp. He just never answered the call. Before Maurice Clarett got there, he showed a lot of potential. He had his opportunity and he flubbed it. He will have a shot in somebody's camp. If he responds, he could make somebody's practice squad."
* Helwagen on Ross -- I'd agree that Ross' career was somewhat of a disappointment. He had the body of a 1,000-yard rusher, but there was a major disconnect somewhere along the line. He was dinged up a bit and had off-the-field problems as a senior. And the offense ground almost to a halt his last two years, so he was not entirely to blame. He had probably five games in his entire career where you'd say, 'Man, he looks like a quality running back.' But those games were too few and too far between. I can't see any scenario where Ross gets drafted. He'll have to make his way as a free agent.
Likely Free Agents
OSU's 2006 Draft Possibilities
Pauline shared some random thoughts on OSU players who could be draft-eligible in 2006.
"There will be a few more guys from Ohio State next year," he said. "They will make up for not having as many this year. I like (offensive tackle Rob) Sims a lot. I think the linebacker, A.J. Hawk, is going to be very good. I thought he had first-round potential this year and he should definitely have it next year.
"(Anthony) Schlegel will probably be a late round pick. I'll be watching (Bobby) Carpenter closely this year as well. I want to see more out of him."
Cornerback Ashton Youboty could have a tough call after his upcoming junior year, Pauline said.
"I think he's going to be a star," Pauline said.
Likewise, flanker Santonio Holmes, who will be a fourth-year junior, will also face a difficult decision.
"Holmes is pretty decent," he said. "He doesn't have great size. He would probably need to run a great time. He really did a good thing in coming back for another year."