The career of one of the best linebackers to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes is ending one year prematurely as Ryan Shazier is declaring for the 2014 NFL draft, according to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.
Shazier led the Buckeyes in tackles each of the past two seasons and projects as a first round draft selection after he had 134 tackles entering Friday night’s Orange Bowl defeat against the Clemson Tigers.
His 22.5 tackles for loss after the Big Ten Championship Game were 5.5 more than the second place finisher and he had 55 more tackles than the Buckeyes’ second leading tackler entering their bowl game.
The 6-3, 230-pound Shazier is the third ranked outside linebacker (No. 1 for 4-3 outside linebackers) and the No. 16 overall player on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board. He profiles well in today’s NFL because of his cover skills and should be a true three-down linebacker who can cover backs and tight ends.
While the news may come as a bit of a surprise considering Shazier said he was leaning toward returning for his senior season during bowl preparations, Ohio State did get good news on the offensive side of the ball with two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Braxton Miller returning for his senior season as well as tight end Jeff Heuerman.
Ohio State has recruited linebackers well in the first two years under Urban Meyer, including getting the nation’s No. 1 middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan this year, but it will be imperative to replace Shazier’s leadership in the locker room.