Three Buckeyes exploring early exit to NFL

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The defending College Football Playoff champion Ohio State Buckeyes boast one of the most talented rosters in the country, but according to Bleacher Report NFL Insider Jason Cole, this could be the last season in Columbus for a trio of talented underclassmen.

Cole says that quarterback Cardale Jones, running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa have already begun to explore their prospects for jumping to the next level after this season.

But several factors will play into the trio’s final decisions.

While Cole says Bosa’s decision is “almost complete,” one has to wonder if his younger brother Nick’s commitment to the Buckeyes for 2016 will have any impact on his choice to stay or go. Would the consensus All-American possibly want to stick around for his senior season in order to play with his brother?

It’s a rare opportunity, indeed, for brothers to get the chance to share a college football field (just ask Cooper and Peyton Manning; they would have LOVED to have had that chance), much less two highly-touted NFL prospects like the Bosas. And there’s something to be said for just enjoying one more year of the college experience before football becomes a job.

With those factors in mind, no one could blame Joey if he decides to hang around Columbus for one more year.

For Jones and Elliott, the decision is a bit more difficult. Jones, while physically gifted, hasn’t even earned the starting QB job on his college team yet, so talk of jumping to the NFL already seems a bit premature. Pump the brakes a bit, Cardale. J.T. Barrett has NFL aspirations, too, and he’s not going to give up the starting spot for the Buckeyes – a job Jones couldn’t win from him last year – without a fight.

IF Jones does come out on top in this year’s QB battle in Columbus, and IF he performs for an entire season the way he did over the last three games of last year, then he’ll almost certainly be a first-round draft pick. But those are some pretty big “IFs.” Maybe worry about earning the starting spot first, then think about the NFL. Just a thought.

As for Elliott, his situation is much the same as Jones’ in that he needs to perform for an entire season the way he did during the playoff run. He comes into this season as a Heisman candidate, so there’s already plenty of pressure. But again, if he performs up to expectations, he’ll almost certainly be hearing Roger Goodell announce his name early in next year’s draft.

While all three of these Buckeyes certainly have the talent for the next level, one has to wonder if the cart isn’t getting a bit ahead of the horse in Columbus. There’s a whole season of college football yet to be played in 2015, a season in which dreams can be born or derailed, whether by injury, poor performance, suspension or any one of a hundred other factors that seem to crop up when they’re least expected.

Remember just a few years ago in 2012 when Southern Cal came into the season ranked no. 1 and loaded with talent? They went on to finish 7-6, losing to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. It can happen.

Not saying it will happen to the Buckeyes (Urban Meyer is no Lane Kiffin), but a football bounces in strange ways.

Let’s see how it bounces this year.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports