COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The 2020 college football season was unlike any other. Teams dealt with the coronavirus pandemic the best they could, but games were still canceled or postponed and players missed time to quarantine throughout the season.
Ohio State (7-1) had its shortest season since 1966 and the Buckeyes’ season ended in a 52-24 loss to Alabama in the National Championship.
The Buckeyes missed three regular season games due to the coronavirus, including The Game against Michigan — the first time the rivalry has been canceled since 1917. That game was also canceled because of a pandemic.
Despite losing the title game, the Buckeyes won their fourth-straight Big Ten Championship and avenged 2019’s semifinal loss to Clemson by thumping the Tigers 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl.
Justin Fields cemented his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks to play at Ohio State by throwing for a Sugar Bowl record six touchdowns while playing through excruciating pain.
Fields is projected to be a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft, which would make him the highest drafted Ohio State quarterback since Art Schlichter who was taken 4th overall by the Baltimore Colts in 1982.
Fields is just one of many Buckeyes who will not be part of Ohio State’s team next season, and below is a list of players who will likely not return.
***It’s important to note this season did not count as a year of eligibility for any player, so all players can return to college if they choose to do so. Players must declare for the NFL by Monday, Jan. 18.
NFL Bound Buckeyes (if they declare)
QB Justin Fields
- Fields is a projected top-5 pick. OSU career stats: 5,373 pass yards, 78 total TDs. Fields was the most accurate passer (75%) in 2020, per PFF. He showed moments of poor-decision making with 5 interceptions in 2020 and is prone to hold onto the ball a little too long. But his upside equals that of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson as an accurate thrower with an ability to extend plays, improvise and keep defenses off balance with his running prowess.
G Wyatt Davis
- Davis is a projected late first round, early second round pick. He’s a two-time first-team All American who’s phenomenal in run blocking and above average as a pass blocker. Davis left the National Championship with a left leg injury, a problem that burdened him throughout the season and something that could affect his draft stock.
WR Chris Olave
- Olave is a projected late first round, early second round pick. OSU career stats: 111 receptions, 1,775 yards, 22 TDs. Olave will be an overlooked receiver in this deep 2021 class that includes Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase.
C Josh Myers
- Myers is a projected mid-2nd round pick. Myers was the runner up for the Rimington Trophy given to college football’s top center. Myers is projected by The Athletic to be the first center drafted.
DT Tommy Togiai
- Togiai is a projected late 2nd round pick, according to The Athletic. Togiai played 3 seasons at OSU but 2020 was his first year as a starter. He totaled 19 tackles and 3 sacks this season.
LB Baron Browning
- Browning should go no later than the 3rd round. He was OSU’s most athletic and versatile linebacker in 2020. He’s best used as an outside linebacker but can also play middle linebacker. He ended his OSU career with 109 tackles, 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Browning played occasionally as a true freshman and more regularly as a sophomore earning a full-time starting role in 2019. He can start immediately in the NFL.
CB Shaun Wade
- Wade’s projection is tricky. After the 2019 season, Wade was a shoe-in to be a 1st round pick. But after a less than ideal 2020 season, Wade could fall as far as the fifth or sixth round. The two-time first-team All American could decide to return to OSU to try to improve his draft stock.
RB Trey Sermon
- Sermon exploded onto the scene as Ohio State’s featured back late in the season. The Oklahoma grad transfer shattered Eddie George’s single-game rushing record going for 331 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. He was red-hot again versus Clemson with nearly 200 yards on the ground. Sermon is a receiving threat as well and was poised to have a big game against Alabama but was forced out of the game after suffering a shoulder injury on the Buckeyes’ first drive. Sermon will be a steal in the mid rounds.
DT Haskell Garrett
- Garrett ended the 2020 season as the highest-rated defensive lineman (91.4), per PFF. Garrett’s journey is almost unbelievable after he was shot in the face before the season started. Garrett is a punishing, physical tackle who played in 2019, but didn’t become a starter until this season in which he recorded 20 tackles and two sacks.
OT Thayer Munford
- Munford had 224 pass block snaps in 2020 allowing only two quarterbacks pressures and zero sacks, per PFF. Munford had the 2nd-lowest QB pressure percentage allowed by a power 5 OT, second only to his teammate Nicholas Petit-Frere. Left tackles protect a QB’s blind side and NFL teams are eager draft a tackle earlier than projected to protect their biggest asset. Munford should not go later than the 4th round and could go as high as the early 3rd round.
TE Jeremy Ruckert
- Ruckert might come back for a senior season. He had 13 catches this season and 14 catches last year and a total of 9 TDs, so he could improve his draft stock dramatically with another solid season. The 2021 tight end class is loaded at the top, which could negatively affect Ruckert who could very well be the top tight end in 2022. But if he decides to declare, he has plenty of talent to go in the 3rd round. Ruckert is an effective receiving and blocking tight end and makes catches even some receivers can’t make.
LB Pete Werner
- Werner was one of the rare OSU linebackers to take on a starting role as a true sophomore. He started every game that season and remained a starter for three seasons. Werner ended his OSU career with 185 tackles, four sacks and three forced fumbles. Werner has good size and above-average athleticism making him a Day 3 pick, likely in the 5th round.
RB Master Teague
- Teague will probably return. He’s a sophomore that’s eligible for the the draft. He’s a niche running back who has trouble seeing the field with below average speed and agility. But he is a bruising back that can be used in third-down and goal-line scenarios, so he could carve out a place for himself in the NFL. Teague could go in the 7th round, but if he’s not drafted he’ll sign as an undrafted free agent.
Probable Undrafted Buckeyes
- LB Justin Hilliard. Hilliard’s OSU career was a roller coaster. He missed time with two torn biceps and a ruptured Achilles but fought his way back and proved he belong down the stretch as one of OSU’s best defensive players against Northwestern and Clemson. Hilliard will get a chance to show what he can do as an undrafted free agent and maybe even a late 7th round pick.
- LB Tuf Borland. Borland will not be drafted, but there’s a slim chance he makes his way onto an NFL roster as a special teams player.
- TE Luke Farrell. Farrell split time with Ruckert in 2019 and 2020 and Ruckert was the better of the two. Farrell ended his career with 34 catches for 340 yards and 4 TDs.
Punter Drue Chrisman and kicker Blake Haubeil have a chance to get drafted in the 7th round or sign as undrafted free agents. Chrisman was OSU’s featured punter for three seasons averaging 44 yards per punt. He doesn’t kick the furthest, but does have excellent placement skills.
Meanwhile, Haubeil started three seasons as the Buckeyes’ kicker making 28 of 35 attempts. Haubeil has range with his longest kick being 55 yards and is above average from distance making 7-of-9 attempts from 40-49 yards. He only attempted one kick of 50+ yards, which could negatively affect his draft stock.