For the third day in a row following Ohio State’s Fiesta Bowl victory, a key defensive starter has made the decision to say goodbye to Columbus before his NCAA eligibility is up.
Following the path of linebacker Darron Lee and safety Tyvis Powell, redshirt sophomore cornerback Eli Apple posted a message to Twitter announcing his departure from the program Monday afternoon.
“When I was 11, I came to an Ohio State football camp, and I knew I wanted to be here,” Apple wrote. “I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience.”
The announcement came just three days after Apple received top defensive player honors for his performance in the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.
A two-year starter, Apple consistently drew assignments to the top receiver on the opposing team. Taking away the 81-yard touchdown catch that Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller had while matched up with OSU’s other starting corner, Gareon Conley, Apple helped hold the All-American to just five catches for 32 yards.
Apple finished the season with 33 tackles, an interception and eight pass breakups. The lone interception, which came in the opening game at Virginia Tech, brought the Voorhees, New Jersey, product’s two-year total to four. However, much of his decreased statistics from his redshirt freshman year to this year can be attributed to opposing quarterbacks not throwing in his direction as much.
In his message posted to Twitter, Apple thanked several of his now-former coaches, including Urban Meyer, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, former co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
He also thanked former OSU coach Jim Tressel, who he said originally decided to recruit him.
“I’d like to thank my teammates for an unforgettable ride,” Apple said. “What we accomplished will live forever. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to work with, practice with and win with.”
With Apple’s departure, only three underclassmen who are rumored to be considering leaving remain: safety Vonn Bell and receivers Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall.
Should those three choose to leave, OSU would only have six returning offensive and defensive starters in 2016: quarterback J.T. Barrett, left guard Billy Price, right guard Pat Elflein — who is moving to center — linebacker Raekwon McMillan, defensive end Tyquan Lewis and Conley.