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!
Austin Ward (2:01 PM)
Welcome back, folks. Nice to be greeted with such lovely sentiments from Michigan fans, though they certainly can't be posted in this family-friendly forum. Let's chat.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Will Ohio State Play in a Bowl Game this season? If so what Bowl Game?
Austin Ward (2:02 PM)
Are you serious, Chris? This topic has been pretty well covered over the last 12 months.
plsbuckeye (Vineland, NJ)
Were you surprised that Meyer didn't win B1G coach of the year? I know O'Brien did a great job with the situation handed to him at Penn State - but, cmon - Urban took a team that was sub .500 last year to a perfect season
Austin Ward (2:04 PM)
I was very surprised that he didn't at least one win of the two awards from the conference. Taking nothing away from the job done at Penn State, Meyer was also facing NCAA sanctions this season, was installing a new offense and didn't have a full roster full of his players to work with either. All he did was go 12-0, a six-game improvement from a season ago. As many have pointed out, including the fine folks over on the ESPN Big Ten blog, this was probably Meyer's best shot to win it if everything goes according to plan -- so odds are he never will.
How many guys do you think will go Pro and leave early this year?
Austin Ward (2:06 PM)
I think there's a legitimate chance that two could leave, but based on much of the early rankings and Big Boards, I think Roby will most likely be returning for another season and a chance to become a first-rounder next year. I have a hard time seeing Johnathan Hankins returning for another season, though why he suddenly slipped seven spots on Mel Kiper's list is hard for me to understand.
Do you think Roby getting snubbed in the B1G CB of the Year award increases the likelihood he returns for his RS Junior season?
Austin Ward (2:08 PM)
I'm sure Roby wasn't thrilled with that as confident as he is in his abilities, but I wouldn't think that would really play in his decision. One thing he's made very clear is that he wants to win a championship before he leaves, and he clearly hasn't had that chance yet. The other factor is he doesn't appear to be a big hit just yet with the draft gurus and experts, and if that also bears out in the evaluation he gets officially from the league and suggests he's not a first-rounder, the Buckeyes anticipate him returning.
Based on the big time LB recruits that have been meeting with OSU coaches recently, do we think we can pull in at least two that will be starting candidates for next season?
Austin Ward (2:11 PM)
I get the feeling the Buckeyes are closing in on those couple linebackers to fill out the class, but that would be expecting a lot for a true freshman at that position to come in and be a starter right away. I'm pretty consistent in my beliefs about that spot in particular and newcomers not being ready to play at the level Ohio State expects, and it shouldn't be overlooked that the program landed some really talented guys at linebacker in Meyer's first class. Jamal Marcus, David Perkins and Joshua Perry, for example, will have had the benefit of a season at Ohio State and a full offseason to get ready for their sophomore campaigns, and those are the guys that should be expected to fill starting roles -- if Curtis Grant doesn't develop any.
hunter roberts (sioux city iowa)
how much of an advantage does ohio state and urban meyer get recuiting wise because of the bowl ban? and how much better will his class get?
Austin Ward (2:12 PM)
It's not as much of an advantage as having 15 practices to work with the class that's already on campus would have been, and it's very clear Meyer wouldn't have traded the workouts this month for the extra time recruiting. I think with the linebackers that could be on the way and Michigan losing an elite commitment, Ohio State could be heading into the top five soon.
Ben A. (Columbus)
Christian Bryant: great safety or greatest safety?
Austin Ward (2:15 PM)
Great question or greatest question, Ben? Could Bryant potentially be another guy who tests the waters to go pro? That's a possibility, because there's no harm in getting feedback from the draft board. Bryant really made some strides this season and somewhat quietly finished near the top on the team leaderboard in tackles, and the Buckeyes are going to need something similar from him next year with all the other holes on defense they'll be filling.
Carlos Hyde (Columbus, Ohio)
Isn't there a compelling case for me to go pro? I averaged 97 YPG without taking the wear and tear most RBs do. Why come back and risk injury, less carries, or a dip in production?
Austin Ward (2:16 PM)
There certainly could be if the risk of injury is a big concern, though actually the fact that Hyde suffered one minor setback early in the season could already be seen as something of a negative for his durability. I wouldn't mark him any lower because of that given the pounding he withstood and delivered during a huge breakout season, but I think the scouts would want to see him go through a full slate and produce on that scale for more than one campaign.
Obviously the last bowl games/conference championships will impact next season's preseason polls somewhat but where do you see Ohio State opening up in the 2013 preseason polls?
Austin Ward (2:18 PM)
It would be extremely surprising if the Buckeyes weren't in the preseason top five, particularly because voters will look at Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer and the schedule and see a team that figures to be favored in every game. They may be as high as No. 3.
Is it possible that Ohio State actually BENEFITED from the postseason ban? People are always going to remember 12-0, and I doubt anybody will mention that Ohio State didn't have to play in the two most important games of the year.
