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What OSU players, Kirk Herbstreit think about Buckeyes opting out of Rose Bowl

Wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave as well as defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere will sit Rose Bowl out

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Ohio State defensive lineman Haskell Garrett, right, tackles Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker during game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. Garrett announced Monday that he is opting out of the Rose Bowl in order to prepare for the 2022 NFL draft.

Jay LaPrete, Associated Press

Four Ohio State players have chosen to sit out of the Rose Bowl against Utah.

Rose Bowl TV

Rose Bowl


No. 6 Ohio State (10-2)

vs. No. 11 Utah (10-3)

Jan. 1, 3 p.m. MST

Rose Bowl

Pasadena, California

TV: ESPN

Radio: ESPN 700


That’s drawn mixed reactions.

Wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave as well as defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere have declared for the upcoming NFL draft and are skipping the New Year’s Day game. 

Entering the season, the Buckeyes had their sights set on winning a national championship. But that was before suffering an early-season loss to Oregon and a regular-season defeat at Michigan. 

OSU has played in the College Football Playoff the past two seasons, including a setback in the national title game last January. 

For four Buckeyes players, they’ve decided to focus on their respective futures rather than participate in the Rose Bowl.

“I love those guys. I certainly think this game is important for our team and I know that the guys that are playing in their last game want to finish with a lasting image of a victory in the Rose Bowl and playing well,” coach Ryan Day said of the players that are opting out. “And the younger guys, they want an opportunity to get some momentum going into next year.

“And that’s kind of what we’ve been focused on right now is each guy has to make the decision in that role. But I know there’s still a bunch of guys that want to play really well in this game.”

What do the OSU defensive players think about the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Garrett, who recorded 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss this season, opting out of the final game? 

“Haskell made the best choice for him and his family, and I support it 100%,” said defensive end Zach Harrison. “Guys who are playing in his spot right now I have all the faith in the world in.”

“Haskell, that’s my brother, I love him. He’s got to do what’s best for him. It’s next man up. We can’t worry about what’s not here,” said defensive lineman Tyreke Smith. “We’ve just got a next-man-up mentality and pick up Haskell’s role and just play for him. That’s all we can do. I’m thankful to what he gave to us. That’s my brother for life. I’m happy for him. We’ve just got to keep trying.”

OSU defensive secondary coach Matt Barnes, who calls the defensive plays, said his team will miss Garrett against the Utes. 

“Haskell’s a great player. He brings energy to our defensive front. He’s been very disruptive for us over the years, certainly this year as well,” Barnes said. “So, yeah, he’ll be missed. But I’ve said this before, I think Larry Johnson’s the best defensive line coach in the history of college football. He’ll do a great job getting the next guy ready to go in the game.”

“I just don’t buy into this narrative of meaningless bowl games. These teams have always had goals of getting to the championship and it doesn’t happen all that often, but you don’t throw in the towel and say, ‘Well, we didn’t accomplish our goals.’” — ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, a former Buckeyes quarterback, said watching so many players opt out of a big bowl game like the Rose Bowl is troubling for the sport. 

“Before we had the BCS and the playoff, the goal was always to go to the Rose Bowl. But how often did they actually go? Not very often, yet they still went to another bowl game and they were excited,” Herbstreit said during a teleconference Monday afternoon. “I just don’t buy into this narrative of meaningless bowl games. These teams have always had goals of getting to the championship and it doesn’t happen all that often, but you don’t throw in the towel and say, ‘Well, we didn’t accomplish our goals.’

“It’s the Rose Bowl. We used to have to try to deal with a consolation prize being the Citrus Bowl. But it’s the Rose Bowl. Maybe these players, when they get out there on the field, it’ll dawn on them why it’s different and unique. I get being disappointed, but you’ve got to shake it off and move on to the next game and get that bad taste out of your mouth.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he’s paying attention to which players for OSU are opting out, but not much.

“You care but you can’t become preoccupied with it,” he said. “For the most part, you prepare for the schematics of the offense.”