Johnathan Hankins won't be suiting up in scarlet and gray this year, but he's still expecting great things from his former teammates.
Hankins told Zac Jackson of FoxSportsOhio.com, "I guarantee we see Ohio State in the national championship game this year. We were supposed to be there last year, but that's over. This time around, they'll get it done."
The Buckeyes, of course, went undefeated during the regular season but were banned from postseason play due to NCAA violations committed during the final stages of the Tressel era.
Hankins was an integral part of that team, piling up 55 tackles while earning first team All-Big Ten honors. Hankins, who played defensive tackle for the Buckeyes, gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, and he was selected in the second round by the New York Giants.
His departure, in addition to the loss of Ohio State's other three starters along the defensive line, will make the Buckeyes' path to the title game a difficult one. While sophomores such as Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt are talented, losing the experience that Hankins, John Simon and Nathan Williams provided is a huge blow for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Hankins, though, has a lot of confidence in Ohio State's young guys.
"They're going to be good," Hankins said, via Jackson. "I know those guys are developing. Good things are ahead for Ohio State. Those players will be ready."
Oddly enough, this isn't the first time Hankins has talked about the 2013 title game. In the spring leading up to his junior season, when many NFL draft experts were projecting Hankins as a high first-round pick, the defensive standout talked about returning to Ohio State for a title run his senior year.
"I really want to win a national championship," Hankins said, according to Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer. "So I think my senior year, we'll have a really good chance of winning it."
Hankins won't be able to help Ohio State on the field, but if the Buckeyes do reach the title game, it will confirm what he's been saying for over two years.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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