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January 3, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Austin Ward

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Even though you Cover Ohio State College Fotball, What is your Favorite NFL Team?

Austin Ward
  (2:04 PM)

Honestly don't have one after moving around a lot growing up, Chris. Love the NFL though, so my favorite team is my fantasy squad (which bowed out in the first round of the playoffs this year, for the record.)

jim trevethan (solon ohio)

Do you like this suggestion Austin? Tired of SEC and how those teams never see cold weather to play in. I would love the Big Ten schedule a challenge like in Basketball but play in November and not September. Love to see them play here in the cold, rain, and maybe snow. I think they would crumble in those conditions.

Austin Ward
  (2:06 PM)

That would be a fantastic series and great television, but I doubt either league would seriously entertain the idea of it. For one thing, those November dates seem to be pretty sacred for the Big Ten -- and SEC teams seem to love to schedule in bye weeks late in the season by playing creampuffs in November. Particularly considering the strong ties between the Big Ten and the Pac-12, it's much more likely in my opinion for those leagues to again revisit a scheduling arrangement as opposed to working with the SEC.

chris bammerlin (laramie, wyo.)

How many spots does Ohio State have left and what are the chances that Christopher Worley comes to Ohio State? It seems even though he's not as highly ranked as other players they are interested in, him being from Ohio and Glenville make him attractive.

Blarney (Jacksonville, Florida)

How many recruits will the Buckeyes sign in Feb?

Andrew Z (Struthers, OH)

How do you see this Ohio State recruiting class finishing out?

Austin Ward
  (2:10 PM)

I'll get my weekly disclaimer out of the way pretty early this time. My colleague at BuckeyeNation Brad Bournival is the man with all the answers about recruiting, and while I'll be trying to pitch in a bit more as National Signing Day approaches, the vast majority of my time is spent on the guys who are already on campus -- so I lean on Brad for that stuff since I've not had the chance to talk to any of those kids at this point and am usually not that accurate in predicting what they do anyway. That being said, I believe Brad's latest projection is for 23 kids in the class overall, which could climb up as high as No. 3 in the country according to the RN experts -- and put Ohio State in prime position in the Big Ten over the next few years.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Better college defensive lineman, Clowney or Big Daddy Wilkinson?

Austin Ward
  (2:11 PM)

Wow, it's tough to argue against Big Daddy. But the things Clowney does physically are hard to even believe sometimes. It will be tough for me to ever forget that hit he delivered this week at a crucial moment, but just in case I do, I'm sure it will be replayed about 10 million times as he's discussed as a potential Heisman candidate this offseason and next year.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Are you expecting good news from Quick this week? How big a blow will it be for Meyer if James commits elsewhere?

Austin Ward
  (2:15 PM)

Hard for me to have a strong opinion on what he does, Tony, because I've not ever talked with him. I get the feeling Ohio State has done everything it could to land him, but if it doesn't happen, I can't imagine it would really be that big of a blow moving forward. There are already other options committed and talented players on campus now, and there are more recruits waiting to sign in the next class. The Buckeyes would be just fine, though obviously they'd like to have him.

Ray Hall (Columbus, OH)

Which OSU freshmen do you figure will make an impact immediately next season? Fall 2013 can't come fast enough

Austin Ward
  (2:18 PM)

Hey, especially without covering a bowl game this year, I'm with you Ray -- bring on the next season. I think the way Ohio State recruited last year and with the particular holes it is trying to fill in the offseason, Meyer will be counting much more on the true freshmen who played in 2012 than anybody he winds up signing next month. I'd look for guys like Spence, Schutt and Washington to be playing significant roles, obviously, but also the group of linebackers he signed last year will figure in prominently. If there's a position where a newcomer could play early, on offense it would be at wide receiver and defense could be at a cornerback or nickel spot with the hugely talented group currently committed in the secondary.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Could LB Mike Mitchell start right away?

Austin Ward
  (2:21 PM)

Typically, I have found linebacker to be one of the most difficult positions to come in and play right away as a true freshman. That doesn't mean Mitchell or Trey Johnson won't be capable of it, but it's not something that I will be projecting or expecting of them when training camp rolls around (if either/both of them become Buckeyes). The responsibilities, the physical demands and the speed of the game are a lot to handle for any true freshmen, but at linebacker the plate is really, really full and an inexperienced player can get exposed. I continue to believe the next two guys into the starting lineup and much of the depth behind them will come from the class signed a year ago and the players who worked their way into experience already with the Buckeyes.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Any news on Bradley Roby's decision whether to turn pro or stay?

