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!
Is it just me, or does your heart stop too every time Braxton takes off running and gets tackled.
Austin Ward (2:03 PM)
I don't know about my heart stopping -- it really gets beating any time he takes off running because anything can happen. Two of those three hits that forced him to leave the game recently have come out of bounds, and I'm not accusing any teams of trying to play dirty, but those situations obviously could have been avoided. Keeping Braxton Miller healthy is obviously the most important thing to the Ohio State offense, but he also has to be able to do his thing.
Do you think with urban Meyer recruiting more nationally it will back fire by more local kids going elsewhere because of lack of early interest from coach Meyer
Austin Ward (2:04 PM)
I don't think that will be the case. Recruiting nationally and landing the best prospects in the country is Meyer's job, and he can do that better than pretty much anybody else in the nation. But he's not ignoring Ohio either -- I believe he's got close to an even split at this point in terms of the commitments for the next class, and as his program continues to take off, the instate products that always dreamed of playing for the Buckeyes will still be jumping at an offer when or if it comes.
shazor (Findlay, OH)
have you heard any kind of timeframe on hall or sabino? I dont expect sabino to be back until wisconsin, but hall we have not really heard a lot about
Austin Ward (2:06 PM)
The most likely return date for Etienne Sabino is the Wisconsin game at this point, though Meyer suggested this week that the senior might be slightly ahead of schedule. Whether that gets him back for Illinois, it's too soon to say -- but to me that remains unlikely.As for Hall, he is really not progressing much and Meyer indicated that it's close to time to start thinking about a medical redshirt, for which the senior running back is still eligible. Particularly with Hyde and Smith stepping up, there's no need to rush him back, and it doesn't appear like Meyer will.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What's up with the OSU defense? Will this unit prevent the Buckeyes from challenging for the national title in 2013-2014?
Austin Ward (2:09 PM)
Well, probably not if the Buckeyes can rush for 350 yards and score 52 points every week. If the defense doesn't improve, it might keep them from winning a national championship, but they are going to be contending as long as Braxton Miller is on the field, honestly. However, it goes without saying that Ohio State has a proud tradition on defense and has been embarrassed by what has happened over the last two weeks, and while injuries are part of the problem, it still has future pros like Roby, Hankins and Simon on the field and should expect better. But recruiting and restocking the linebacking unit, in particular, will help right that ship moving forward.
Please tell Bradley roby he is allowed to bat onside kicks out of bounds!!! Inexcusable!
Austin Ward (2:10 PM)
I am quite sure he's been made aware of that now. I still thought a foot was down out of bounds prior to batting the ball back in play, but you're right, that situation could have been avoided.
How does the OSU D negate the effect of spread/quick release offenses which take away our biggest strength, the D line?
Austin Ward (2:12 PM)
This is another area that comes down to solid play from the linebackers. The safeties and corners obviously have to be solid in coverage and capable of making tackles on those quick throws to the edge and the bubble screens, things of that nature -- but the pressure is also on guys like Ryan Shazier or Sabino when he was healthy to swarm to the ball, play with great energy and wrap up when they get to the receiver or running back. The Buckeyes haven't done that with enough consistency, and when the pass rush isn't getting home because of those quick throws, a defense has to limit the yardage on those plays to force an offense to adjust to something else.
I've never seen an OSU defense be this porous. Tell me that they can get their LB and Safety issues resolved
Austin Ward (2:14 PM)
They certainly can, but I don't think the Buckeyes are going to turn back into the Silver Bullets overnight. The depth just isn't there on that side of the ball, and looking at that run over three years signing 10 linebackers and only getting contributions from two of them now, it's easy to see how that happened. By no means am I writing off the chances of Ohio State having a productive defense again by the end of the season, because they showed against Michigan State that they're well equipped to stop more traditional attacks up front and with playmakers in the secondary. But moving forward, they're going to have to develop the young linebackers already in the program like Jamal Marcus, David Perkins, Joshua Perry and Camren Williams in a hurry.
Scott (Milwaukee, WI)
What is the rule regarding medical redshirt, ie, how much can you play before you are no longer eligible?
Austin Ward (2:17 PM)
A player can't play in more than four games, and I believe they all have to be in the first half of the season. I could be mistaken on that last part, and the appeal still has to be approved by the NCAA, so it's not a guarantee either way. But based on those criteria, Hall would be eligible to file for an additional year.
Scott (Milwaukee, WI)
Yeah that play should have been overturned, the onside kick
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Bigger disappointment defensively, Texas or Ohio State?
Austin Ward (2:18 PM)
I think Ohio State has plenty of excuses it can lean on, from changes to staff to injuries to lack of depth in the first place. I'm not sure what the crutch is for Texas -- I've heard plenty about how great the coordinator it hired a year ago was and it hasn't had to change head coaches or deal with attrition in a while.
Eddie George (Hollywood)
Austin, is there anyway to get Herbstreitt to co-host with me? This loser Harrington is driving me crazy, but at least Erin is in the studio with me to ease the pain?
