Urban Meyer expected to lose a few underclassmen to this year’s NFL draft, but the Ohio State Buckeyes head coach didn’t expect the reigning champs to lose as much firepower as they have.
Nine Buckeyes have already announced their intentions to go pro, a figure well above what Meyer forecast—even with Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones declaring in November with two games to play.
But Meyer admitted it comes with the territory, per Austin Ward of ESPN.com:
Nine is a lot. Nine’s a lot. The four or five [is more manageable]. One year at Florida we had 12 players send in their paperwork, and you're like, 'My goodness.' I mean, it's what we do when you recruit like that.
I've been in scenarios where you don't have a lot of conversations about the NFL because you don't have that caliber of players. This was over the top.
Meyer's recruiting classes have ranked fifth, second, third and seventh in the nation, respectively, in his four seasons, per 247Sports.
The nine Buckeyes who have declared for the 2016 draft are Jones, Elliott, defensive end Joey Bosa, safety Tyvis Powell, safety Vonn Bell, cornerback Eli Apple, linebacker Darron Lee, wide receiver Jalin Marshall and wide receiver Michael Thomas.
Meyer admitted some of those decisions surprised him, but he wouldn’t specify which ones.
"A couple, yeah, but I'm not going to get into names," Meyer said, per Ward.
But the three-time national champion coach also said he appreciated how each player handled his departure: "I'm a fan of great players, and a bunch of those guys are going to play for a while. They decided to chase their dreams, and everyone was so professional about how they did this."
As many as five players project to go in the first round, meaning the Buckeyes will have voids across the depth chart to fill before national signing day in February.
But Meyer and Co. are already in prime position to reload with a class that ranks second in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Ohio State went 12-1, with its one blemish being a 17-14 loss to Michigan State, which dashed the Buckeyes’ chances of playing in the Big Ten Championship Game and reaching the College Football Playoff.
While Ohio State will look different in the fall, given Meyer’s track record of turning around rosters after churning out NFL talent, there’s no reason to believe the Buckeyes won’t be in the thick of CFP contention in 2016.