The 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes achieved perfection this fall, marching through their schedule with an unblemished 12-0 record.
With Braxton Miller and eight other starters coming back to an offense that generated 37 points per game this year, the Buckeyes will likely enter next season as one of the few favorites to reach the national title game in 2013.
Two of Ohio State’s top players on defense, though, might skip out on the fun to get an early start at an NFL career.
Just spoke to Bradley Roby and Johnathan Hankins and both told me they're still weighing options about the NFL.— Ari Wasserman (@AriWassermanBSB) December 5, 2012
Losing both Roby and Hankins would be devastating to an Ohio State defense that’s already losing six starters to graduation (John Simon, Garrett Goebel, Nathan Williams, Etienne Sabino, Zach boren and Travis Howard).
But while it would be a huge blow to the defense, it would certainly be understandable.
Hankins has been projected as a top-10 pick throughout the year, as he put together a fantastic junior season for the Buckeyes. After starting all 12 games, the big defensive tackle finished the season fifth on the team with 55 tackles and tied for third on the team with four tackles for loss.
Considering his main job was to essentially make a pile of bodies, those are impressive numbers.
Roby was equally impressive on the back end of the defense.
The redshirt sophomore continued a recent trend of outstanding cornerback play for the Buckeyes. After a breakout freshman season last year, Roby led the team with 19 passes defended and was third on the team with 63 tackles.
Both Hankins and Roby earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for their outstanding seasons.
Hankins would likely be the easier of the two to replace. While he's projected to go higher in the draft, there's much better depth behind Hankins than Roby.
A pair of freshmen—Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt—saw significant action in 2012. Both played well in limited roles, especially Washington, and with the number of touted defensive linemen coming to Columbus, Hankins' departure wouldn't hurt as much as Roby's.
The depth at cornerback has to be a concern of Urban Meyer's, and that's with Roby in the fold. The Buckeyes are already losing Travis Howard to graduation, and the only other player on the roster who saw significant action is Doran Grant. While Grant has potential, the sophomore was picked on quite a bit by opposing quarterbacks this year.
Meyer has secured a commitment from Eli Woodward, the fifth-ranked cornerback in the country, but that won't fill the hole Roby would leave with his departure.
So will they stay, or will they go?
It's hard to imagine Hankins staying with the kind of projections he's getting. When you're expected to be one of the first 15 players drafted, there isn't much left to prove at the college level. Hankins did say he wanted to stay for his senior season earlier this year, but it's not uncommon for players to say that before ultimately deciding to go pro.
Roby doesn't have such high projections, which is probably why he'll stay in Columbus for another year. It's not that he isn't NFL ready, but rather, there are things he can do to improve his game and, in turn, his draft stock.
"I think his best days are ahead of him," Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said, according to ESPN.com. "I think he's going to be a great player, but I think he needs more time, more seasoning."
Coombs later added, "I would expect Bradley to be here and be around, and I'm looking forward to coaching him another year."
Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412.