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Jan. 7, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A total of nine Ohio State underclassmen have made their intentions known to forego their final season(s) of collegiate eligibility to turn pro and have their names considered for entry into the 2016 NFL Draft. Underclassmen have until Jan. 18 to file declaration papers with the league. The official list of underclassmen accepted by the NFL will be released on Jan. 22.

The group consists of three players who were fourth-year juniors (QB Cardale Jones, SAF Tyvis Powell and WR Michael Thomas), three who were true juniors in eligibility this season — SAF Vonn Bell, DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott — and three who were sophomores in eligibility this year but who also red-shirted one of their three seasons with the Buckeyes: CB Eli Apple, LB Darron Lee and WR Jalin Marshall.

“We have some young people — some fourth-year guys, two who have graduated — who have a national championship and have decided to chase their dreams,” coach Urban Meyer said on Thursday when wrapping up the season with local reporters. “Everyone was so professional about it. … I’m a fan of great players and a bunch of those guys are going to play for a while. You have to look at it that way. We recruited well and the door is open now.”

Bosa is being regarded as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the draft by ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper. Three additional underclassmen are considered as first-round picks on either McShay’s initial mock draft — he has Thomas going No. 16 to the Washington Redskins and Lee going No. 23 to the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings — or Kiper’s big board with Elliott listed as Kiper’s No. 15 overall player and Thomas the No. 25 overall player.

Senior Taylor Decker is also listed as a potential first-round pick with McShay predicting the Buffalo Bills will grab the big left tackle with the 18th selection and Kiper ranking him 23rd overall.

While this number of underclassmen declaring for the draft is high for Ohio State, it is not a record, according to NFL.com. Although a public relations administrator for the site wasn’t sure of the record, he did indicate LSU had 10 underclassmen declare one year.

Briefs on Ohio State Underclassmen Declaring for the NFL Draft

CB Eli Apple — After red-shirting in 2013, Apple was a two-year starter for the Buckeyes with 27 starts and 28 games played in 2014 and 2015. He totaled 22 passes defended (18 PBUs and four INTs) the past two years and trailed only Vonn Bell among the Buckeyes in this category during that time. He was named second-team all-Big Ten Conference in 2015 by the league’s coaches. He was named a freshman All-American in 2014 after a season in which he had 53 tackles and was among the Top 10 in the Big Ten with 13 passes defended. See Eli Apple’s message to Buckeye Nation

SAF Vonn Bell — Bell played three seasons for the Buckeyes and totaled 42 games played and 28 starts. He was named a first-team All-American this past season by the Associated Press, The Sporting News and SI.com after recording 65 tackles and leading the team with nine passes defended. Bell, first-team all-Big Ten in 2015, had 176 career tackles (third among his teammates) and a team-high 24 passes defended, including nine interceptions. A big-play maker, Bell had interceptions against No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and vs. Michigan in 2014, plus had touchdowns vs. Minnesota (INT) and Northern Illinois (FR) this past season. See Vonn Bell’s message to Buckeye Nation

DE Joey Bosa — That “D” in defensive end actually stood for “disruptive” because that’s what Bosa was while earning consensus All-America honors twice, and also earning a Big Ten defensive player of the year award and two Big Ten defensive linemen of the year awards in his three seasons. He played in 41 games, started 37 times and ranks in Ohio State’s Top 5 in four marquee defensive categories: quarterback sacks (3rd with 26), sack yardage (4th with 177), tackles-for-loss (4th with 50.5) and TFL yardage (4th with 247). Bosa had more TFLs the past three years than any player in the nation. His five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries led to 44 Ohio State points. See Joey Bosa’s Message to Buckeye Nation

RB Ezekiel Elliott — Will unquestionably be remembered as one of the all-time best backs in Ohio State history with the second-most rushing yards in school history — 3,961 — including the most rushing yards in consecutive years: 3,699 in 2014 and 2015. Elliott’s 6.7 yards per carry is best among the Buckeyes with his five 200-yard games and 22 100-yard games ranking in a tie for first and second, respectively. His 44 touchdowns rank fourth, behind Pete Johnson (58), Keith Byars (50) and Eddie George (45). The Big Ten’s offensive player of the year and its running back of the year in 2015, Elliott was also the Chicago Tribune Silver Football award winner and a second-team All-American. He had 12 career rushes over 50 yards and he is the only Ohio State player with three rushes of at least 80 yards. See Ezekiel Elliott’s message to Buckeye Nation

QB Cardale Jones — Played in 23 games for the Buckeyes and was a perfect, 11-0, as the starting quarterback for the best winning percentage for a QB in school history with 10-or-more starts. Included in his victories are three of the most important wins in school history; post-season conquests last year of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, No. 1 Alabama in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and No. 2 Oregon in the national championship game. He was the MVP of the Big Ten title game after throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He threw for 2,323 yards with 15 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 61.9 completion percentage for his career. See Cardale Jones’ goodbye to Buckeye Nation

LB Darron Lee — A second-team Associated Press All-American in 2015 after earning freshman All-American honors in 2014, Lee was a starting linebacker in 28 games and played in 30 as a Buckeye. Was second among Buckeyes the last two years — trailing only Joey Bosa — in tackles-for-loss with 27.5 and quarterback sacks with 12. He also had 147 career tackles, five pass break-ups, 10 quarterback hurries, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He scored three defensive touchdowns: 61- and 33-yard fumble returns vs. Navy and Michigan in 2014, respectively, and a 41-yard interception return vs. Northern Illinois this year. See Darron Lee’s message to Buckeye Nation

H-Back Jalin Marshall — A highly skilled receiver and return specialist, Marshall played in 29 games, started 11 and was the team’s second-leading receiver in each of his two seasons playing. He had 38 receptions as a freshman in 2014 — only Cris Carter had more (41) as an Ohio State freshman — and 36 as a sophomore and finished his career with 74 passes caught for 979 yards (13.2 average) and 11 touchdowns. Also averaged 12.7 yards per return (fifth best at Ohio State) off his 52 career punt returns, including a 54-yard punt return touchdown in 2014 vs. Indiana, part of a four-TD day. He scored 13 career touchdowns and amassed 1,905 all-purpose yards (175 rushing, 976 receiving, 662 off punt returns and 92 from kickoff returns). See Jalin Marshall’s message to Buckeye Nation

SAF Tyvis Powell — Accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl despite junior eligibility because he had graduated — in 3.5 years with a degree in sport industry — by December 2015. Powell was a three-year starter for the Buckeyes with 33 starts and 42 games played. He led the team with three interceptions in 2015 and had eight career interceptions, including critical picks vs. Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and vs. Notre Dame in the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl. Also picked off a two-point conversion attempt in the closing seconds of a win over Michigan in 2013. Finished his career with 195 tackles — the second-most among his Buckeye peers — and 16 passes defensed. See Tyvis Powell’s Message to Buckeye Nation

WR Michael Thomas — Ohio State’s No. 1 receiver the past two seasons with 54 catches for 799 yards and nine scores in 2014 and 56 for 781 and nine in 2015. Thomas played in 39 games and started 27 times. He caught a pass in the final 29 games he played and ranks 13th at Ohio State with 113 career receptions, 18th with 1,602 receiving yards and T8th with 18 touchdown receptions. Was outstanding in the post-season with 21 receptions — 13 of which went for a first down — for 232 yards and two touchdowns in four post games; all of them Ohio State wins. Thomas graduated in December with his degree in sport industry. See Michael Thomas’ message to Buckeye Nation