Ohio State junior cornerback Denzel Ward (12) sets up prior to a play in the second quarter of the B1G Championship game against Wisconsin on Dec. 2 in Lucas Oil Stadium. Ohio State won 27-21. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State’s defense will have to take on one of the top quarterbacks in the nation without the support of its top cornerback.

Junior Denzel Ward made a last-minute decision not to play in the game, he announced on Twitter. 

“The coaching staff was aware that Denzel’s decision to play or not play would not be made final until game day,” an Ohio State spokesman said in a statement. “He elected today to sit out.”

Ward is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft and will sit out to avoid injuries in his final game before the draft. He was named a First-Team All-American by both the American Football Coaches Association and Associated Press.

The 5-foot-11, 191-pound cornerback finishes what appears to be his final season at Ohio State with 30 solo tackles and seven assisted, two of which went for losses. He broke up 15 passes, intercepted two, and blocked one punt and one kick.

Without Ward, redshirt sophomores Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette will be the two starting cornerbacks with freshman Jeffrey Okudah, a former five-star recruit and top cornerback in the 2017 recruiting class, likely occupying the third spot in the rotation.