Two Buckeyes Opt To Return; Gibson Leaving

The Ohio State football team lost a likely starter for 2010 when junior defensive end Thaddeus Gibson declared he would skip his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, but good news soon followed with announcements two other players will return.

Tuesday afternoon saw Ohio State lose one All-Big Ten defensive lineman to the NFL draft, but defensive coordinator and line coach Jim Heacock's unit retained another as well as a starting cornerback.

Ohio State defensive end Thaddeus Gibson will enter the 2010 NFL Draft, the university announced Tuesday afternoon shortly before fellow lineman Cameron Heyward and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa revealed they will stay in school.

Gibson, a fourth-year collegian with one year of eligibility remaining, is scheduled to graduate in June with a bachelor's degree in African-American studies.

The 6-2, 240-pounder came to Ohio State from Euclid, Ohio, as the ninth-rated linebacker in the nation in the class of 2006.

In a statement sent out by the university, Gibson thanked Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel as well as defensive assistants Luke Fickell and Jim Heacock along with sports information director Shelly Poe, his family and God for helping him in his decision.

He called the Buckeyes 26-17 defeat of Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 one of his most memorable experiences and said he has grown in his time wearing scarlet and gray.

"I am not leaving the Buckeye family," he said. "I wish the team the very best in the upcoming years and I thank all my teammates for all their support. I will keep in touch with my Buckeye family and I love them all. I will always bleed scarlet and gray."

The four-star recruit redshirted as a freshman as the Buckeyes won the Big Ten and went to the BCS National Championship game. He played sparingly as a special teamer and rush linebacker in 2007 when Ohio State repeated both feats.

Gibson moved to defensive end the following spring and broke into the starting lineup in the third game of the 2008 season.

He finished his Ohio State career with 82 tackles in 34 games, including 10 sacks and 25 tackles for loss.

In 2009, Gibson was a consensus second-team All-Big Ten pick after leading the outright conference champion Buckeyes with 13 tackles for loss and notched four sacks, two fumbles forced and two fumble recoveries.

College players three years removed from college have until Jan. 15 to notify the NFL of plans to leave school early, but Heyward and Chekwa did not wait that long to end speculation about his future.

"I am excited about next season and am looking forward to being one of the senior leaders of our team," Heyward said. "I sat down and talked at length with my family about my situation, and they totally support my decision. I've been blessed to this point. I am just having fun being a college student."

His choice to finish out his career as a four-year player follows similar decisions by fellow lineman Doug Worthington and safety Kurt Coleman, both of whom said no to the NFL last January and returned to serve as captains in 2009.

"I learned a lot from seniors like Doug and Kurt and all they were able to accomplish during their senior year," Heyward said. "I would love to be a part of Buckeye tradition like that. I think the upside is very positive.

"I want to help our team achieve the goals of winning another Big Ten title and possibly accomplishing a national championship. If I could win some recognition, that would be great as well. I think I can be a leader for our team, and I know another season will help me become a better player."

Heyward figures to become a four-year starter up front for the Buckeyes after arriving at Ohio State from Suwanee, Ga., as a four-star recruit and the No. 20 defensive tackle in the class of 2007.

The 6-6, 287-pounder has recorded 115 tackles during a three-year career that includes 33 starts. He was named second-team All-Big Ten after leading the Buckeyes with 7.5 sacks in 2009. He had 11 tackles for loss.

He is scheduled to graduate in June 2011 with a bachelor's degree in human development.

Chekwa has 27 starts under his belt, and the Clermont (Fla.) East Ridge product led Ohio State with seven pass breakups in 2009.

He has 103 tackles to his name in three years on the field that include two as a starter and one as the team's third cornerback.

"I am not ready to leave Ohio State, and I am looking forward to my senior season," he said. "I prayed about this decision and talked about it with my parents, and I know this is the right decision for me.

"I will graduate next fall, and I am looking forward to being a leader on what can be a very special defense for the Buckeyes. After the Rose Bowl win, we are working toward accomplishing more great things, including another Big Ten title and a run at the national championship."

Chekwa received honorable mention all-conference honors in 2009 for football and was a member of the Buckeyes' 4x100 relay team that took place at the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

He is scheduled to graduate in December with a bachelor's degree in accounting.

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