COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The process of gathering information has essentially just started, and Ryan Shazier isn't going to rush to a decision about his NFL future.
But if the junior had to make a decision right now, Ohio State might be retaining the services of the All-American linebacker for one more season.
His decision-making process begins with discussions with his family and the coaching staff and includes a look at how much school he has left before graduating and, of course, projections of where he might land in the draft in April.
Shazier made it clear he has plenty to think about before deciding to either skip his final year of eligibility or come back to the No. 7 Buckeyes. And while the positives and negatives on both sides made that decision difficult, Shazier did offer a narrow nod to sticking around as of Friday afternoon.
"Right now, I’m dead flat in the middle," Shazier said. "I don’t know what I’m going to do. If I would say anything, I’m probably leaning toward staying, but I don’t know what I’m doing right now. I’m just really focusing on this game [the Discover Orange Bowl vs. Clemson] right now.
"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, so when I do make a decision, it will be the best decision for me."
His choice will have a significant impact on the Buckeyes either way. Replacing Shazier will be no small task if he elects to turn pro after another wildly productive season at outside linebacker.
The dynamic athleticism and uncanny instincts that make Shazier an appealing option for NFL scouts makes him just as valuable to an Ohio State program that will again have national championship aspirations next season after coming up a game short in 2013.
Considering the lack of depth the Buckeyes showed at linebacker late in the season as injuries took a toll, continuing to rebuild with one of the nation's best defenders would clearly be beneficial in 2014. After replacing every other member of the front seven -- aside from Shazier -- a year ago, the Buckeyes would have starters back at every position around him next fall if he elects to return, including fellow linebackers Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry and a defensive line that developed into a strength this season.
On the other hand, Shazier could be a first-round pick in the draft and might not have all that much room to boost his stock while risking injury in another season with the Buckeyes.
And while he's weighing those pros and cons, one thing Shazier apparently won't be factoring in is the disappointment he's feeling after the Buckeyes' loss in the Big Ten title game last weekend.
"To be honest, this season is not really playing much of a role for coming back," Shazier said. "That last game is not going to be decision-maker for what I’m going to do.
"I’m just going to look at all the evaluations and whatever we feel is the best decision, how much school I have left, what is the best circumstance -- I’m going to look at everything before I make a decision. ... To be honest, I really don’t even know right now."