Johnathan Hankins is sure he'll watch his old team play for the national championship this season.
By ZAC JACKSONFS Ohio
How's this for something to talk about during this final countdown to football season?
Johnathan Hankins guarantees that Ohio State is going to finish the 2013 season playing for the BCS national title.
Hankins gave up his senior season at Ohio State to enter last spring's NFL Draft, and he made the guarantee during a conversation late last month when he was back in Ohio for the NFL's Rookie Symposium.
"I guarantee we see Ohio State in the national championship game this year," Hankins, a second-round pick of the
New York Giants, said. "We were supposed to be there last year but that's over. This time around, they'll get it done. I see a star in Braxton Miller and a bunch of really good guys on defense, starting with the secondary. They'll be well prepared and ready."
Hankins said Ohio State went undefeated in its bowl-banned 2012 season, the program's first under head coach Urban Meyer, by "taking it one game at a time and just coming together. We didn't care what anybody said or what we couldn't play for or any of that. It was going out every Saturday and winning until we were 12-0. Not too many teams at Ohio State have ever gone undefeated so that's something to be extremely proud of. I'm happy with what we accomplished."
With Hankins, John Simon, Nathan Williams and Garrett Goebel gone from Ohio State's defensive line, one of the Buckeyes' biggest question marks is how they'll replace the departed leadership and experience. There's little doubt about the talent of sophomores Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence possess, but both are taking a step up in reps and in their importance to the team.
"I can't wait to see how those guys do," Hankins said. "I'm excited. They're going to be good. I know those guys are developing. Good things are ahead for Ohio State. Those players will be ready."
Hankins decided after last season that three years -- 38 games, 25 starts over his final two years -- was enough at Ohio State and that he was ready for the NFL. He went to the Giants with the 49th overall pick, lower than most projections and experts believed he'd go.
But Hankins said he's not thinking the draft -- or about anything besides working on his game and staying in shape for his first NFL season. He lost more than 30 pounds during his stay in Columbus and is listed by the Giants at 6'3, 320.
"Leaving school wasn't easy but it was the right decision," he said. "I talked to my coaches and my family about the opportunity to make the next step. Eventually I thought I was ready so I declared for the draft. Where it goes from here comes down to me and hard work.
"I'm with the Giants. I'm one of the most excited guys there is. The draft was what it was and now it's over. I'm looking nowhere but ahead. I made good strides early, rotating with the first and second groups, and I can't wait to get to camp and compete for snaps. I don't want to just be in the NFL. I want to play."
With the Giants, he's sharing a defensive line room with veterans Shaun Rogers, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson as well as established defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. Hankins said he feels he made a strong first impression in May and June and looks forward to reporting for his first NFL training camp in two weeks.
"I've been working, learning, just trying to soak it all in," he said. "You learn really quick that it's a business, and I've been getting lots of good advice from the older guys on the D-line.
"The game is faster, but it comes down to competing and just doing what you're asked to do."