Chat with Austin Ward
Welcome to BuckeyeNation! On Thursday, reporter Austin Ward stops by to chat about the state of Ohio State football.
Ward joined ESPN.com in 2012 after five years as a college football writer at the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune and the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel. The award-winning journalist lives with his wife in Columbus, Ohio.
Send your questions now and join Ward Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When will be the Very First Ohio State College Football Game of 2012?
Austin Ward (1:58 PM)
It's coming, Chris. Just a little more than a week until the Buckeyes kick it off at noon on Sept. 1.
Are Ohio State fans getting too high of expectations for Urban Meyer in his first season as head coach?
Austin Ward (2:01 PM)
The expectations are always high for Ohio State, no matter who the coach is. The new one has a proven track record of success, and the program itself is in a fertile recruiting area with administration willing to support football in any way it can -- and that's the perfect combination for winning big. Now, if the fans are planning on going 12-0 every season, then that is asking a bit much. But it isn't unreasonable to expect Ohio State to be back to competing for conference titles every year (when its eligible to do so).
Do you think storm Klein should be and will be reinstated and put back on scholarship?
Austin Ward (2:04 PM)
Given the nature of the charges with the case now closed, it seems to me that Storm Klein should be able to return to the program. I think it would set a difficult precedent for Meyer to keep Klein off the team when all he was ultimately found guilty of was disorderly conduct. The punishment at this point, having missed the last month of the offseason and all of training camp, can now be viewed as pretty severe -- so the message about discipline has still been sent about how those issues will be handled.
Where did you go to school Austin?
Austin Ward (2:05 PM)
I went to the University of Wyoming, with an exchange year at Tennessee sprinkled in the middle.
RB (Cleveland, Ohio)
What is your feeling on the linebacking situation this season?
Austin Ward (2:07 PM)
It's kind of a work in progress in my mind at this point. The starting group looks like it has all the makings of being productive. Shazier is really talented and showed his ability when he got the chance late last season. Sabino has won over the coaching staff with his leadership and ability to finish plays. And Grant seems to have a great attitude now and better perspective after not living up to the hype right away as a freshman. The depth isn't there yet, but guys like David Perkins, Josh Perry and Jamal Marcus could fix that depending on how smooth the transition is for them.
What Buckeye non-seniors will have a legitimate opportunity to leave for the NFL this year?
Austin Ward (2:14 PM)
That's a good question, Mike. Start with Johnathan Hankins, for sure, who is already projected as a first-rounder if he were to come out after the season. The next guy that comes to my mind is Bradley Roby, who is only a sophomore but redshirted and will be eligible to leave if he chooses. The cornerback looks like he could really be something special, so he may have a decision to make as well. Maybe somebody like C.J. Barnett could consider it if he has a big junior campaign, but really Roby and Hankins are the big ones -- and it would be an enormous help for Meyer if he had them when it came time to make a run at a title again.
I disagree with you about Klein. He made a deal to plead guilty to the disorderly conduct in order to have the domestic violence charges dropped. Had he not done so, he would have had to stand trial for the domestic violence charge. Plea deals don't mean nothing happened. If Meyer's "core values" about disrespecting women applied when Klein was arrested, they should apply now.
Austin Ward (2:18 PM)
That's what will make this an interesting decision for Meyer, Pam. Your points are valid, and they will have to be weighed when the time for a decision arrives. I am only suggesting that it could possibly make things difficult in the future if a player who only winds up charged with disorderly conduct doesn't face any punishment at all and another has been kicked off the team. It could create something of a double-standard.
RB (Cleveland, Ohio)
How much improvement in the passing game has Braxton Miller made?
Austin Ward (2:21 PM)
Scrimmage statistics have to be taken with a healthy handful of salt, but both Meyer and Tom Herman were clearly encouraged by Miller throwing for more than 350 yards on Saturday -- second-team defense or not. Herman in particular has praised Miller for his grasp on the offense, and he's going to put him in position to make plays that suit his abilities. In the practices I was allowed to watch, that meant a number of throws outside the pocket, and I was impressed with Miller's accuracy on the move. When he's keeping plays alive, he gives the receivers more time to get open and often gets bigger throwing windows, but I've seen an improved ability to put the ball where it needs to be either way.
