Austin Ward | ESPN.com
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The career of Ohio State’s top defensive player is finished, but it looks as if the team will have one more year with its record-setting quarterback.
The Buckeyes will lose junior linebacker Ryan Shazier to the NFL one year early after the playmaker led the team in tackles for each of the last two seasons, the school confirmed Saturday.
But two-time defending Big Ten offensive player of the year Braxton Miller will be back with the program for his senior season, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Joe Schad. Miller will get a chance to become the only player ever to win that award three times and potentially boost his stock as a professional passer.
Both juniors had put off making a decision until after the Discover Orange Bowl, which the Buckeyes lost 40-35 on Friday night, with an interception by Miller ending any hopes of a late comeback.
Miller struggled with his accuracy late in the season, but he had left the door open for skipping his final year of eligibility and pronounced himself ready for the next level during interviews leading up to the matchup against Clemson.
“Oh yeah, of course, definitely,” Miller said last month. “Just like I came from high school, coaches are going to get you prepared, get you mentally ready for everything that you need to get ready for. That’s the next step in life.”
Miller won’t be making that jump just yet, but Shazier is set to move on and capitalize on his high draft stock after a pair of wildly productive seasons at outside linebacker for the Buckeyes.
“Playing in the NFL is something that I have been dreaming about since my days in pee-wee football,” Shazier said in a statement released by Ohio State. “I just feel that now is the perfect time for me.”
Shazier had a Big Ten-best 134 tackles heading into the Orange Bowl, and his 22.5 tackles for loss were 5.5 more than anybody else in the conference.
He had indicated during bowl practices that he was leaning toward returning to school for another year, but there might not be much else for him to prove with the Buckeyes.
“I’m just going to talk it over with my family and the coaches and just try to get the best analysis that I can,” Shazier said last month. “When I do make a decision, it will be the best decision for me.”
Shazier is the third outside linebacker and 16th overall player on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board, but he is not among Scout Inc.’s top 32 players.
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