COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Thursday that he has encouraged 13 of his underclassmen to fill out the paperwork to gauge where they might go in the NFL Draft next spring.
The disclosure came during Ohio State’s bowl media day. The top-ranked Buckeyes (11-1) play No. 2 LSU (11-2) in the Bowl Championship Series national title game at the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 7.
Tressel twice declined to identify the players. Linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, quarterback Todd Boeckman, defensive lineman Vernon Gholston, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline later confirmed they had sent information to the NFL.
“I’m sure you could guess,” Tressel said of the names on the list.
Other possibilities include tight end Rory Nichol, offensive linemen Ben Person and Steve Rehring and placekicker Ryan Pretorius. Two other players, defensive lineman Nader Abdallah and safety Anderson Russell, said they had not sent in the paperwork.
NFL rules specify that 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 could 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 Miami Dolphins. “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 the talk about the NFL, agents, draft prospects and money were major distractions 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 all the 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 first-team All-American and a certain first-round pick whenever he comes out, has said several times during the season that he would return for his senior season. He said his decision to file the paperwork does not mean he has 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. The list includes some of the most productive players in the NFL: 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.
Asked what he hoped to hear back from scouts, he said: “I hope it (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.”
Ohio State will work out at its indoor practice facility until the 19th, then be off until Dec. 26. The Buckeyes will practice daily until flying to New Orleans on Jan. 2.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel quashed an e-mail rumor Thursday that he purchased a $6,000 exercise machine for an injured former player.
Tyson Gentry, a walk-on receiver and punter, landed awkwardly while trying to catch a pass during a practice in spring 2006. He sustained a broken vertebra in his neck and a damaged spinal cord and has been unable to walk ever since.
An e-mail rumor circulating this week says Tressel saw Gentry waiting to use a workout machine at Ohio State’s weight room. Gentry told the coach it was one of the few machines that he could use and that he felt he was gaining strength. But the machine was popular with players and Gentry often had to wait.
The story continues that Gentry found the $6,000 machine in his garage a few days later, courtesy of the Buckeyes coach.
A great story, but Tressel said at Ohio State’s bowl media day Thursday that it wasn’t true.
“There’s a little e-mail floating around that I purchased a weight machine for Tyson Gentry,” Tressel said. “No, that’s not the case.”
Tressel said he did talk to Gentry about the machine, and asked Ohio State’s conditioning coach if he knew the company that made the machine and if it were possible to get one.