The New Year’s Six Bowl games get underway Friday night with the Cotton Bowl pitting No. 5 Ohio State against No. 8 USC but there will be one notable name not in the lineup at AT&T Stadium.
That would be the Buckeyes’ star cornerback and All-American Denzel Ward, who didn’t show up on the field during warmups for the game. The junior was not expected to sit out the game based on comments by coaches earlier in the week but it seems like he’s the latest in a growing line of potential first-round picks to sit out a bowl game.
What makes this move a bit unique is the fact that Ward is sitting out a pretty major bowl game to protect against injury. It wasn’t long ago in a game involving OSU that Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was seriously injured on a play and caused him to drop quite a bit in the draft. That scenario has played a role in a rash of players sitting out bowl games ever since, from Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey last year to others such as N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb skipping the Sun Bowl.
With Ward out of the lineup, Kendall Sheffield likely slides in as the starter opposite Damon Arnette while true freshman Jeffrey Okudah rotates in with added playing time.