In addition to losing one of the largest and most accomplished senior classes in team history, Ohio State will bid farewell to three juniors and welcome back another for the 2009 season.
Junior cornerback Donald Washington announced Thursday that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. Washington becomes the third Buckeyes underclassman to declare for the draft, joining wide receiver Brian Hartline, who announced his decision Wednesday, and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells.
Buckeyes safety Kurt Coleman announced Wednesday that he would return for his senior season.
Both Washington and Hartline saw their production decline this fall.
After being suspended the first two games for an undisclosed violation, Washington returned to action but lost his starting job to sophomore Chimdi Chewka. Washington started only one game and finished the season with 22 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
"It has been a difficult and emotional decision," Washington said in a statement. "I will especially, and most importantly, miss all of my teammates and brothers. I wish them nothing but the best and continued success."
Hartline caught 52 passes for 694 yards in 2007 but had only 21 receptions for 479 yards this season. Both he and Washington are scheduled to graduate in June.
Hartline told reporters in Columbus that his decision was not based on money but that he hopes to be selected between the second and fourth rounds of April's draft.
Coleman made the most improvement this season, leading the team with four interceptions and finishing third with 78 tackles. He will rejoin Anderson Russell in the fall to form the Big Ten's top safety tandem.
Coleman likely would have been a mid-round selection had he opted to turn pro.
"My decision to come back is a lot about helping this team," Coleman said in a statement. "I feel we can do anything next year. We have a lot of great leaders coming back and an excellent group of underclass talent. For me personally, my family and I felt this was the best decision for me, to make my career at Ohio State even better than it has already been."
Adam Rittenberg covers the Big Ten for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.