Senior Year Benefitted Jenkins

Ohio State had five key players all decide to return for their senior seasons this past year. In the process, it appears the only one to actually help his draft status might have been cornerback Malcolm Jenkins.

INDIANAPOLIS – A little more than a year ago, five Ohio State football players made national headlines when they opted to return for their senior years and put plans for NFL stardom on hold.

Now as each of those players is put through the paces at the NFL Scouting Combine, it appears only one of them made the right choice from a draft standpoint. Although he appears to have hurt his stock by not running a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins might be the only former Buckeye to have actually improved his draft status by receiving some extra seasoning at the collegiate level.

As for the others … it's best to hope they enjoyed their overall experience enough to not be disappointed when their names are called in draft day.

"I think Jenkins, he's probably where he would've been or maybe a little bit higher," NFL draft analyst Chris Steuber told "I think (James) Laurinaitis really hurt himself by staying in. He had a great year, but he's dropping because of all the talent at linebacker this year. Alex Boone after his junior year, I think he would've done better. Marcus Freeman's probably where he should be as a third-round guy."

In addition, wide receiver Brian Robiskie opted to return to Columbus after his junior season to round out the quintet.

Although his time in the 40-yard dash did not help his stock, Jenkins said prior to his workouts that he felt his stock had gone up after his senior season. Viewed as a mid-first-round pick, Jenkins could now go somewhere in the top 10 of the draft.

"I think just my stock has definitely rose a little bit, especially since last year when a lot of people told me it couldn't really get any higher and it did," he said. "I made the smart decision."

The rest of Jenkins' now-former teammates feel the same way despite what the upcoming draft might indicate. Laurinaitis, Boone and Freeman each pointed to personal growth lessons and team experiences that made the last year at OSU a worthwhile experience.

For Laurinaitis, that meant gaining a better understanding of the teams' defense as well as seeing the team respond to the adversity that came with two regular-season losses. Although still widely forecast as a first-round pick, Laurinaitis figures to go a little lower than he might have had he left OSU after his junior season.

Jenkins alluded to that fact while saying that teams are getting a solid player in his former teammate.

"I think he continued to do what he's done and he's been consistent," Jenkins said of Laurinaitis. "Maybe he didn't make the splash that he did the last couple years. He's definitely smart. He's a safe pick. He has no off-the-field troubles."

The same can not be said for Boone, who saw his stock fall as a result of both his play as a senior and his early-February arrest. Steuber said the offensive lineman was likely a third- or fourth-round pick when the season ended but now could slide to the sixth or seventh round

It is a feeling that left Boone baffled as his senior season continued.

"That's the one thing I didn't understand, how my stock was slipping when I thought I was playing good," he said. "Coach (Jim) Bollman (OSU offensive coordinator) told me I was playing very well. He'd get on me about a few things, but most of the time he said, ‘You're playing great football.' I was like, ‘How come my stock is dropping? I don't understand.' "

However, one thing both Freeman and Boone have in common is their spoken disdain for trying to predict where they might be drafted or how much their stock has been affected by the events of the past year.

"I hope it helped me," Freeman said. "We'll see when it comes draft day. Who knew where I would've went last year. I try not to get caught up in the rounds and the picks."

Although he did not have the option of leaving after his sophomore year, running back Chris Wells might have been a higher prospect following the 2007 season than he is this year, Steuber said. In addition, the one potential senior who did leap to the NFL last year in Vernon Gholston is already being viewed as a bust after having a mediocre rookie season for the New York Jets, who selected him with the sixth pick in the draft.

Regardless of where he goes in the draft, Laurinaitis said each player should be proud of his decision to come back.

"Things happen for a reason and you've got to take them in stride," he said. If you keep looking at all the what-ifs and all this and that, you'll kill yourself on those things."

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