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!
How do you view Penn State as an opponent for the next few years.
Austin Ward (2:03 PM)
I don't think Penn State is going to be much of a threat moving forward under the sanctions. Taking nothing away from the job the new coaching staff did this year, there was still enough talent and experience left over for the Nittany Lions to compete this season, and that's not going to be the case when they effectively drop down to FCS-type scholarship levels. It's going to be extremely difficult for Penn State to be a factor when the penalties really kick in.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What College Football Bowl Game are you looking Forward Seeing this Season?
Austin Ward (2:05 PM)
Other than the national title game, there really aren't many games on the bowl schedule that move the needle much, in my mind. I don't blame Northern Illinois for the mess that has happened in the BCS since it simply played by the rules and earned an invite, but it's hard to fathom that team being on level footing with the big boys -- which is one more indictment of the whole system.
Ernest D. Wilkins (FORMLY FROM AKRON) baltimore MD. [via mobile]
Will ohio state have enough returning starters to go 24+ - 0?
Austin Ward (2:07 PM)
Thanks mostly to the large number of returning starters on offense, that's certainly within reach for the Buckeyes -- and the soft regular season schedule certainly helps as well. What will end up determining if Ohio State is truly a national-title caliber team is what happens with Hankins and Roby as they make decisions about their future, because losing them would give the defense eight starting spots to fill. The Buckeyes are going to score a lot of points in Meyer's second season, which is a great head start obviously, but particularly at linebacker, they're going to need people to emerge to win some hardware.
anthony (knoxille, tn)
Are the Buckeyes really in it for Max Redfield and if so why hasn't he been offered yet? Do you here any names that aren't being talked about right now that could end up as surprise signees? Thanks!
Recruiting, Recruiting, Recruiting?
Austin Ward (2:10 PM)
I'm not the best person to answer these questions, since my man Brad Bournival is BuckeyeNation's go-to source for all things recruiting. As signing day continues to get closer, I'll be more involved with that aspect of the beat, but at this point I'm still wrapping up things with the players that were on campus -- and following what happens with guys that might be weighing a decision to jump to the NFL. As far as I know, the Buckeyes aren't in the mix with Redfield. Seems like Notre Dame and Oregon are the favorites according to the RecruitingNation experts.
Who are some names besides Spence and Washington to look for on the DL next year? With everyone (presumably) gone, seems like some new faces will be in there.
Austin Ward (2:19 PM)
The other freshman who was playing more as the season progressed, Tommy Schutt, is also going to be a big factor whether or not Hankins returns. If the big man goes pro, at this point the likely first unit would be Spence and Washington on the outside with Schutt and Michael Bennett on the interior. The staff really liked Bennett heading into the season and was disappointed that the groin injury he suffered kept him out of the plans, but once he gets healthy, the line could be in good shape again. Steve Miller has a chance to emerge with more time working under Vrabel, and Se'Von Pittman will be closely watched in the spring after redshirting.
AR posted today an article from the PD about how the Buckeyes wouldn't have made the title game even had they been eligible. First off, thats complete crap. Secondly, how much did the sanctions effect the polls and our rank in them?
Austin Ward (2:23 PM)
I think the sanctions played a pretty significant factor in where the Buckeyes were ranked, and to take it back even further, where they started the season in the polls was also a negative. I think there's probably a good chance the postseason ban affected the preseason rating as well, but there seemed to be some voters who never took the Buckeyes seriously as a national contender because they simply couldn't be one at the end of the year. That's why it makes it hard to say definitively they wouldn't have had the votes to make the BCS this year, because the human element is a significant part of the equation. While it's impossible to know exactly how they would have handled an undefeated team in a power conference coached by a two-time national champ, I think everybody could assume those factors probably wouldn't have hurt their chances if there wasn't a postseason ban. I would have been very surprised if the Buckeyes had been excluded.
Who should be more worried about de-committed recruits coming to tOSU? TSUN or the SEC? Each one has had a huge de-commit from a top prospect and the first name mentioned was Ohio State. If Urban can start poaching from SEC territory, watch out!
Austin Ward (2:26 PM)
If the recruits that were once bound for Michigan wind up in Columbus, that's a much bigger concern for the Wolverines than say, Auburn, since the two rivals obviously play each other on the field every year. To your point about the SEC squads, though, if Ohio State is anticipating playing for national titles -- which, of course, it is -- then it's going to have to win a few battles against teams from down south both on the field and in recruiting. It looks like it might be on the way to doing the latter in Meyer's second class.
There has been a lot of talk here in Atlanta about Ga. Tech joining the B1G. People have gone so far as to say it would be announced this week. what is the rumblings in Columbus about this and further B1G expansion?
Austin Ward (2:31 PM)
If the Big Ten does go to 16 teams, which I think it will, that's one school that has been mentioned as a popular target based on the television markets it could attract, for starters. The last rumors that came up about Georgia Tech, though, didn't appear to have any legs. That could change, and the ACC again put out a statement just a bit ago indicating all its current members weren't going anywhere, but if the Big Ten wants to make a move for programs like Georgia Tech or North Carolina or Virginia, I would think it would be hard to turn that down with the money the league has to throw around. However, at this point there doesn't seem to be anything imminent.