Austin Ward (2:20 PM)
The record may go down as more memorable in the long run, but I don't really think there's any benefit from sitting out for the next six weeks. The practices missed, first and foremost, are a concern for Meyer because these December workouts are key for younger players. The Buckeyes have already knocked off both teams in the Big Ten title game, so that probably would have been win No. 13. And if for some reason they wound up on the outside of the BCS title game, which seems unlikely to me, the Rose Bowl matchup might be a tossup -- and I think if they did play for the title, the Buckeyes could compete with Notre Dame.
About the game last night: Is it just me or did OSU's shot selection get worse in the 2nd half? In particular, Shannon Scott coming down and shooting two straight possessions w/o a pass and Craft forcing up some tough/unbalanced shots.
Austin Ward (2:22 PM)
Those were very odd shots, especially since they came so early in the possession. Craft appeared to be out of sorts for much of the game on the offensive end last night, and the Buckeyes need him to be more of a threat down there to help take the load off Thomas and draw away some defense. But, still, winning at Duke is certainly no easy task.
How do you think Urban handles his depth at RB for next year? It thinking moving Hall to a slot/flex role is obvious, but I'm sure he wants to try to get Hyde, Smith, Ball, and Dunn all on the field in some capacity.
Austin Ward (2:24 PM)
Carlos Hyde is clearly the guy at this point, there shouldn't be any discussion about that during the offseason. And, you're absolutely right, a healthy Hall would fit in that Pivot, hybrid position that Meyer wanted him to play in the first place. I think Smith will get more work as the No. 2 moving forward, though Dunn is capable of pushing him if he can get more comfortable with the mental side of the game. Ball was impressive in camp before going down with his foot injury, but it's going to be tough for him to catch up with those other guys. I don't think Meyer worries much about keeping everybody happy with carries or anything like that, so the touches will probably coming pretty steadily for Hyde at the top.
Jeff (Ithaca, NY)
What do you think the odds of Braxton winning the Heisman this year are? I mean the only players that could be thought of as ahead of him are both unusual candidates in that one is a freshman and the other is a defensive player.
Austin Ward (2:26 PM)
This is turning out to be a strange Heisman race, Jeff. I don't think Braxton will win, but he seems to be a lock as a finalist next week. The Johnny Football craze is interesting to me, because he's done a lot of damage against weaker foes (I believe two FCS schools included), and as I wrote today, Ohio State has a linebacker of its own with better numbers than Te'o. I think the freshman will wind up winning it, but there will be voters impressed with Braxton's numbers and his role in an unbeaten season.
Given the scholarship cuts and Meyer getting the type of players he likes into the system. Could some guys on the team now face getting cut now?
Austin Ward (2:28 PM)
That sort of attrition happens every year at every program, and this offseason won't be any exception for Meyer and the Buckeyes. I don't think it's really fair to single players out specifically that could look around elsewhere or be asked to do that at this point, but it will surely happen.
Devon (West Chester, OH)
Where do you think the Buckeyes will be ranked going into next year?
Any idea on where you think Simon will get drafted?
Austin Ward (2:30 PM)
I think the Buckeyes will be somewhere around No. 3 in the preseason poll.Simon's probably going to be a second-round pick, maybe third, but any team that gets him will be thrilled with the work ethic and ability and love for football he brings to the locker room. He will be knocked for his size and teams will have to figure out where to play him at the next level, and that will keep him out of one of those really high picks.
If both Hankins and Roby leave, is next year's defense a real liability? Could they prevent a chance at BCS glory?
Austin Ward (2:32 PM)
That's the single biggest question about the team heading into next season. If those two guys leave, that will mean eight starters lost from the perfect season -- and that's a scary amount, especially since so many should be in NFL training camps next fall. The defensive line should still be in pretty good shape, and with veteran safeties, that's a solid way to get rolling in the secondary. But the onus will obviously be on the young linebackers to step up in a major way, and the pressure will be on early in spring.
pam (princeton, nj)
Hi Austin. Jim Tressel owned he BIG and was never COY even the year he won National COY. If he couldn't, Meyer won't either. Tressel's revenge was beating all of them. Meyer will beat them too. To a bloody pulp.
Austin Ward (2:33 PM)
Both the coach of the year award and some of the all-conference balloting seemed, at least to me, to suggest Meyer might not have made many friends in the Big Ten since arriving. Guess the guys that didn't get individual awards will just have to settle for 12-0.
I forget which #2, but the one who plays defense... please tell me he is a senior and will never cause us a late hit, hit your fellow defender thus taking him out of the play or other general baffoonery ever again??? please!!!
Austin Ward (2:34 PM)
Christian Bryant is just a junior, and I imagine the majority Ohio State fans will actually be pretty glad to have him back for another season given all he offered in the secondary this year.
Any word on Jordan Hall's attempt to get a medical redshirt?
Austin Ward (2:35 PM)
Don't have confirmation yet that Ohio State has filed the appeal to the Big Ten, but it has made no secret that it will be doing so. I am keeping tabs on it and will make sure to update everybody as soon as the Buckeyes make the pitch.
