Will They Stay Or Will They Go?

With football season now complete, attention turns toward which players will forgo their final year at Ohio State to enter the NFL draft. Brian Robiskie made his choice, but many others are still on the fence. Here is a compilation of the latest public comments by those Buckeyes as time ticks down to the Jan. 15 deadline.

With 13 underclassmen having submitted paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board to see where they might place in the upcoming April selection show should they choose to declare, the Ohio State football team is sure to stay in the news with stories regarding the future status of many of its star juniors.

A group including star linebackers Marcus Freeman, James Laurinaitis, Vernon Gholston and Malcolm Jenkins has until Jan. 15 to declare that they will enter the draft. Should they do so, they would join Big Ten players in Michigan wideouts Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington, Indiana receiver James Hardy, Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas, Wisconsin corner Jack Ikegwuonu and Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall as early entrants.

For most, mum has been the word since the BCS National Championship Game ended Jan. 7, but most players did comment on their thoughts following the loss to LSU.

Many think the most likely to go is Gholston, the defensive end who finished the year with 37 tackles and led Ohio State with 14 sacks. After the game, the Detroit native said he would return home to discuss his future with family.

"I'm going to go back home, let things calm down a little bit and get my mind off this game, sit down with coach and my mom and make an educated decision," he said.

Laurinaitis, who led Ohio State in tackles for the second year in a row, this time with 121, and Freeman, who had 109 stops, both said they would weigh their options as well.

"There's always a chance, and as bad as this hurts you can always say there's always next year," Laurinaitis said, adding that both staying and leaving were "close" in his mind. "Let's hope that we can get some of these guys to come back and it will be an exciting team next year regardless."

"It's a lot of thinking to do," Freeman said after the game. "I have a couple days to go home and talk to my family and think about what's the best decision."

As for Jenkins, the cornerback first-team All-Big Ten cornerback with 47 tackles and four interceptions on the year simply shook his head when he was asked if he had contemplated his future.

In his latest mock draft Jan. 4, Scout NFL draft expert Chris Steuber had Laurinaitis as the No. 6 overall pick to the New York Jets, Jenkins as the No. 7 pick to New England and Gholston as the 10th pick, where he would join fellow Buckeye defensive end Will Smith with New Orleans.

On the offensive side, the player most likely to leave appears to be left tackle Alex Boone. A year ago, Kirk Barton found himself in a similar situation and decided to return for his senior year to improve his draft status. This year, Boone has a decision to make and said after the game that he has not made up his mind.

"I don't know yet," Boone said. "I have to talk to my mom and my nana and my girl. I don't know yet. We'll see."

A number of Buckeyes have taken themselves out of consideration for the jump. Multiple media outlets today are reporting that wide receiver Brian Robiskie, who led Ohio State with 55 catches for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns, has chosen to return for his senior year in Columbus. Before the title game, Robiskie told reporters that he filed his NFL paperwork based on the urging of head coach Jim Tressel and that he did not consider seriously making the jump.

At Ohio State's bowl media day Jan. 4 in New Orleans, both third-year sophomore wideout Brian Hartline and junior tight end Rory Nicol told reporters they would be coming back for the 2008 season.

For up-to-the-minute reporting and information from the group of insiders at BuckeyeSports.com and Scout.com, keep your browser tuned to the Ask The Insiders message board and the front page here at BuckeyeSports.com.

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