Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated is reporting Braxton Miller will return for his senior season at Ohio State, while linebacker Ryan Shazier will declare for the 2014 NFL Draft [Update 10:52 p.m. Ohio State has confirmed Shazier will forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft].
The return of Miller is significant for the Buckeyes. He is the two-time winner of the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football, given to the most valuable player in the Big Ten. Following the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson last night, Miller said he wanted to explore the process.
“I’m just going to think it out throughout the whole process and how it will go,” Miller said. “I don’t want to make a decision I didn’t do my research on.”
Although Miller made progress as a passer this season, tossing 24 touchdowns in 11 games, he was not considered a first or second round prospect for the NFL. A big Orange Bowl may have changed some of that perception, and although he played well, his performance did not quite match Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd's, who was near-perfect in the game.
Shazier's departure is a blow to the Ohio State defense, but not a shock, either. A source told Eleven Warriors that he made his decision to enter the draft prior to the Big Ten Championship game and subsequent media reports have confirmed his intentions, even while Shazier worked hard not to tip his hand. As recently as three weeks ago, he told reporters he was "leaning towards staying."
“Playing in the NFL is something that I have been dreaming about since my days in pee-wee football,” said Shazier, a 29-game starter for the Buckeyes who has led the team in tackles for the past two seasons. “I just feel that now is the perfect time for me.”
“The coaches have really helped me to grow into the player I am today,” Shazier said. “Coach Meyer, Coach Fickell and all of the coaches at Ohio State have been amazing. I have great relationships with them and I feel as if all of them have been there for me. I am so blessed to have had them as my coaches.”
Shazier was named a first-team Associated Press All-American this season, all-Big Ten Conference (coaches and media), a Butkus Award finalist and Bednarik and Lott award semifinalist. USA Today, ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated also named him a first-team All-American after a campaign in which he tied Big Ten records with three conference defensive player of the week honors and with five for his career.
He finished the 2013 season with 143 tackles, good enough for 6th nationally and tied for 13th on the Ohio State single season charts. The highlight may have been his 20-tackle performance against Indiana, in which he tied school records for solo tackles (16) and tackles-for-loss (5).
Shazier notched 101 solo tackles this season to rank 3rd nationally. It's the third-highest total in program history behind Tom Cousineau's 142 in 1978 and Chris Spielman's 105 in 1986. The 315 tackles he recorded in his career as a Buckeye rank 14th in school history.
Thamel has a good relationship with Urban Meyer, so this report may carry a little more weight than most. When reached, an Ohio State spokesman could not confirm the report, however.