COLUMBUS — As top college football players across the country declined to play the 2020 season in order to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, Ohio State’s national championship-aspirant unit remained intact.
That changed Friday morning when Buckeyes offensive lineman Wyatt Davis told Yahoo’s Pete Thamel that he will opt out of whatever season the Big Ten implements next.
Davis, a redshirt junior guard coming off an All-American season and expected to be one of the top linemen drafted next spring, told Thamel the decision was “heartbreaking.” He said he and his family waited to hear good news from the Big Ten about a possible fall season but pulled the trigger after receiving none.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” Davis told Yahoo. “I believe that we would have won the national championship this year. It’s really unfortunate. I feel for all those guys, especially the younger players going into this year having that taken away from them. It’s tough, but we are in a pandemic. It’s just really unfortunate. We had something really special.”
An Ohio State spokesman said he had no information when asked about the report.
Davis told Yahoo he informed OSU coach Ryan Day of his decision on Thursday. He did not specify if that conversation occurred before or after Day released a statement criticizing the Big Ten for its poor communication since the cancellation of fall sports and pushing for a mid-October start to the replacement season.
Davis could have declared for the NFL Draft after his breakthrough 2019 season, where he emerged as one of the best interior linemen in the country. Per Pro Football Focus, he did not allow a pressure or a sack on a blocking snap in 2019. He was named first team All-American by The Sporting News and the Associated Press.
Davis was expected to team with center Josh Myers, left tackle Thayer Munford and talented newcomers to form one of the nation’s best offensive lines. The Buckeyes opened the season ranked No. 2 in the AP poll behind Clemson and were favored to reach the College Football Playoff for a second straight season.
Instead, Davis joined the list of Big Ten stars who are stepping aside from whatever late fall/winter/spring season replaces the one canceled on Aug. 11. Penn State’s Micah Parsons and Pat Freiermuth, Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and Purdue’s Rondale Moore are among the other Big Ten stars who have either announced they will not play or reportedly will do so.
Davis told Yahoo the ongoing uncertainty of what will happen in the Big Ten contributed to his decision. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC all remain on pace to begin their seasons this month.
“My family and I were waiting to hear any good news that there would be a possibility to play in the fall,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “As the weeks went on, after the initial cancellation, the news didn’t seem in favor that we would have an opportunity to play for a national championship if there was a season. At this point, my family and I made the decision that it would be my best decision to take the next step.”
Ohio State has a handful of other players currently projected as possible first-round prospects, including quarterback Justin Fields, cornerback Shaun Wade and receiver Chris Olave. None of them have yet opted out of the still-unrealized 2020 Big Ten season.