Was Se'Von Pittman injured throughout the whole year or was he just not earning any playing time?
Austin Ward (2:35 PM)
I don't think health was the only reason Pittman wasn't playing this fall, though it was definitely a factor early in the season and sent him on the path to a redshirt. He was banged up a bit in the spring as well, but I don't think the Buckeyes felt he was ready and that it would be worth testing him physically in his first season since there were still other options available to play on the defensive line. A redshirt season like that can turn out to be very beneficial down the road, and Pittman still has a high ceiling.
There are alumni clubs for every school in the B1G already in Atlanta, and BTN is available on all cable systems. I see this as a major benefit for GT, and very little to gain for the B1G. GT athletic dept. is very similar to Md. Can't filll their stadium and can't make money. I seew it as a totally one sided deal. As much as I would love it, I don't see GT bringing anything to the table.
Austin Ward (2:36 PM)
Interesting perspective there, Ron. Good points.
kapn mo (Cali )
How many ESPN 150 will commit to Ohio state during the off-season?
Austin Ward (2:38 PM)
The big fish at this point is linebacker Mike Mitchell, who the Buckeyes are set to see this weekend and really need as they continue to restock that position. There is the possibility, I think, of adding two more, though there seems to be work left to do with wide receiver James Quick and cornerback Gareon Conley.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
It appears the Buckeyes missed out on Foster. Where does OSU currently stand with James Quick?
Austin Ward (2:39 PM)
According to my man Brad Bournival and his latest report on Quick for BuckeyeNation, Quick's visit went well. It seemed like if Strong had left Louisville as many expected, that would have been a boost for Meyer and the recruitment there. I would think it's going to come down to those two schools.
Remain Anonymous (The Bunker)
If the level of competition in the B1G does not improve, and it becomes tOSU and no one else...SOS will prohibit us from playing for championships. Any chance Urban would wanna move Ohio State into the SEC so we can play against real competition?
Austin Ward (2:41 PM)
Absolutely not. And with a four-team playoff and the beefing up of the nonconference schedule, I don't think there's going to be any problem for the Buckeyes or any Big Ten champion qualifying in the new system. Even with a down year for the league, the strength of schedule this season for Ohio State wasn't as bad as people seem to think it was -- the resume was equal to or better than that of a team like Georgia.
Ohio State has 17 Commitments right now, what number does the staff want to end up with?
Austin Ward (2:42 PM)
The number is subject to change, but the latest projection we have at BuckeyeNation is room for six more players.
Phillip (Akron, OH)
What are the options Meyer has available to do with this team, if any, during Bowl Season? We know practice isn't it.
Austin Ward (2:49 PM)
The coaches can't do anything at this point, which is a huge point of frustration for Meyer and his staff. The main thing he stressed heading into the offseason was he needed the leaders on the team to take some ownership of workouts and drills to replace the 15 sessions the Buckeyes are missing out on. To that end, Meyer had a ton of equipment moved into the practice facility (blocking sleds, dummies, etc) to allow the team to do more football-specific work. Before turning them loose, he made his expectations clear for what they should be doing until he gets them back for spring practice.
Would you put money on any B1G team to win their bowl game? I couldn't do it. I fear another New Year's disaster for the conference could force OSU to pull of another undefeated season to make the BCS Championship next year. It looks like our toughest game may be at Northwestern.
Austin Ward (2:51 PM)
I'm not sure that I would have any confidence in a Big Ten team at this point either. The biggest problem for the league is that its best team and another near the top were ineligible to fill those spots against the tougher competition, with pretty much everybody sliding up to play a team that it wouldn't normally be matched up against -- and then watching a division winner get throttled by Wisconsin didn't help either. Just a weird, weird situation, and it's not setting up for a successful postseason in any way.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Which position is the bigger recruiting need for OSU, LB or WR?
Austin Ward (2:53 PM)
Those are the two biggies, Tony, but I think linebacker gets the nod. After signing five linebackers last year, the Buckeyes may need to sign more wide receivers than defenders, but it really needs to land some big-time playmakers to help restock that position with high-end talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)
How much will this team miss John Simon? And where would you rank him all-time in school history?
Austin Ward (2:57 PM)
I'd have to give more thought to where Simon's run with the Buckeyes compares to all the legends that have come through, but his contributions certainly rank among some of the best defensive linemen to ever come through Columbus. As for replacing him, I think the Buckeyes have talented enough players to pick up his production with athletes like Spence and Washington waiting in the wings -- the latter filling in with a huge play when Simon couldn't go against Michigan. But the biggest question is going to be who will be the inspirational leader that Simon was? That takes more than on-field production, and I'm not sure there will be a guy on the defensive line who can do that next year. That part will have to come elsewhere, and my hunch is it would be more on the offensive side of the ball.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
If Bret Bielema couldn't handle the recruiting tactics/savvy of Urban Meyer in the Big Ten. What makes him think he'll fare any better with the big boys of the SEC?
Austin Ward (2:57 PM)
Good question. I guess the raise in pay was enough to make him forget about his squabble with Meyer and statements I'm sure he'd like erased from people's memories.
Austin Ward (2:58 PM)
All right, folks. Good stuff as usual. I've got to run, but I'll be right back here at the same time next week. Enjoy the weekend!