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Sunday, December 9, 2012
Meyer mindful of NFL decisions

By Austin Ward
BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Stay or leave, a player's choice for his professional future isn't up to Urban Meyer.

All the Ohio State coach would like is that his players have every bit of information they might need to make the right call.

So Meyer's door will be open for the handful of Buckeyes who are eligible and likely to test the waters for this spring's NFL draft. And at least in one case, conversations and honest assessments between position coaches and players have been ongoing for more than a month, laying the foundation for a potentially career-defining decision.

But it's the part of the formula that doesn't come from within the walls of Ohio State's football complex that tends to be the biggest determining factor for aspiring pros, and it's the same one that has been known to cause a bit of frustration for Meyer in his effort to make sure his players are well informed.

Defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins
Ohio State D-lineman Johnathan Hankins could go in the first round of the NFL draft in April.
"There's a process in place by the National Football League that at first I was very disappointed in the process, it's very vague and I didn't like it at all," Meyer said. "I actually talked to [commissioner] Roger Goodell several times about it. ... I think they've done a better job, I'm not here to berate that because I think they do a fine job, but it's a very imperfect system.

"You send it in, they watch the film and give you a grade. I read the letter, 'You could be drafted as high as this round.' I'm thinking to myself, he's not going to get picked in that round. Why would you ever say that?"

That doesn't mean Meyer will discourage anybody from seeking an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory board ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline to forgo the rest of a player's college eligibility and declare for the draft, though the projected grade they receive won't and perhaps shouldn't be the sole factor in a decision.

Even after rolling to an undefeated season in Meyer's first year with the program, the Buckeyes don't have many clear candidates to test his approach in dealing with prospective early entrants to the next level.

Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is widely regarded as a first-round talent and has been generating speculation about his future since before his productive junior season. Cornerback Bradley Roby didn't come into his redshirt sophomore campaign with much buzz, but he led the country in passes defended for much of the year and acknowledged in November that he would weigh his options. Running back Carlos Hyde or left tackle Jack Mewhort could also have put themselves in position for consideration after a breakout season with Meyer.

None of those Buckeyes have given any indication yet that they've made up their minds one way or the other, and Meyer hasn't been doing any public campaigning to encourage them to return for a run at a national championship. Ohio State could certainly use them next season, though -- particularly Hankins and Roby, with the defense already needing to replace six starters in the offseason. But no matter what they decide, the time crunch is a factor for both parties with the deadline looming for underclassmen and national signing day not long after that.

"One year we had 12 juniors [at Florida] that were making the decision to come out or not, and think about that, you're already in December, how are you going to fill 12 voids in recruiting?" Meyer said. "That's what happens sometimes. We had, I think, five or six leave one year. ... [But] it's a couple people making that decision, and how committed are they to making [the evaluation]?

"They ask me to watch a kid on USC, am I really going to sit and watch that? You know, I've got other things I'm doing. So you're asking these general managers of the NFL teams to watch this film, but they've got all kinds of stuff going on. 'Yeah, give him a 2.' And that's changing a kid's life."

Ultimately that decision is out of Meyer's hands anyway. But that won't stop the Buckeyes from taking part in the process.