Austin Ward
  (2:23 PM)

Nothing yet from the Roby camp or Ohio State, but the time to make a decision is running out. Roby never publicly stated what it would take to get him to leave early this offseason, though privately others have indicated he would probably only jump if he got a first-round grade. I don't think he'll get one at this point even after his huge season, and Roby also really seemed intent on competing for a championship with Ohio State -- I think he'll be back.

Evan Grimm (North Olmsted, OH)

Who do you see competing for starting linebackers? Do you think Roby will stay another year?

Austin Ward
  (2:27 PM)

Just touched on the Roby situation, obviously, but if he did leave, that would make the competition at cornerback just as interesting to watch as the linebackers. Doran Grant would be the favorite for one job, but if Roby did leave, then all those true freshmen could be jockeying for a lot more playing time than might have been anticipated. As for the linebackers, this is a huge offseason for Curtis Grant, and how he responds to another year on the sideline with his work ethic and dedication heading into spring practice should set the tone for how the Buckeyes handle the rest of the young guys looking for action. Jamal Marcus, Joshua Perry, Camren Williams and David Perkins all bring good stuff to the table, and the Buckeyes will have to settle on which parts fit best in different roles to complement Shazier during spring. If Grant can get back to looking like a starter at middle linebacker like he was supposed to be in August, the Buckeyes could actually be able to use more than one unit next fall.

M Bradshaw (MD)

T-Pryor / 3 TDS Sunday!

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Do you see Jim Tressel as a head coach somewhere again?

Austin Ward
  (2:31 PM)

At some point, a program is going to give him a chance to get back on the sideline. And given his track record, he'll probably reward them. The trick is balancing the show-cause penalty and punishments with what he could provide long-term, and no team was willing to make the plunge during this silly season. A program that could have potentially been interested like Tennessee, for example, really couldn't pursue him because of its own NCAA issues. And while that only applied to a few schools, it's doubtful in my mind that a coach with a national title would really want to go back down to a conference below the BCS AQ level, which limits his options somewhat.

Bryan (Ann Arbor, MI)

How do you see OSU dealing with LB's next season? It seems like we are going to be counting on coaching up a lot of very young players next spring. Can they do that quick enough not to have a huge drop in the defense?

Austin Ward
  (2:35 PM)

While there are obvious negatives to having so few veterans and only one established player returning at linebacker, one advantage Ohio State could have down the road is that it was able to get a handful of strong, fast, athletic rising sophomores possibly ready for bigger roles early with limited work last season on defense and expanded gigs on special teams. The Buckeyes certainly wouldn't mind having had the chance to bring Marcus, Perkins, Perry or Williams along more slowly, but it might work out for them better this season and next now that they've already had a taste of what's required and can benefit from that, spring practice and a full offseason with the strength program.

Matt (Coshocton)

I no he's a family man and a announcer but have the buckeyes ever tried to get Chris spielman on there coaching staff?

Austin Ward
  (2:38 PM)

I don't know what kind of conversations he's had with the program about a coaching role in the past, but I do know that's not something that's being discussed now since there's no room on the staff for him at the moment. Because of the reasons you mentioned, Matt, I don't know if it's even something that would interest him -- but I'd have to think he would be a fantastic teacher if it did.

Evan Grimm (North Olmsted, OH)

Do you think the the offense will be more explosive next year with the potential weapons coming to Columbus?

Austin Ward
  (2:41 PM)

I think it will be more explosive because of the weapons that are already in Columbus. Aside from Reid Fragel, the entire offensive line is returning -- and Taylor Decker is ready to fill in at right tackle after nearly winning the job in August. The only target departing is Jake Stoneburner, and the Buckeyes have two tight ends more than capable of emerging in the passing game and saw Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas earning more trust at receiver late in the season. Add to that the development of Philly Brown and Devin Smith, the incredible second half of Carlos Hyde as a bulldozing, touchdown-scoring machine and the return of Jordan Hall for another season and Ohio State is absolutely loaded as it is. Oh yeah, some guy named Braxton Miller is coming back with a year under his belt in the spread offense, too.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Ok, who do you think would be able to step up for Miller on the outside if Quick doesn't come to help? Would you agree the Buckeyes do need a consistent outside threat to emerge for Braxton next season in order to contend/play for a national title?

