Gibson's departure puts focus on Heyward

Thaddeus Gibson's departure from Ohio State had been rumored for several weeks, so the fact that the junior defensive end is declaring for the NFL draft shouldn't come as a major surprise.

Gibson is expected to announce his decision later this afternoon on WSYX-TV in Columbus. The Buckeyes lose their sacks leader from this year and one of the Big Ten's best pass-rushers. They'll look to Nathan Williams and others to step up at end next fall.

The big question now is, will Gibson be Ohio State's only defensive lineman to turn pro?

Cameron Heyward also is considering the NFL draft and could go higher than Gibson if he decides to come out. Heyward might be Ohio State's most NFL-ready player, a dominant lineman who can play either tackle or end.

Last week in California, Heyward sounded like he was coming back to Columbus.

"I look forward to coming back," he said. "Right now, I'm enjoying time with my [teammates]. I'm leaning toward staying because these guys are my brothers."

Buckeyes senior left tackle Jim Cordle said that while several of Heyward's teammates told him to turn pro, "you could tell he was never going to leave."

Never say never. Some of the folks I've talked to today said Heyward might now be leaning toward turning pro. The possibility of a rookie salary cap in the NFL likely will result in more college juniors declaring for the draft.

Heyward's decision will be crucial for Ohio State, which has legitimate national championship hopes in 2010. If he stays, I think he'll be an All-American and possibly Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. If he goes, Ohio State should be fine up front, but the Buckeyes will need a new dominant force to emerge.

Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa also is considering the draft, but I'll be surprised if he doesn't return for his senior year.