Denzel Burke passed on the 2024 NFL Draft for another season at Ohio State. He turned down a lofty draft grade to do so, and his mentality for the season ahead is exactly what has been missing from the Buckeyes.

Ohio State officially hit the practice field this week to begin spring practices with a number of new faces in the program. That includes offensive coordinator Chip Kelly and a group of key transfers headlined by former Alabama star Caleb Downs.

Burke recently met with the media and revealed he turned down a first or second-round grade in the draft to return to Columbus. He cited a list of unfinished business, particularly pointing out a lack of gold pants in his possession.

“I had a first or second-round grade. But at the end of the day, I had no gold pants, no Big Ten title, no natty,” said Burke. “Just being able to come back with my brothers, doing it for the state of Ohio and trying to finish the job this year. That’s the plan.”

Per Burke, it wasn’t an easy decision but he relied on his faith and said NIL helped him put off heading to the league.

“It was definitely difficult (to turn down the NFL Draft), but I just prayed on it. Relied on my faith, and I felt like this was the best decision forever to continue developing into an elite corner,” Burke explained. “There is no rush for me to go to the league, we have NIL now.”

As a result, Burke and the Buckeyes have a “natty or bust, no excuses” mentality entering the 2024 season. With a reloaded roster and key pieces returning, Ohio State is in the mix for the 12-team Playoff, and fans can track all the odds and line movement via Tradition’s sports betting in Ohio links.

Revisiting the turning point in ‘The Game’

Think back to the summer of 2021. Fresh off the COVID season and a cancellation of the 2020 version of The Game, Ohio State was coming off 4 straight B1G titles and an appearance in the national championship game.

At Big Ten Media Days, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh strode to the podium with Michigan’s expectations for the season. They included beating Ohio State and winning the conference “or die trying.” (Keep in mind, the Wolverines went 2-4 during the shortened 2020 campaign.)

Harbaugh’s bold proclamation was met with expected scorn as that of a short-sighted blowhard. It also felt foolish for a coach who was 0-5 in the iconic rivalry as Michigan’s head coach.

Three years later, it is Harbaugh who has the last laugh.

Coming out of the struggles of the 2020 season (and other issues for the program), Michigan embarked on a 3-year run through the B1G with wins over Ohio State each season. It ended with the controversial 2023 season but a national title for the Wolverines.

So, what does all that have to do with Burke? It’s simple, really.

Whether the program wants to admit it or not, Ohio State clearly got comfortable during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Success in the B1G (and some strong showings in the Playoff) led to a bit of complacency entering 2021, and the program has been trying to correct ever since.

Now, at what feels like absolute rock bottom in Columbus, an attitude that has not been felt since Urban Meyer’s tenure is starting to truly shine through. It’s no longer that Ohio State feels like it should win, or that the Buckeyes are among the best teams in the country, it’s that Ryan Day’s program better win.

Maybe when the 2024 season wraps up, fans will reflect on the past 3 seasons as necessary struggles. The necessary pressure to turn a suddenly stagnant program back into a diamond of the college football world.

Whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen but make no mistake about. Burke’s attitude shows the mental groundwork has been laid for that type of season by the Buckeyes.