Well, now that Ohio State knows that they will not be participating in this season’s College Football Playoff, and that they are bound for the Rose Bowl against Pac-12 champion Washington, the next question that needs to be answered in today’s college football landscape is whether or not any draft-eligible players will choose to sit out the game in Pasadena; opting instead to focus on preparations for the NFL Draft, and to avoid the potential for injury before signing their rookie contracts.
Like a lot of teams across the country, the Buckeyes are fairly familiar with this new line of thinking already. Last season, at the last possible moment, eventual No. 4 draft pick Denzel Ward opted to skip the Cotton Bowl against USC. Then, earlier this year, following a core muscle injury, Nick Bosa decided to forgo the remainder of his college career and to rehab on his own to prepare for the draft. The younger Bosa brother is projected to be the top pick in the 2019 draft.
While players deciding to skip the Rose Bowl inevitably will ruffle the feathers of some more traditionalist fans, it is a reality of today’s college game. As players have gotten bigger, faster, and stronger, the chance for injuries — sometimes catastrophic in nature — have increased dramatically. Coupled with the fickle nature of NFL contracts, the chance for injury has proven to be too much for some players to risk for a single game.
We can debate the pros and cons of these types of decisions as the Buckeyes deal with them in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, let’s think about what players might be considering skipping the Granddaddy of them All.
Now, this list is by no means exhaustive. Of course any draft-eligible player could decide to skip the bowl game; and we aren’t advocating for any player to sit out the final game of the season, rather we hope that each student-athlete does what is best for his and his family’s future.
Dwayne Haskins | Redshirt Sophomore
4,580 yards, 47 touchdowns, 8 interceptions
With Bosa out for the final 10 games of the season, there is no doubt who the best player has been for the Buckeyes all season, and the stats and accolades back that up. Haskins has broken a ton of records this season, and while he could come back for two more years in Columbus (can you imagine how great that would be?), he is currently projected as the first or second quarterback in most mock drafts. That means that Haskins is in line for a likely initial NFL payday of anywhere from $13-$33 million dollars. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which he returns for his junior season with that kind of money on the line.
Despite what seems to be an eventuality of Haskins declaring his intentions to go pro, the night of, and the day after, the Big Ten Championship Game, the most prolific, single-season passer in conference history stated multiple times that he will be playing in the Buckeyes’ 14th game of the season.
Dwayne Haskins said he’s playing in the Rose Bowl when asked if there’s been any conversation of him possibly not playing.— Audrey Hasson (@AudreyNBC4) December 2, 2018
While anything could happen in the month before the bowl game, at this point, there seems to be no reason to doubt Haskins’ word. It will be nice to see him suiting up in the scarlet and gray #7 one more time.
Dre’Mont Jones | Redshirt Junior
40 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 1 interception, 3 fumbles recovered, 2 touchdowns
Unlike Haskins, Jones wasn’t as definitive when discussing his playing future at Ohio State. The assumption has been since the beginning of the season that the defensive tackle would depart following the year — in fact, some were surprised that he even returned for 2018 in the first place.
With Bosa out for the majority of the season, Jones has been a focal point for offensive game plans, somewhat limiting his statistical output. Despite that, there is no doubt about the importance that Jones carries on this team.
However, on Sunday, Jones was not yet ready to commit to making the trip to Pasadena with the rest of his team.
When asked if he’ll play in the Rose Bowl, Dre’Mont Jones shook his head yes, but says, “We’ll see.”— Audrey Hasson (@AudreyNBC4) December 2, 2018
Mike Weber | Redshirt Junior
858 rushing yards, 6 total touchdowns
Similar to Jones, Weber was one that many thought could leave early following the 2017 campaign. With having to share carries with J.K. Dobbins over the past season, and with the move to a more pass-happy offense, I am sure that Weber is at least a little bit disappointed with the production that he’s been able to contribute to the Buckeyes’ offense this season.
Perhaps not taking as much of a beating as Buckeye running backs of the past have will end up proving to be a good thing. But, due to the nature of the position, Weber could decide to let Dobbins have all (or at least more) of the carries in the Rose Bowl in order to avoid an injury ahead of declaring for the NFL Draft.
Parris Campbell | Redshirt Senior
992 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns
Johnnie Dixon | Redshirt Senior
642 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns
K.J. Hill | Redshirt Junior
831 receiving yards, 6 total touchdowns
Terry McLaurin | Redshirt Senior
669 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns
The remaining players on this list are wide receivers — including three captains — and I don’t especially expect any of them to sit out the Rose Bowl, but, because of how important their legs and speed are to their pro prospects, I wouldn’t blame any of them for sitting out the bowl game.
Dixon might be in a slightly different situation than the rest of the other receivers due to his injury history, and K.J. Hill would be the only player leaving before his eligibility was up.