PLEASE HELP!! Tell me that Illinois isnt moving to the other division and we have to take on Maryland and Rutgers in ours? We are going to have to schedule LSU, Alabama and Florida as our non-conference games or our schedule is going to be the worst when we try to make a case for the title game.
Austin Ward (2:37 PM)
Still too soon to know for sure what will happen with the divisional alignment, but somebody is going to have to move. Illinois is the logical choice, but maybe that model won't be the one the athletic directors pick. Who knows, maybe The Game will be a division battle in the future.
The Terps (Maryland)
So, uh... i hear you guys use the forward pass. Hmm, maybe we can learn.
Austin Ward (2:38 PM)
The Buckeyes are still trying to improve their own passing game, though it was infinitely better this season than it was a year ago. Still a lot of improvements to be made, which Meyer is pointing out every chance he gets.
pam (princeton, nj)
I guess the COY award should've been changed to the "The Nicest Coach" maybe then JT could have won it.
Austin Ward (2:39 PM)
There you go, Pam.
Even I dont want to talk about basketball... lets get back to football folks.
I know the B1G says they are done with expansion but if the Big East collaspes how many teams would they pick up?
Austin Ward (2:40 PM)
I am not convinced the conference is done adding teams, but it's hard to see them going past 16 in total.
Hey, we were just kidding when we threw "joining the big ten" out there. we didnt think ANYONE would take us seriously.
Chris P (Bacon)
Any thoughts on meyer getting nervous about Millers learning curve? Why "that team up north" didnt blitz off the blind side end EVERY play is beyond me. How many times does a guy have to get hit on that side to know they are coming?
Austin Ward (2:42 PM)
I don't sense any nerves from Meyer or Tom Herman about that at all. Also not sure why Michigan wouldn't continue to stick with stuff that worked against the Buckeyes last week, though eventually it's safe to assume there would have been an adjustment made -- and Miller doesn't deserve all the blame for that. Either way, everything that comes from people inside the program is how dangerous Miller is going to be when they get another year to develop him as a passer, and I think based on the strides he made as a freshman to a sophomore, it's fair to expect even more production out of him as a junior.
Freddy (Right behind you)
Any speed coming in next year in the WR position? or do we keep hoping Stoneburner remembers to turn around?
Austin Ward (2:44 PM)
Well, Stoneburner obviously won't be a factor for the offense next year, and there's already some playmakers committed for signing day with a guy like Taivon Jacobs. It's a pretty easy sell with Meyer's offense, and the staff is still out there working on a few big names.
Matt (Washington D.C)
I know you have already addressed LB recruiting, but who do you think starts at LB next year for the Buckeyes? Curtis Grant has so far been slow to grasp the college game, but is he still the best option to replace Boren at MLB? I would then have to pencil in Perry or maybe Crowell at the other spot. What do you think?
Austin Ward (2:47 PM)
It helps to start with such an established presence, and obviously Shazier isn't going anywhere. Curtis Grant is still a guy to watch with his athleticism, and if there aren't signs in the spring that he's ready to contribute, then it will be up Joshua Perry or Camren Williams to fill a void, and I think Jamal Marcus is going to really develop into a force when he gets comfortable and gets a chance. He was really impressing in training camp with the way he played, though when stuff got a bit more complicated he apparently struggled.
The receivers progressed this season but no one had a breakout campaign, who could you see stepping into that role next season?
Austin Ward (2:49 PM)
I thought by the end of the season, Philly Brown had really taken some steps forward. He's obviously not much of a downfield weapon, but when he started getting more aggressive with the football in his hand, he was still able to start piling up some yardage. Devin Smith's consistency held him back during the second half of the season, but I thought over the last two games you could see the light starting to go on and the Buckeyes do more than just send him deep on a go route. I expect Smith to be much more complete as a receiver next fall, big things could be coming for him.
Sal (Manila, Australia)
Which is the first team we score 70 on?
Austin Ward (2:50 PM)
Opening with Buffalo is about as easy as it gets. Meyer might turn the Buckeyes loose right from the start to set the tone -- in fact, I sort of expect him to do exactly that.
Out of a 1 loss SEC champ and undefeated ND and OSU squads, who plays for the BS, excuse me, BCS championship?
Austin Ward (2:52 PM)
I think the sanctions have depressed the voting total for the Buckeyes in the human element of the rankings, and if they had been eligible, I think they would be facing Notre Dame for the title. Really, the resume for the Buckeyes this season is a lot stronger than they get credit for because of the overall perception of the Big Ten. Alabama and Georgia do have tougher schedules than Ohio State according to the formulas, but the margin is much closer than I originally thought -- particularly with the Bulldogs.
Eric K (DC)
I'd like to invite all of my OSU friends to come watch Kent State win the Orange Bowl and bring respect back to the state of Ohio
Austin Ward (2:54 PM)
Lots of stuff I wasn't able to get to today, and I'm sorry about that. Did the best I could, but just a lot of good questions and comments to get through. I'll be back next week, and we'll dive much into recruiting as we hit December. Thanks everybody!