Austin Ward (2:19 PM)
I think Herbie is still loving life on GameDay, Eddie. Maybe jump on over here to ESPN?
GT (Columbus, OH)
On the recruiting front, who is Meyer gunning for to add some speed to the offensive depth chart? Any serious burners?
Austin Ward (2:22 PM)
Our recruiting guru just did a recent piece focusing on the gamebreakers the Buckeyes are chasing who fit that criteria. The short list he had put together for top targets includes Tony Stevens, Shelton Gibson, James Quick, Robert Foster and Marquez North. Here's more on those guys from Brad, because that's his area of expertise. http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/colleges/osu/post/_/id/3583/recruiting-update-a-look-at-the-2103-wrs
hunter (sioux city ia)
what do you think the chances of braxton miller winning the heisman are?
Austin Ward (2:24 PM)
Getting better every week, Hunter. I really thought this season would be about putting himself in position for next year, but in that regard, I underestimated his amazing athleticism and how well he's fit into the spread offense. At this point, I don't see how Miller isn't at least a finalist, and with Geno Smith falling back to earth a bit and facing more defenses that can knock him around, I think Miller will stay at least in the top two as long as Ohio State is undefeated -- and could be a winner if he closes out a 12-0 campaign with a memorable performance in The Game.
Do you think some of the juniors that are rated highly at the next level (Roby, Hankins, etc.) will come back next year knowing they can compete for a naitonal title? Or should we brace ourselves for their departure.
Austin Ward (2:37 PM)
I have a hard time thinking Hankins will come back considering projections currently have him going in the top 10. Roby is a more interesting case as a draft-eligible sophomore, because for whatever reason, he's not yet generating much buzz from scouts or NFL experts. That surprises me based on how talented he is and has proven to be this season, but it might work in Ohio State's favor. He mentioned again after practice yesterday that he wants to win a national championship before he leaves, while Hankins has mainly tried to shut down any conversations about his future until after the season.
Does this chat continue throughout the basketball season?
Austin Ward (2:39 PM)
Absolutely, Victor. Actually, I had to cancel last week's due to media day for hoops, but I'll be providing the same coverage for basketball throughout the season that I have for football. Lots of excitement around that team as well -- seems like a pretty good time to be a Buckeyes fan.
When did the Big 10 become a basketball conference?
Austin Ward (2:41 PM)
That's a good question. Jake Stoneburner joked with the media yesterday that the Big Ten has become "the SEC of basketball." Obviously Ohio State has been doing its part in the rankings this year to help out the conference, but it has no doubt been a rough season nationally for the Big Ten on the football field.
If the defense keeps up this poor play is Fickell's job in jeopardy for next year? I heard Urban gave everyone a talking to early this week.
Austin Ward (2:44 PM)
If the Buckeyes keep giving up 49 points, that would be an issue, sure. But there are a lot of factors at play here that make a change seem unlikely to me at this point. Meyer is aware of the difficulties on that side of the ball due to the lack of depth, and the injuries have only added to the challenge -- Sabino, Williams, Bennett, Barnett ... a lot of teams are going to struggle when that many starters are out. Now, that's not going to lead to Meyer giving anybody a free pass, don't get me wrong there. That's why he was in the defensive meeting on Sunday with the entire staff and all the players on that side of the ball, because he wants it corrected and is taking it upon himself to lend a hand. But again, to answer your question, at this point I don't think Fickell's job is in jeopardy.
shazor (Findlay, OH)
are we going to pretty much be able to run at will on purdue if we just go the opposite direction on short and gaston?
Austin Ward (2:54 PM)
I don't think there's much doubt that Ohio State should be able to move the ball on the ground with relative ease against Purdue. The Boilermakers are ranked No. 11 in the Big Ten in stopping the run even with those talented defensive players, and the way the Buckeyes have been blocking up front and expanding the offense with Hyde on the inside and Corey "Philly" Brown as a potential pitch man on the perimeter -- and even Rod Smith off the bench -- I would expect them to have yet another huge day running the football.
L'Carpatron Dookmariot (Coastal Carolina)
who has a worse defense, purdue or illinois?
Austin Ward (2:57 PM)
Well, Indiana is the worst total defense in the Big Ten -- and it's not even really close. But the team that does come closest to challenging the Hoosiers is their instate neighbor. The Boilermakers have been pretty much terrible defensively, missing tackles and giving up 411 yards per game overall.
Hingle McKringleberry (Penn State)
How do you think the loins match up with the buckeyes?
Austin Ward (2:59 PM)
I have been impressed with the turnaround for Penn State after that rough start, but I am not convinced it will be able to keep pace with Ohio State or contain Braxton Miller. That game is much more interesting than I thought it would be about a month ago, but I still think the Buckeyes would be well suited to stop the Nittany Lions even with their recent struggles on defense.
Austin Ward (3:00 PM)
Thanks again for all the questions and comments. Enjoyed it as always -- have fun this weekend, and we'll see you all right here next week.