Cotton Bowl Notebook: Denzel Ward Sits Out, Demario McCall Says He Will Return With Sophomore Eligibility

By James Grega on December 30, 2017 at 6:00 am
Denzel Ward

ARLINGTON, Texas – The second half of Ohio State's win over USC in the 2017 Cotton Bowl was rather uneventful, outside of a brief skirmish that saw a Trojan player get ejected in the fourth quarter. 

The Buckeye defense surrendered just seven points to a USC team that had been prolific for most of the season and recorded eight sacks, the most by the Silver Bullets in 10 years. 

Before we put a bow on the 2017 Ohio State football season, we take a look at some of the storylines you might have overlooked during the Buckeyes' Cotton Bowl victory. 

Denzel Ward Sits Out Bowl, Declares For Draft

Before the ball was even snapped, the Cotton Bowl received a bit of drama as cornerback Denzel Ward released a statement as Ohio State was about to take the field that he would not play against USC and enter the 2018 NFL Draft. 

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Ward's family asked for his opinion on the matter, before the Macedonia, Ohio native made up his mind to sit out the Cotton Bowl. 

"You're talking about not a good young man but a great young man. And his mom is not a good mom, a fantastic mom. They were asking our opinion," Meyer said. "And it went everywhere from a play to maybe third downs to maybe special teams to he was practicing.

And the decision wasn't made until, I don't know, probably yesterday. It went all the way to "I'm going to play the whole time" to "What do you think? So that's it."

In his place, Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield and Jeffrey Okudah earned extended playing time. The trio accounted for 12 tackles, while Sheffield tallied four pass breakups by himself. 

Safety Damon Webb, who was named the defensive player of the game for his performance against USC, said the cornerback play in Ward's stead lived up to his expectations. 

"My mindset was just the next man up. I know we've got a lot of young guys that was ready to play. When we found out Denzel couldn't play, we were just the next man up," Webb said. "We lose first rounders every year, and that's just the mindset we got here. So Jeff Okudah, Damon [Arnette] and Ken [Sheffield] did a tremendous job today. So I really appreciate them."

Demario McCall Will Return As a Sophomore

After a season in which he dealt with injuries, Ohio State H-back Demario McCall said he will return to Columbus as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. 

After accounting for four touchdowns on 53 offensive touches as a freshman in 2016, McCall was limited to 16 offensive touches in just four games played in 2017. 

Speaking in the postgame locker room following the Cotton Bowl, McCall said he spent much of the season getting healthy and learning his new role at H-back, after spending much of his freshman season as a true running back. 

"I still had to work on my craft. I had to work on myself becoming a receiver and not a tailback, because I have the mindset of a tailback. That is one thing that I had to change," McCall said. "Now that I know I am a receiver, I had to put more work in with the jugs (machine) and route running.

"Going into 2018, just be healthy and stay healthy," McCall continued, discussing his goals for the future.

View 126 Comments