Africa (Brooklyn, NY)
At this point, is Michigan actually more talented? And do you think tOSU has any shot against them this season?
Austin Ward (2:26 PM)
I don't think there's any question that Meyer inherited a lot of talent. If there wasn't already stuff in the cupboard, I'm not sure he'd have been as quick to jump back into coaching, honestly. He has the perfect quarterback to run his system, a secondary that is perhaps the best in the conference, a defensive line that could be the best in the entire country -- so, yeah, I think the Buckeyes have more than just a shot against Michigan. I am already looking forward to seeing both teams renew the rivalry in what should be a really compelling game.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Which Buckeye player that has flown under the radar will become a household name this season?
Austin Ward (2:32 PM)
Tony, my money would be on one of the wide receivers to become a more recognizable player by the end of the season. All of them are under the radar now, for good reason after last year, but Philly Brown and Devin Smith have jumped out during camp and really impressed the coaching staff. Brown earned the No. 1 WR designation from Meyer earlier in the week, but I really like what I've seen from Smith and think there's a chance his ability to make plays down the field and what appears to be a good connection with Braxton Miller could lead to a big year for him.On the other side, I mentioned Curtis Grant earlier, but he's got all the tools and is coming off a disappointing start to his career. I really believe he'll get on track this fall.
RB (Cleveland, Ohio)
Who are you preseason MVPs on offense. Defense and what player can't Ohio State live without? Why on all three?
Austin Ward (2:38 PM)
Preseason MVPs, coming right up.Offense: Is it cheating to take Braxton Miller? He's the difference-maker, and if he's not the most valuable for the Buckeyes, they could have a problem on their hands. After Miller, I'd go with somebody like Stoneburner. I like the flexibility he provides the offense, and he figures to be targeted a lot.Defense: Have to go with another obvious pick there to start with John Simon. Guy has it all, ability, leadership, desire -- any team would take him. After that, and this won't show up statistically in all likelihood, but I think Goebel could be really important in helping the other linemen put up big numbers. He does the dirty work, and I've heard too much good about him this camp not to include him.Can't do without: For all the praise of Kenny Guiton this month, I think it's Miller. He does too much, too well for there not to be a drop off with him on the sideline.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Is there any receiver on the Wolverine roster that should honestly scare anyone right now after the departure of Hemingway?
Austin Ward (2:40 PM)
I don't think there's a true star on that roster like Michigan has had in the past, but if Roundtree is healthy, I think he could be a productive player out there.
Africa (Brooklyn, NY)
So I shouldn't be worried about Michigan going on a run the way tOSU went on a run against them. Good....
Austin Ward (2:41 PM)
If you didn't see it earlier in the week, my WolverineNation colleague Michael Rothstein and I debated whether or not the storied rivals could be in line for another Ten Year War. It might not ever get to that level again, but I think the two programs have coaches that can get The Game back to being a must-watch event every year again.
RB (Cleveland, Ohio)
Many expect a national championship soon with these guys. Realistically, how far are they away?
Austin Ward (2:46 PM)
At least a season, obviously.But in all seriousness, I really don't think it's a stretch to think that Ohio State will be back in the race for a national championship in Meyer's second season. First, there's his history of success in Year Two that is pretty impressive. Second, there's Braxton Miller and another highly rated recruiting class to add to the mix. And third, there are a lot of pieces in place now that will be back next fall. The record book might not reflect it, but this is a program that doesn't have to look back far to remember what the BCS looks like.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Who is the top Buckeye defensive lineman and NFL prospect?
Austin Ward (2:49 PM)
They probably aren't the same guy, actually.John Simon can play multiple positions, rush the passer, stop the run and he's a phenomenal leader for the Buckeyes as well. There's a reason Meyer has compared him to a certain quarterback he had back at Florida, and I've been blown away watching the guy work since I arrived in Columbus.And while I think he'll be a good pro and a high draft pick, the guy that really has scouts salivating is Johnathan Hankins. Great size at 6-4, 317 pounds, with agility that really is unfair for somebody that big. If he comes out after the season, I think he'd be picked before Simon.
Austin Ward (2:54 PM)
All right, folks. Have to head out and get back to work on some stories for BuckeyeNation. Hope you've enjoyed the coverage so far, and there's plenty more on the way.See you next week!