Thursday's deadline is fast approaching and six Buckeye juniors that filed evaluation paperwork have likely been very busy weighing that heaviest of decisions: do you make a run at captain and one final year of college football and the special atmosphere (and perks) that it provides, or do you get paid?
Though none are likely to be first day selections -- that junior declared last week -- you can make a case for each of them being drafted, which means guaranteed cash and a step up from the grub of the training table.
When Tressel first revealed the names of the juniors that had filed paperwork, I thought that Hartline was the only real risk to leave, but word is starting to swirl about others. Based on what I've heard and some hunches, here's what I think happens:
Gone: Washington, Coleman & Hartline
Washington has been in town for four years and has three years of significant playing time under his belt already. Though he didn't do much to distinguish himself this year, he should still go in the middle rounds. Coleman, on the other hand, probably did the most of any of the juniors to improve his stock this season. He led the team in interceptions and will likely be one of those guys that moves favorably after the combine.
Out of those two, a Washington departure hurts the worst. With Jenkins graduating, the returning corners would be Chekwa, Andre Amos, Donnie Evege, Travis Howard and Orhian Johnson. Or a guy that plays, a guy that's always hurt and three guys that haven't sniffed the field. Not exactly what you want to see with USC coming to town in nine months.
The loss of Hartline would be less of a blow as the team is stacked at wide receiver for the next decade or so. I'm not ruling his return out, but based on the chemistry rumors that were floated earlier in the season and the fact that he's best buds with Todd, I'll be surprised if he sticks around for another year. He didn't have a good season by any stretch, but then again, no receiver did with Pryor cutting his teeth.
Staying: Russell, Ballard & Cordle
Russell could bolt -- he's another guy that's already been with the program for four seasons, but I think he comes back to try to improve his stock. The last play of the Fiesta Bowl certainly won't define where he's taken, but it doesn't exactly help that much either.
Ballard, with great size and hands, would probably get taken in the middle rounds, and NFL scouts are smart enough to know when a guy is underutilized, but I think he comes back for his senior season. Cordle would probably be the only one of the six that wouldn't be a lock to be drafted and settling for the free agency route when you don't have to yet makes little sense. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him have an excellent senior season that could possibly push him up into the 3rd round or so next year.
Wildcards: Small, Taurian Washington & Bauserman
Though Small didn't turn in paperwork to be evaluated, he could still declare for the draft and given the amount of trouble that seems to follow him, you kind of have to wonder whether or not he'll take off. I'd love to see him stick around and put it all together next year. After all, the guy quietly led the Big Ten in punt returns this year.
Taurian Washington and Joe Bauserman aren't draft eligible, but both are prime transfer risks. Washington has somehow mastered the art of catching bombs for six when the coaches aren't looking. That has to be frustrating. Depending on what Hartline and Small do, he could get a shot next season, however. Bauserman, on the other hand, is looking at two more seasons of backing Pryor up before finally getting a crack as a 26 year-old senior in the fall of 2011. And that's assuming Tajh Boyd or some other dual-threat wonder doesn't sign.
What about you? Who do you have leaving early?