Austin Ward
  (2:43 PM)

Assuming Jordan Hall shakes off the injury bug that got him before and during his scheduled senior season, he's got a lot of the skills that Meyer wants in a versatile playmaker in that hybrid, Pivot role on the outside. It's clear now that Carlos Hyde will be the every-down back, and that could make it easier to tailor some packages specifically for Hall and add another dimension to an offense that already has no problems scoring points. I don't think that's an absolute necessity to contend for a national championship though, because the more pressing concerns are on the other side of the ball.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Granted, Urban Meyer would highly unlikely never jump ship for a head coaching job at NFL, but how do you feel Meyer would do in the NFL?

Austin Ward
  (2:46 PM)

I think his biggest strength is as a motivator, which lends itself more to the college game. But a close second is his insatiable desire to learn more about offensive football and constantly adapt to what defenses are trying to do to keep points off the board, which I think would lend itself to a pro game that seems ready (maybe more willing) to evolve than it has been in the past. The Redskins are the best example of that right now, and I could see Meyer having that kind of success with the proper guys in place. It would be fascinating to see how his approach to managing his team would work at that level, but I don't think the lifestyle suits him at all.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Your thoughts on Orlando Pace... Hall of Famer?

Austin Ward
  (2:48 PM)

He'd have my vote, no doubt about that. I never covered him, of course, but I don't remember seeing a guy dominate at that position like that.

joim trevethan (solon ohio)

Tressel will coach again but is there any rumors out now with all the coaching changes both in the NFL and the NCAA

Austin Ward
  (2:50 PM)

There were rumors connecting him to some lesser BCS jobs like Kentucky, but nothing substantial. The ship has pretty much sailed for this year as the jobs have filled up, though a smaller round could pop up if a college coach or two jumps to the NFL -- though I think it's unlikely Tressel gets mentioned.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Have a prediction for Monday's championship game?

Austin Ward
  (2:51 PM)

I am taking Alabama and expecting the SEC to keep its streak alive. I picked it 27-10 -- just believe the Tide is too talented on both sides of the ball for Notre Dame.

Alex (OH)

What are your thoughts on the B1G performance in their bowl games?

Austin Ward
  (2:52 PM)

I think the league has handled itself reasonably well during the bowl season, particularly when compared to the disappointment of its nonconference performance in September and the skepticism the bowl lineup produced with Ohio State and Penn State not in the mix. Purdue, obviously, didn't offer much. But really it seems like the punchlines this year have focused elsewhere.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

I also am of the "can't wait till fall mindset" and look forward to Meyer's second go-round. Which 2-3 games do you think will be the toughest to get through next year? I read a while back, an article that thought it would be San Diego State. I figure it has to be a B1G game, right?

Austin Ward
  (2:54 PM)

It will definitely come from a conference game, Dakota. San Diego State isn't a pushover, but it won't provide anywhere near the intensity of competitiveness of a Big Ten meeting with Wisconsin, a road trip to Northwester or a rivalry showdown with Michigan, which to me stand as the biggest tests.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Any first round talent on the Buckeyes (aside from possibly Roby)?

Austin Ward
  (2:56 PM)

Absolutely looks like it to me, and I think there is at least one candidate on either side of the ball capable of breaking into that conversation -- Ryan Shazier and Jack Mewhort could hear their names talked about plenty by scouts soon.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

I've read a number of columnists who think that OSU will be running away with the B1G in the next few seasons. I think they have potential to do so, but will hold my judgement until we see the progress made over the next off season. Do you see it becoming OSU and the other 11 (or 13) in the next few years?

Austin Ward
  (2:58 PM)

I don't think I would go that far, but Ohio State has a chance to solidify itself as a contender, perhaps even regular preseason favorite, every year with its combination of top-notch recruiting and a proven winner leading the program. The money flowing into the Big Ten, though, should help the other schools rise along with them, with Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, etc., all capable of competing and winning at a high level and keeping it entertaining all year.

Evan Grimm (North Olmsted, OH)

What does Braxton have to improve on the most in the passing game?

Austin Ward
  (3:01 PM)

Strange as it may sound, the part of his skill set that Meyer harped on most at the end of the year was Miller's scrambling ability. With his incredible speed and acceleration, it's hard to picture that as something he would struggle with, but there were times late in the season where it looked like he was either hesitant to tuck and run on passing plays or trying too hard to make a play with his arm when there were running lanes ahead of him. In terms of pure passing, Miller's got to shore up his footwork in the pocket.

Austin Ward
  (3:02 PM)

Awesome questions to start of 2013, guys. Tried to squeeze in as many as I could before my time ran out -- maybe we'll get to even more next week. Same time, same location. Happy New Year to all of you!