Time To Get Started

Ohio State has lost just one junior from last season's national runner-up squad. On Saturday, Vernon Gholston prepared to get his NFL career off and running as he arrived at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS – What could have been a deluge of underclassmen talent from Ohio State at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine was reduced to a trickle when just one junior opted to forego his senior season and head to the pros.

But that junior is having no problems making a big impact. Defensive end Vernon Gholston, the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year, is preparing to go through the full barrage of workouts for NFL personnel. But with Gholston's combination of size and speed, as well as his track record in college, the new question is where he will play in the NFL: defensive end or outside linebacker.

As it turns out, the man himself has no preference.

"I did them both in college, so it's really where the team wants to put me," he said. "I feel I'm capable of playing both positions and that allows your defense to be versatile."

After weighing in at 6-3, 266 – one inch shorter and six pounds heavier than he was listed in OSU's bowl media guide – Gholston could make a big splash at the combine. ESPN's Todd McShay mentioned him as one of five players who most need to have a good showing during in front of the scouts.

If he performs well, Gholston should cement himself as a top-10 pick in the forthcoming NFL draft. Knowing this, the former Buckeye plans on participating in all drills while in Indianapolis.

"I think he will go somewhere in the top seven," ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton told BuckeyeSports.com. "Other than that, it's hard to pin it down."

As a junior, Gholston finished with 37 tackles – 15.5 for loss – and a school-record 14 sacks. One of those sacks came against Michigan All-American offensive lineman Jake Long, also projected to be one of the top picks in the draft.

It was the only sack Long allowed all year, and he publicly remembered that while at the combine.

"I take it personally," he said. "I wanted to make sure that I was perfect and not let up a sack but Vernon is a great player and he had a good move on me and I let it up."

Gholston, who had three sacks during the Michigan game, said the sack was simply a matter of alternating his technique and waiting for the opportune moment.

The Buckeyes welcome back all but three of their starters next season. While it would seem that having a plethora of juniors returning for one more season would make another year at OSU more desirable, Gholston said the opposite.

"I also had to think about my teammates," he said. "We had a lot of guys that weren't able to play on the field as much as they wanted to because guys like me and James Laurinaitis started and were dominant players. This gives them a chance to play."

In addition to citing family matters as one reason why he opted to head out, Gholston pointed out that he would have been entering his fifth season as a Buckeye. Thoughts of leaving early continued throughout the entire season but did not crystallize until after the team's loss to LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.

As of Saturday afternoon, Gholston had not spoken with any NFL teams but had plans to speak to 12 of them before the day was complete. Whichever team selects him will get to determine whether he lines up with his hand on the ground or not.

Gholston has been compared to former Buckeye Mike Vrabel, now a member of the New England Patriots. The two have worked out together numerous times at the school's Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

"He comes back a lot of times during the season and he works out with us a lot," Gholston said. "A lot of times he actually joins in the workouts and gives you a chance to compete with him. Sometimes I would beat him in workouts and sometimes he would beat me."

Although he said he feels equally adept at both positions, Gholston said he prefers playing along the line as opposed to playing as a linebacker.

"I love playing defensive end," he said. "I love getting after the quarterback and affecting the game that way, but at the end of the day whatever team I play for will decide."

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