Denzel Ward skips Cotton Bowl, senior season to enter NFL draft

— -- ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ohio State All-America cornerback Denzel Ward?announced minutes before kickoff that he would sit out Friday night's Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic against USC and forgo his final season with the Buckeyes to enter the NFL draft.

Ward made the announcement in a statement on Twitter.

Without him, the No. 5 Buckeyes defeated the Trojans? 24-7.

A junior, Ward was rated No. 12 on Mel Kiper's latest Big Board and was projected to be the No. 12 pick in Todd McShay's Mock Draft 1.0.

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said the debate over Ward's availability to play Friday began soon after the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 2.

"I was out on the road recruiting, and I come back and a lot of people are pulling," Meyer said. "A lot of people pulling and telling stories, and everybody has opinions and all that."

Meyer described the issue of draft prospects skipping bowl games, a trend seemingly started last year by Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, as "interesting."

Ward and his mother were interested in the opinions of the Ohio State coaches. They discussed many scenarios in which Ward might play in the Cotton Bowl.

"It went everywhere from a play to maybe third downs to maybe special teams," Meyer said. "He was practicing, and the decision wasn't made until probably yesterday.

"So, that's it."

Ward led Ohio State with 17 passes defended, including two interceptions in his first year as a starter.

He did not participate in warm-ups ahead of Friday's game.