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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Five juniors from the Ohio State football team were suspended late last week for the first five games of next season after receiving money in exchange for items given to them as awards from the university.
Directly after receiving those benefits and the subsequent suspensions, the juniors - consisting of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Dan Herron, left tackle Mike Adams, and defensive end Solomon Thomas - were declared as good as gone.
The thinking is instead of serving the five-game suspension, which was regarded by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith as "severe," the players could jump to the NFL and not pay the consequences for their actions.
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, however, does think those players would be hurt in some way if they decided to enter the NFL Draft and forgo their senior season.
"I am not sure this would be the best time for a job interview," Tressel said shortly after the suspensions were announced.
At any rate, it would be hard to imagine that the odds of the aforementioned players declaring for the NFL Draft early haven't since skyrocketed since the news of the suspension had surfaced.
In prepared apologizes to the public yesterday, Posey was the only one of the four that promised to return to Ohio State for his senior season.
Though leaving could have a hit on their draft stock and give the players the reputation of guys running away from penalties, the anticipation of losing most, if not all, of those dynamic talents currently seems likely.
There is an appeal by Ohio State to the NCAA for the severity of the suspensions still underway and many feel as if they could be reduced, but in the meantime the NFL question is still lingering. So the question remains: Who should stay and who should go?
Posey: The wide receiver was supposed to be one of the best receivers in the nation this season, and though Posey did have a solid season, it was far short of what mot had expected out of the junior.
Posey was the only one who vowed to come back, and it is hard not to think that was the correct decision on his part. He finished the season with 50 catches for 778 yards and six touchdowns, but he also had some big drops: see the Iowa game.
Though there is no guaranteeing that he will stand by his word and return to Ohio State, if he comes back after a five-game suspension - assuming that length sticks - and has a big season, he'll make a lot more money than jumping early this season. For now, it seems like he has made the right choice. Don't forget - this year's NFL Draft is completely stacked with wide receiver talent.
Herron: As solid as Herron was for the Buckeyes this season, his premature departure may not hurt the team as much as some of the other dynamic talents on this list. Why? Because Ohio State is simply stacked with young talent at the running back position.
Now that's not taking away from the fact that Herron had 1,000 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns this season, but it is hard to imagine he can prove any more than he already has this season to the NFL next year, especially because some of these younger backs will continue to get carries if he does in fact return for his final season.
There is debate as to whether or not Herron is an NFL-caliber back, and it is hard to question if his lack of true breakaway speed could hurt him in the stock column. And, like Tressel said, his stock could take a hit after the recent revelations with the run-in with NCAA rules. But as it seems on the surface, it wouldn't be crazy for Herron to test the NFL waters after the Sugar Bowl.
Adams: There isn't a player on Ohio State that made a bigger transformation than Adams did this season. He went from being called a bust to a first-team all-Big Ten tackle this season. But there is something to be said about consistency, and Adams has yet to show that.
Now it is really hard for left tackles to stand out in the spotlight unless they're dominant, and though Adams did make steps forward this season, there were some inconsistencies in his game. The development was prevalent and its hard not to think about what another year at Ohio State could do for his stock, especially if he finishes next season even more improved than he is now.
One thing that cannot go ignored with Adams is the fact that he has had off-the-field issues more than once since he has come to Ohio State. Most recently he was involved in selling these belongings, but he has also been suspended for violating team rules early in his career. The former prep star still has a lot to prove on and especially off the field before he is a viable candidate for the NFL.
Thomas: There really isn't much to go on when it comes to Thomas, especially because he hasn't seen much playing time during his tenure at Ohio State. He has had his time in the spotlight during spring practice, but it is hard to imagine that he is anywhere close to being ready to make the jump to the next level. From the beginning, it is hard to imagine anyone pegging him as someone who is planning on bolting to the league.
Pryor: The biggest star with the most face time is Pryor, and it isn't even close at this point. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that NFL teams are going to be waiting in line to draft him as a quarterback. He simply hasn't proved he has the ability to run an NFL offense just yet.
His pure athleticism makes him a viable candidate to be drafted because his measurables makes him versatile, but if you ask him, his goal has always been to make it in the NFL as a quarterback. Right now, if he gets drafted, it would be in the later rounds. Going a step further, there is a player in Auburn's Cam Newton that will most likely be in the NFL Draft, and the Heisman Trophy winner most certainly be rated higher on draft boards.
Pryor has a lot to prove, probably the most to prove of any other player on this team. It is evident that he has grown as a player every year since he has been here and one more year at Ohio State will give him ample time to prove that he is mature to take his punishment. With that extra year, which is the most important to his draft stock, he will also have a chance to prove he is a capable talent worth being considered as a professional quarterback. Right now, it doesn't seem as if he has done that yet.
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.
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