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Why is this news?: Which Ohio State underclassmen are considering the NFL Draft?

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Plus, why Mike Vrabel is a prime candidate for a head coaching job, and women’s basketball wins despite key suspensions.

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"I think he will be a better overall player, which will make him much more valuable at the next level, if he stay another year and develops his leadership skills a little better."

-Vencent Bell, father of Vonn Bell, via Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State Buckeyes junior safety Vonn Bell has questions to answer about his future in Columbus, but will wait do so until after the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame in January. In anticipation of the 2016 NFL Draft, Bell has been ranked as high as No. 2 in his position group and No. 46 overall, but  Bell is still debating the decision on whether to return to school for his senior year.

Others have already made their decision. Following the team’s only loss to Michigan State, running back Ezekiel Elliott made abundantly clear that he would not be returning to Columbus for his senior season. With an outstanding junior season--his 33 yard rushing performance Michigan State notwithstanding--Elliott has moved into the No.  2 spot in career rushing yards in Ohio State history behind Archie Griffin.  ESPN’s Mel Kiper has him as a potential first-rounder come the draft, stating that he has nothing left to prove in college: "Stay healthy and get ready for the combine."

Kiper said the same of junior defensive end Joey Bosa, who has not made the same outright declaration as Elliott, but who many expect could be the first-overall pick in April’s draft. A two-time all-American, Bosa finished the 2015 season with significantly lower statistical numbers than he had in 2014, owing greatly to the fact that he was consistently double or triple-covered by opposing offenses.

Redshirt junior receiver Michael Thomas has also been highly touted in NFL mock drafts, though he has not openly declared for the draft at this point. In a draft class teeming with outstanding receivers like Laquon Treadwell of Ole Miss and Corey Coleman from Baylor, Thomas still stands out as a top pick.

While Elliott, Bosa and Thomas are highly-rated in their position groups, and would likely be early-round picks in the spring, other underclassmen are less certain in their draft fates. Linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback Eli Apple, both redshirt sophomores, have reportedly been considering the jump to the NFL. Junior guard Pat Elflein has also been highly ranked in mock drafts, but is reportedly planning on returning to Columbus for his senior season. Junior quarterback Cardale Jones, despite the meteoric three-game stretch which won Ohio State a national title, has fallen from both his starting spot at Ohio State and his draft stock, and will have some tough decisions to make this offseason.

"I think Mike has a great mind for [coaching], great passion for it. He’s got great playing experience, so he can draw on things that honestly I can’t. I’ve never played in this league. I can’t draw on those, so I think there is definitely some advantage to that. I don’t think that’s a ticket. There are a lot of other things that go into it, too, but if it’s used properly I think it’s valuable."

-New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, via Tom E. Curran, Comcast Sportsnet

Many former Ohio State assistants are making waves in their new positions. Former offensive coordinator Tom Herman went 12-1 with Houston in his first season there, and will face Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Chris Ash, who will coach in the Fiesta Bowl as co-defensive coordinator, is headed to his first head coaching gig with Rutgers next year.

Mike Vrabel could be next. Vrabel, who spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State, is now in his second season as the linebackers coach for the Houston Texans. Vrabel came to Ohio State during Luke Fickell’s interim coaching season as the linebackers coach for his former roommate, but moved on to coach the defensive line for the Buckeyes when Urban Meyer came on. Vrabel quickly earned notice for his strong recruiting ability, and was named ESPN.com’s recruiter of the year in 2012. Vrabel himself played defensive end for the Buckeyes from 1993-96, and earned his degree there in 2004. He was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 91st overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, and played four seasons in Pittsburgh before moving on to the Patriots.

In his career with the Patriots, Vrabel was described by head coach Bill Belichick as one of the smartest players on the team. He earned the respect of fellow players, and was a natural leader on the field. That leadership translated naturally when he retired from his playing career in Kansas City, and immediately joined the Ohio State coaching staff. However, according to former teammates and coaches, Vrabel began coaching long before, and would constantly give advice and guidance to rookies, veteran players and coaches on the sidelines and in practice. Belichick noted that, even early in Vrabel’s career when he first came to the Patriots, that knack for coaching was already prominent.

"We try not to let it affect anything we do. We’re going to leave that to the ones who are in charge--the coaches and administrators. It had nothing to do with us. We tried to focus on what we could."

-Ohio State guard Kelsey Mitchell, via Jim Massie, The Columbus Dispatch

The Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team routed North Carolina A&T despite several key suspensions on the bench. Kelsey Mitchell scored a team-high 22 in the win, while Ameryst Alston dropped 20. Four Buckeyes hit double-figures in scoring in the 89-56 win Sunday, which brought the 10th-ranked team nationally to a 6-3 overall record.

Forwards Shayla Cooper and Chelsea Mitchell, the latter the twin of star guard Kelsey Mitchell, were both suspended for one game along with assistant coach Mark Mitchell, who is the twins’ father. Head coach Kevin McGuff announced the suspensions prior to the game Sunday without much detail, stating that the suspension was in regards to "conduct detrimental to the team" for an event that occurred in the second half of the Buckeyes’ win over Cincinnati Dec. 6. Currently, all are scheduled to be back for Friday’s matchup against Princeton.

The suspensions did not appear to shake Kelsey Mitchell and the Buckeyes too much, as they jumped out to an early 27-11 lead in the first quarter, and never allowed the opposing Aggies to get close despite a shaky third quarter. McGuff praised the team for remaining focused throughout the game, and finishing strong in the fourth quarter.

Shayla Cooper, who had played in all of Ohio State’s games up to her suspension, averaged 8.8 points per game on the season. Chelsea Mitchell has played in three games this season after missing the last season with a torn ACL. She has scored three points on the season, coming off the bench against Wagner.

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