SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ed Warinner signed plenty of high-profile recruits throughout his career, but never one like he did on Dec. 18.
That was when Ohio State redshirt junior offensive lineman Pat Elflein announced he'll return for his fifth season.
“It’s like signing a five-star recruit with three years of experience,” Warinner joked Tuesday during his media session for the Buckeyes’ Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl game against Notre Dame.
Warinner wasn’t too far off. After all, as a first-team All-Big Ten selection, Elflein was one of Ohio State’s best and most consistent players throughout a season filled with ups and downs.
Elflein addressed the situation Tuesday as well, saying his choice to return for his fifth season was stressful, but ultimately the correct one.
“There’s a lot of things that went into that. Talking with the coaches and my family, we just decided that the pros of coming back are greater than the pros of leaving right now,” Elflein said. “I love Ohio State. I love the coaches. I want to graduate and there’s still some things personally I want to accomplish here.”
With three starting senior offensive linemen set to depart after the matchup with the Fighting Irish — Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren and Chase Farris — Ohio State could have been in rebuilding mode next season up front had Elflein opted to head to the NFL. Left guard Billy Price would have been the only returning starter in that scenario.
Now, Elflein is “100 percent” coming back to join Price as the leaders of what will still be a young group. Elflein, the starting right guard this season, said he will move to center next year. It makes sense considering Elflein could best be fit to play center at the next level.
“I want to work at playing center and getting better at playing center because at the end of the day I’ll probably be a center at the next level just because of my size,” Elflein said. “I’m going to come back, play for Ohio State and play center.”
Elflein seems like a lock to be one of Ohio State’s captains next season as he’s often praised by Warinner, head coach Urban Meyer and others for his leadership as well as his steady play on the field.
And while he said the decision was stressful and one he delayed as long as possible, Elflein added having that chance to lead a young group was one of the big reasons he opted to return for his fifth year.
“This is my life and my career just like you guys have a life and a career. This is what my life is right now,” Elflein said. “Just tried to make the best decision for me to put myself in the best position when this is all over so yeah it was stressful, but I’m happy with my decision and I’m in 100 percent.”
Added Warinner: “Just a veteran, an All-American, All-Big Ten player coming back that has a lot of experience and plays a style of football and is a leader, a mature guy. What else can you say having a guy like that back?”