During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday morning following the Big Ten’s announcement that the football season will begin in October, Gene Smith said he and his wife “had a lot of conversations” with Wyatt Davis, who announced Friday that he would leave Ohio State to begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft.
Just a few minutes later, Smith had to excuse himself from the Zoom call because his phone was ringing – with a call from Davis.
Smith didn’t disclose the details of his conversation with Davis, and deferred to Ryan Day when asked whether he thought Davis and Shaun Wade – who also announced on Monday that he would begin preparing for the NFL draft – could now return to the Buckeyes since they will, in fact, have a chance to compete for a national championship this fall. Both Smith and Day made it clear on Wednesday that the door is still open for them to play another season at Ohio State despite their announcements that they were leaving.
“In communication with both of those guys and their families, they wanted to play,” Day said Wednesday. “At the time, the information that they had, we weren’t playing the season. Now that’s changed. I think this is a very, very unique time, in our country’s history and certainly in college football, so if they want to play, I believe 1000% they should be allowed the opportunity to play.”
Neither Davis nor Wade has officially signed a contract with an agent yet, so the decisions they announced on Friday and Monday – when each of them decided they were sick of waiting on the Big Ten to make up its mind – aren’t set in stone.
They aren't currently on campus – Wade is in Florida with his family, while Davis is in California with his family – but Day said he expects to be in communication with them over the course of this week to see what they want to do.
“Now this all just came out fast, it’s happening and moving quickly, so we’ll let them kind of digest and see in the conversations they’re having with their families what they want to do, and then we’ll go from there,” Day said. “But they’ve both shared with me that they want to play football and they want to be part of this team, they want to play with their teammates, and now the opportunity’s here. So in terms of the details of all that, we’ll figure that out over the next couple days.”
“At the time, the information that they had, we weren’t playing the season. Now that’s changed.”– Ryan Day on Shaun Wade and Wyatt Davis’ decisions to opt out
During an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Wednesday afternoon, Wade said he hadn’t yet made up his mind whether he would return to Ohio State or stick with his original decision to begin training for the NFL.
“Right now, I haven’t decided yet. I just want to enjoy my birthday,” said Wade, who turned 22 on Wednesday. “Today’s just been a wild day for me, so really, I just don’t know what I’m going to do, what decision I’m going to make right now. And like I said, I just want to enjoy my birthday. I’ll come back tomorrow and really think about it.”
Wade’s father Randy told ESPN that his son made the decision to return to Florida because he didn’t want to risk suffering an injury in practice not knowing whether there would be a season. But like Day, Randy Wade pointed out that his son’s decision came at a time when Ohio State was not scheduled to play this fall. Now that that’s changed, Shaun’s decision could potentially change, too.
Davis has not yet commented publicly on the Big Ten’s decision and whether it will change his decision. (Update: Davis announced Wednesday evening that he wants “to play this season for Ohio State and I am working now to make that a reality.”)
Wade and Davis are the only Ohio State players who opted out of playing in the 2020 season, and are among eight Big Ten players who announced they would not play this fall and begin preparing for the NFL draft.
According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, five of those eight players (Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, Michigan offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield and Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas) have signed with an agent, and Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins has as well, but Davis, Wade and Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore have not, leaving the door open for potential returns, though Moore announced his decision to opt out before the Big Ten's initial postponement in August.
It had been reported that Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth would also opt out of the 2020 season, but he announced Wednesday on Big Ten Network that he would be staying now that the Nittany Lions are playing this fall.