Johnathan Hankins didn't have much of a decision to make, and he made his NFL plans official on Monday.
The big, mobile defensive tackle is an Ohio State Buckeye no longer. He's headed to the NFL Draft.
The Dearborn, Mich. native had just four sacks over the last two seasons but was a very disruptive force in the trenches. He was a 2012 preseason All-American and a postseason All-Big Ten pick.
Hankins was listed by Ohio State at 6-foot-3, 322 pounds last season. He said before the season that he'd lost around 25 pounds last spring and summer as a result of a better diet and Ohio State's new conditioning program.
"I have decided, with the support of my family, to forego my senior season at Ohio State in order to enter the NFL Draft, Hankins said in a statement released by Ohio State. "I will always be grateful for the family I have gained here at Ohio State.
"I want to thank Coach (Urban) Meyer, Coach (Mike) Vrabel and strength coach (Mick) Marotti for bringing the best out of me as a football player and person, and for their constant support. I also want to thank Coach (Jim) Tressel and Coach (Jim) Heacock for recruiting me and giving me an opportunity to be a part of this great school and great program."
Said Meyer: "I have enjoyed coaching and getting to know Johnathan Hankins over the past year. His hard work on and off the field has given him an opportunity to move on to the next level. The coaching staff and I wish him all the best."
This is nothing new to Meyer, who saw five players leave Florida early following the 2010 season, his last with the Gators. Joe Haden, Aaron Hernandez, Carlos Dunlap and Maurkice Pouncey were among that group. In previous years he'd seen defensive linemen Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss leave Florida early and land in the top 20 of the NFL Draft.
Hankins is a virtual lock to be a first-round pick. Whether he lands in the top 15 or top 25 of April's NFL Draft will be determined by team needs, his ability to maintain his 2012 playing weight during the pre-draft process and how many other underclassmen defensive linemen enter the draft ahead of the January early-entry deadline.
Hankins' departure isn't a surprise to Meyer or anyone else inside the Woody Hayes Center, and Meyer getting Noah Spence and Tommy Schutt to flip their commitments from Penn State to Ohio State last winter now becomes even more important as both played this season as true freshmen. Ohio State will lose John Simon, Garrett Goebel, Nathan Williams and Hankins from what became a very good defensive front.
Hankins, who's 20 years old, started all 25 games over the past two seasons and appeared in 38 over his three seasons at Ohio State, making a total of 16.5 tackles for loss. Ohio State defensive backs Bradley Roby, a third-year sophomore, and Christian Bryant might also be facing NFL draft decisions over the next few weeks.