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 (1:59 PM)
Hey everyone, welcome back. Fire when ready.
With O'Connor and Crowell gone, are we expecting 2 or 3 guys left in this 2013 class?
Austin Ward (2:02 PM)
As it stands now -- and it's always subject to change with a bit more attrition still possible -- it looks like the Buckeyes should have room to pick up at least two more. My colleague Brad Bournival is the expert on the names and how the class might shake out, so I will leave it to him to provide that kind of analysis. But as the roster stands now and with 22 players committed, the Buckeyes should be able to add at least two more.
What are your thoughts on the talk of ticket prices being raised?
Austin Ward (2:15 PM)
I think there's a risk Ohio State could be pricing a large number of fans out of the stadium as the tickets get more expensive, and there's already a nationwide trend of decreased attendance thanks to the convenience of watching games at home on big-screen, high-definition televisions. So, while people are going to continue to fill the Shoe at a higher rate than almost any other stadium in the country and that's something the athletic department needs to cash in on to run other programs, it obviously comes with some element of risk. Certainly I'm fortunate enough to be in the press box on Saturdays, so the bigger question is what do you all think of the ticket prices being raised?
Any chance we land Elliot and Wilson? Or is it an either or situation?
Austin Ward (2:17 PM)
Wish I could give you an answer that would really provide some enlightenment, Luke -- but the way we structure our coverage of the Buckeyes, my focus is on the guys already on campus and my partner Brad Bournival is the expert on the recruiting aspect. So, while I'm not completely in the dark or anything on that stuff, it's definitely best if I leave that analysis up to him. Sorry about that.
As a Clevelander, I attend about a game per year and so I'm more likely to spend more as a result of buying through secondary ticket site (Ebay, Stubhub, etc.) but I can definitely see a different crowd of fans attending games, which could certainly change the fan environment.
Austin Ward (2:17 PM)
I can definitely see that being an outcome of this potential move, Adam.
Do you think that if Urban and the Buckeyes win the MNC soon, the SEC will try to take credit for that one, too?
Austin Ward (2:23 PM)
Surely they would in some way, right? That it took a coach with SEC experience to end the run would certainly be pointed out by a few diehards down South. In so many ways, though, it would be quite a story if the man who played such a big role in getting this run of dominance started at Florida is able to bring it to an end in a different league.
I have heard rumors about a possible out of conference game being worked on for next year by ESPN. Any truth to this? Our schedule is so bad that I have worries we could get left out of the tittle game even if we went undefeated.
Austin Ward (2:30 PM)
I haven't heard anything of substance about a nonconference game being worked on for next season, and at this stage in the year, I would be very surprised if any further adjustments were made. The Vanderbilt cancellation and addition of the San Diego State matchup already forced a change that is considered pretty late in the game, and leaving opponents in the cold in January would be a harsh deal. The schedule certainly looks pretty easy, Luke, there's not much doubt about that. But the Buckeyes still have games on the road that will be difficult in the league (Michigan, obviously, and Northwestern), and if the Big Ten is even just slightly better, a conference title win and an undefeated record won't keep them out of the BCS if it reaches that point.
Austin Ward (2:31 PM)
I should say -- won't keep them out of the BCS title game, that is.
In your mind who steps up at the big time receiving threat next year?
Austin Ward (2:38 PM)
Philly Brown is going to continue to be the primary target given his ability as a short-to-intermediate threat, which puts the ball in his hands pretty often and allows him to pile up catches. In the latter half of the season, he was turning those into bigger gains and starting to show Meyer he could be the weapon the coach thought he could be -- and now has another offseason to build on that. But the guy who I expect to really take a step forward is Devin Smith. He's got all the tools to stretch the field, and if he becomes a more deep-to-intermediate weapon that complements Brown, that alone will give the passing attack a big boost. As for some guys who didn't do as much last season, I anticipate Michael Thomas taking on a bigger role after he got more comfortable on the field in November, and Evan Spencer is another one to watch.
Adam (Colummbus OH)
With the declaration of Big Hank to the NFL who do you think is going to step up to fill his spot?
Austin Ward (2:43 PM)
That's probably not a one-person job, but I think Tommy Schutt pairing with Michael Bennett on the interior is a pretty good start to filling those shoes up front. Schutt didn't see all that much playing time last fall, but just getting his feet wet and holding his own as a true freshman bodes well. Combine that with the encouraging reports from the coaching staff about his skills and approach to the game and a body that should really benefit from this upcoming full year in the strength program (already at 6-2, 295), and Schutt could set the tone at tackle. Bennett, if healthy, really is capable of doing positive work and would have been in line for a substantial role last season if not for the nagging groin. I think Washington is best suited at end, and certainly Spence will fill that other role.
Assuming Ohio State continues to roll, who is the first coach in the Meyer staff to leave for another job?
Austin Ward (2:45 PM)
To me, there's not much question that Tom Herman is going to have plenty of suitors for a top job. He's an offensive innovator, relates well to his kids, knows how to work with the media and deal with all the outside pressures that come with the job -- it's hard for me to think that he's not at the front of the line, particularly if the spread attack is as explosive next fall as it figures to be with all that talent returning.
Adam (Columbus OH)
who is the leader in the clubhouse to get Vonn Bell?
Austin Ward (2:49 PM)
Hard for me to say since I have never had the chance to speak with the kid or covered him in any way. Have to leave that up to my man Brad Bournival to handicap, but I think in his last update on Bell, the kid didn't have a clear-cut favorite among the finalists at this point.
Austin Ward (2:51 PM)
All right, folks. Gotta run -- thanks as always for the questions and comments. See you next time!