Johnathan Hankins to enter NFL Draft

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For three years, Johnathan Hankins used his big body to make a big impact on the Big Ten. Now, the Ohio State defensive tackle is hoping to make some big bucks.

Hankins announced on Monday that he would be forgoing his senior season in Columbus in order to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3, 322-pound lineman has been deemed by most draft analysts to be a consensus first round pick after a junior season that saw him post 55 tackles- four of which came for a loss- and one sack.

In a statement released by the school, Hankins thanked OSU head coach Urban Meyer, defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, and strength coach Mickey Marotti, in addition to former head coach Jim Tressel and defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.

"I want to thank coach Meyer, coach Vrabel and strength coach 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 Tressel and coach Heacock for recruiting me and giving me an opportunity to be a part of this great school and great program," Hankins said. "I will always be grateful for the family I have gained here at Ohio State."

Meyer, who promised to meet with eligible underclassmen who were on the fence about leaving school early, said that he supported Hankins' decision to enter this April's draft.

"I have enjoyed coaching and getting to know Johnathan Hankins over the past year," Meyer said. "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."

A 2012 first-team All-Big Ten selection, Hankins is currently ranked as the No. 17 overall prospect on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s draft board, and comes in at No. 8 on Scouts, Inc.'s list of the top 32 eligible pro prospects. lists the Detroit native as its No. 9 overall prospect and No. 2 overall defensive tackle.

A disruptive force who recorded four sacks as a sophomore in 2011, Hankins is the type of player who is capable of fitting into any defensive scheme or system. Even with his sizable frame, the Southeastern high school product possesses the ability to play any position on the defensive line and even started at defensive end in the Buckeyes' win over Central Florida on Sept. 8.

Despite leaving school early, Hankins said that his hope is to return to Ohio State in the future, in order to finish his degree in criminology.

"My three years at The Ohio State University have provided amazing experiences for me, and they are years I will never forget or take for granted," Hankins said. "My plans are to return to finish my degree and to continue to be a part of this brotherhood of Buckeyes. I am so appreciative for the support I have received from my teammates, the coaching staff and administrators at Ohio State, and of course, my family."

With the loss of Hankins and the graduation of John Simon, Garrett Goebel, and Nathan Williams, the Buckeyes have now lost all four of their starting defensive linemen from their undefeated 2012 squad. In addition to the departures of seniors Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino, and Travis Howard, OSU will be replacing at least seven defensive starters in 2013, and will now wait to see if third-year cornerback Bradley Roby will be joining Hankins in the NFL Draft.