The number of vacancies on the Ohio State depth chart keeps growing, as the count of starters not returning has climbed to 16 on Tuesday with Vonn Bell’s declaration for the NFL draft.
“I have decided to make myself eligible and enter the 2016 NFL Draft,” the junior safety said in a press release through the university. “It has been an honor and a privilege to play at the best university in the country, to play for the best coach in the country, and to help bring the 2014 national championship to The Ohio State University and the best fans in the country.”
A two-year starter for the Scarlet and Gray, Bell finishes his career in Columbus with 176 total tackles, nine interceptions and two fumble recoveries. In the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame on New Year’s Day, the Rossville, Georgia, native recorded a pair of tackles.
Bell found his way to the end zone twice in 2015, the first on a 14-yard fumble recovery against Hawaii and the second on a 15-yard interception return versus Minnesota.
In what turned out to be his final collegiate season, the 5-foot-11 Bell received first-team All-American honors by the Associated Press.
Bell’s announcement comes just hours after redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas announced his plans to turn pro, as well. The duo joins seven other OSU underclassmen who have declared for April’s draft.
In addition to the nine underclassmen leaving Columbus, seven starters that were seniors will no longer be with the program in 2016. Bell’s declaration is likely to be the last one for coach Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, as all the players rumored to be mulling to turn pro have done so thus far.
Bell’s draft projection varies amongst analysts but many have him graded as a second- or third-round pick.
“My time here has been very special to me and my family,” Bell said in the release. “And I thank all Buckeye fans for their love and support.”