Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, the school's leading tackler this season, is leaving college for the NFL, according to a source. Shazier, a 6-foot-2 230-pound junior, is considered one of the top five outside linebackers in this year's NFL Draft.
Ohio State will be keeping two of its top players on the offensive side of the ball, however. Quarterback Braxton Miller and tight end Jeff Heuerman will both be returning for their senior seasons, a source said.
Miller showed significant strides as a passer as a junior, throwing for 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions despite essentially not playing three full games. (He missed two complete games and left the San Diego State game with an injury after throwing just two passes). He threw for 15 touchdowns and ran for 13 as a sophomore and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting.
Miller's return is expected. He told SI.com after the Big Ten title game that he'd be back for his senior year. Miller is not considered by draft experts one of the Top 10 quarterbacks available. His return places him as a Heisman Trophy favorite, along with Florida State's Jameis Winston and Auburn's Nick Marshall, for next season.
Heuerman averaged nearly 18 yards per catch this season, as he hauled in 26 passes and four touchdowns. He caught a 57-yard touchdown pass in the Ohio State's 40-35 Orange Bowl loss to Clemson on Friday night. Heuerman, who is 6-foot-6 and 250-pounds, will be one of Miller's primary targets again next season.
The loss of Shazier is a significant, but expected, blow to a Buckeyes defense that gave up 74 points in its final two games. Linebacker was Ohio State's weakest defensive position in 2013. Shazier led the Buckeyes with 134 tackles, 55 more than the second-highest Buckeyes. (Those numbers do not include the Orange Bowl). Shazier was also considered a key locker-room presence for the energy he brought to practice every day.