LOS ANGELES – Dwayne Haskins isn’t the only player on Ohio State’s offense who still has a decision to make on whether he will enter the 2019 NFL draft.
Ohio State center Michael Jordan and wide receiver K.J. Hill also have to decide whether they will take their games to the next level or stay in Columbus for one more year, and both of them said Saturday during interview sessions for the Rose Bowl that they have not yet made up their minds.
Jordan enters his decision process in an unusual position for an Ohio State offensive lineman. If he was to declare for the draft after this season, he would be the first Ohio State offensive lineman to leave early for the NFL since Orlando Pace in 1997. That said, he was already the first Ohio State offensive lineman since Pace to start every game as a true freshman, and he’s started every game for the past three seasons – making him unusually experienced for an offensive lineman with remaining eligibility.
Jordan is likely to be selected in the middle rounds of April’s draft if he declares, but for now, he’s focused on playing Washington in his final game of this season on Tuesday, after which he will spend some time with his family discussing whether he should stay or go.
“I'll have to gather a bunch of information to make an informed decision; where I would go in the draft or what position I could play next year if I come back to Ohio State,” Jordan said. “So I haven't really given it much thought, because my main focus right now is just to win the Rose Bowl game.”
One reason why Jordan could opt to return for one more year with the Buckeyes: the opportunity to move back to his natural position of guard instead of the center position he played this year.
Ohio State offensive coordinator Ryan Day, who will be the Buckeyes’ head coach next season, said Saturday that if Jordan does return for his senior season, the current plan would be to move him back to guard – where Wyatt Davis also projects as a likely starter for 2019 – while Josh Myers is first in line to replace Jordan at center. Day said Myers actually got some work with the first-team offensive line at center – with Jordan at left guard – during bowl practices because current starting left guard Malcolm Pridgeon missed some time with a finger injury.
“I can't say enough about what he did this year to step into that role – somebody his size, too – and how well he did and making first-team All-American awards, you can't say enough about his unselfishness,” Day said of Jordan, who is unusually tall for a center at 6-foot-7 and 312 pounds, moving to that position this season. “Josh has really improved this year, so that would be a nice move for us, to move Josh to center and then Mike over to guard.”
Jordan said he would “most definitely” prefer to play guard if he returns to Ohio State next season, and though he believes his experience playing center gives him more versatility for the next level, he expects to ultimately play guard in the NFL. He doesn’t feel as though it’s a necessity to return for another season, though, because he already has two years of experience playing guard under his belt.
“I got two years at guard, so I think anything I do coming back another year is just to build upon that, start where I left off, continue to build,” Jordan said. “It will only add value to me as a player.”
Hill, meanwhile, is a fourth-year junior who will also be weighing several factors before making his decision ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline to declare for the NFL draft. He said he has not yet received a grade from the NFL draft advisory committee, but that will not be the only factor in his decision.
“I feel like it’s about you mentally. Are you ready to handle that? Are you ready to step into a grown-man locker room?” Hill said of what he has to think about as he makes his decision. “Starting life, really. So I feel like it’s more of that mentally than on the field.”
Hill has been one of Ohio State’s leading receivers for the last two seasons, catching 56 passes for 549 yards and three touchdowns in 2017, and 65 passes for 811 yards and six touchdowns this year. Should he come back next season, however, he’d have an opportunity to be the true leader of Ohio State’s wide receiver room, with current fifth-year seniors Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin all set to play their final games in the Rose Bowl.
With all of that in mind, Hill believes that returning for one more year at Ohio State or leaving for the NFL draft could both be good decisions for him.
“I feel I had a great season this season. If I was to leave, I would be leaving on a good note,” Hill said. “Then again, if I did come back next year, a lot can happen with more touches on the ball, being in the offense as a leader, potential captain. There's a lot that comes with it. There's a lot of potential.”
Like Jordan, Hill wants to focus on the Rose Bowl for now before turning his attention to his future, but ultimately, he says he will talk with his family, his coaches at Ohio State including wide receivers coach Brian Hartline and others close to him to determine what his best move would be.
“There's been good talks around with people in my circle,” Hill said. “It’s a big-time decision, but it’s a good decision to have right now.”
Three Ohio State players have already announced their intentions to enter the 2019 NFL draft: Nick Bosa, who left the team in October, as well as Dre’Mont Jones and Mike Weber. Others who could opt to enter the draft, but have not yet announced a decision one way or the other, including safety Jordan Fuller and cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield.