Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward decided Friday night not to play in the Cotton Bowl vs. USC.
According to the school, Ward made the decision before the game because he’s leaving early for the NFL draft. Ward would have been a senior in 2018.
“Ohio State junior cornerback Denzel Ward will not play in tonight’s game against USC and he will not return for his senior season with the Buckeyes in 2018,” the statement said. “Ward wrestled with the decision to play (or not) throughout the bowl prep practices, leaving open his decision until game day. So he practiced, but he also helped the younger players in the program who were getting additional reps at cornerback this past month. The coaching staff was aware that Denzel’s decision to play or not play would not be made final until game day. He elected today to sit out.”
Ward is anticipated to be an early selection in the draft. He has 39 total tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in 2017. He had 23 tackles in 2016.
With his decision not to play in the game, Ward became the second high-profile defensive player to skip a bowl game Friday. NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb didn’t play in the Wolfpack’s win over Arizona State in the Sun Bowl earlier in the day. Chubb, a senior, is widely considered to be an early first round pick.
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