13 Ohio State juniors fill out paperwork to gauge draft interest

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel encouraged 13 of his juniors to ask the NFL where they might be selected in the next draft.

Tressel declined to identify the players Thursday during Ohio State's bowl media day news conference.

"I'm sure you could guess," he said.

Linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, quarterback Todd Boeckman, defensive lineman Vernon Gholston, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline confirmed they had sent information to the NFL.

The top-ranked Buckeyes (11-1) play No. 2 LSU (11-2) in the Allstate BCS Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 7.

NFL rules specify players cannot be drafted until they have been out of high school three years.

College players can complete forms that are submitted to an NFL advisory committee, which estimates where -- or in some cases if -- a
player might be taken in the draft. The player can then elect to remain in college or make himself available for the draft.

"Just talking with Coach Tressel and a lot of the other coaches, they just said that by you doing this it's not going to take away from anything," said Robiskie, whose father played and coached in the NFL and is now an assistant with the Cleveland Browns. "You're not making any major decisions. All you're getting is some feedback."

The large number of underclassmen contemplating the NFL comes a year after Ohio State lost three top offensive players who gave up their final year of eligibility. Wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez were taken in the first round of the draft and running back Antonio Pittman went in the fourth round.

Several Buckeyes have said that all the talk about the NFL, agents, draft prospects and money were major distractions to the team heading into last year's BCS title game. Florida beat Ohio State 41-14 in that game.

"Last year there were a lot of distractions with some of the guys who were already seniors leaving, with agents and different things," Laurinaitis said. "LSU's a big enough task for us."

Jenkins said several players met to discuss avoiding draft talk.

"We took it upon ourselves to say, 'Look, we're not going to think about this, we're not going to talk about it until the time comes.' And that's after the game," Jenkins said. "We're just going to focus on this game right now."

Laurinaitis, a two-time All-American and an almost first-round pick, has said several times during the season he will return for his senior season. He said his decision to file the paperwork does not mean he's changed his mind.

"I'm just finding out what the NFL's going to say about where I stand," he said. "I'm definitely confident coming back with this team. I love Ohio State, I love it here and I'm having a good time."

Twenty-five Ohio State players have left school early for the NFL draft since 1992, including Terry Glenn, Shawn Springs, Orlando Pace, Nate Clements and Chris Gamble.

"All of us, our goal is ultimately to play in the NFL," Gholston said.

"I hope [the evaluation] is as high as it can be. You never want to hear negative stuff. But if it is some negative stuff, it'd just be a situation where I'd just need to practice and work even harder," he said.

Ohio State will work out at its indoor practice facility until the Dec. 19, then be off until Dec. 26. The Buckeyes will practice daily until flying to New Orleans on Jan. 2.