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January 10, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Austin Ward

Vladimir (Moscow)

Austin! ESPN and others tell us that the SEC's dominance will never end and their teams can not be beaten. Tell me something different, especially with the Buckeyes

Austin Ward
  (2:02 PM)

Vladimir, the SEC run has no doubt been impressive and it's hard to bet against a streak like that -- but really, it's been Alabama more than the conference over the last four years. Eventually it's going to come to an end, and Ohio State could well be building an SEC-type machine capable of knocking the Crimson Tide or LSU or Florida off the perch in the next few years. Nothing lasts forever.

Austin Ward
  (2:03 PM)

One quick bit of breaking news while we're in here -- Jordan Hall has received his medical redshirt and will be back for another season with the Buckeyes.

Nick (Kettering,OH)

Does the possibility of Brian Kelly leaving ND, give the OSU staff a chance to convert some ND recruits?

Austin Ward
  (2:04 PM)

That's a question better suited for my BuckeyeNation colleague Brad Bournival, but my guess is it wouldn't have much of an impact on Ohio State as it heads toward National Signing Day given where the numbers currently stand.

Richard (Vienna, Virginia)

Will Meyer bolt to ND if Kelly leaves for the NFL?

Austin Ward
  (2:05 PM)

That seems pretty unlikely to me, Richard. Notre Dame is probably the only other job in college football that would even interest Meyer at this point, but the way he talks about Ohio State, how quickly he's got the ball rolling, the fact he's only been around for a season -- I just can't see that happening.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

Did you get to see Urban as a commentator for the NCG? Is there anybody who doesn't want him?? But really, do you think things like this (and the OSU training days they did last year) substantially help to showcase Ohio State to prospective recruits?

Austin Ward
  (2:11 PM)

They certainly don't hurt, Dakota, and if Meyer didn't think the exposure would help Ohio State, he wouldn't be doing things like flying down to the title game or bringing in ESPN for All-Access shows. Another factor in that is not every coach in the country is even afforded that opportunity -- it's not like networks are lining up to bring in coaches from the Mountain West that would kill for that exposure as well. Meyer's reputation and Ohio State's huge fan base puts the Buckeyes in a unique recruiting position moving forward.

Richard (Virginia)

Does Cal become more worrisome with a more wide open scheme and new coach....on the road?

Austin Ward
  (2:12 PM)

I wouldn't have expected Cal to pose as much of a problem for the Buckeyes as they did last year, to be honest. And while it's difficult for anybody to go across the country and win a game, I don't think the Golden Bears have enough talent to turn things around overnight, and they're going to have a very difficult time slowing down the Ohio State offense.

clayton (flordia)

with hall coming back how does that affect the rbs we have now and coming in???

Austin Ward
  (2:15 PM)

It's not going to change Carlos Hyde's standing as the starting tailback, that's for sure. He made it clear that he was the best option for that role with his breakout performances in the second half -- but Hall's return should allow Meyer to do more of the things with the hybrid, Pivot position he wasn't able to in Year One. Hall could offer six or seven touches as either a rusher or receiver that add another dynamic to the spread, and that should really be a positive for offensive coordinator Tom Herman. It never hurts to add another weapon, and if Hall is really able to get back to the level Ohio State expected him to be at last season, it could help the passing game the most.

Mike (Columbus, Ohio)

I understand how a high number of people out there running the Big down like they do but truly, do you believe that tOSU should be run down in the same sentence as the rest of the Big?

Austin Ward
  (2:17 PM)

There probably wouldn't have been as much incentive for people to do so if Ohio State had been eligible for the postseason this year, because there was a chance the Big Ten could have ended the SEC's streak this year if the Buckeyes had met Notre Dame for the BCS crown. The conference showed in the bowl games it wasn't as down as many accused it of being, even in postseason performances certainly aren't a perfect way of evaluating the strength of the league.

tj (cleveland)

how does the buckeye recruiting class close? Vonn Bell? Any athlete/receivers?

Austin Ward
  (2:18 PM)

My prognostications aren't worth a heck of a lot, TJ, since my main focus is on the guys already on campus given the way our coverage is structured. My man Brad Bournival has a full breakdown over at BuckeyeNation though.

Ben (Columbus)

Austin, given the way Urban stacked the D Line recruits last year, and with basically a full LB corp and backfield stocked with top DB's, give them 2 years with Braxton as a senior and plenty of new weapons...as excited as I am for 2013, I think 2014 may well be there year. Thoughts?

Austin Ward
  (2:21 PM)

The next two years are both shaping up to be pretty promising for the Buckeyes, though there could be some areas of concern heading into each of those seasons -- and they figure to alternate. Right now, Ohio State has to address the void of experience at linebacker and on the defensive line, though it should roll up plenty of points. The season after that, it could be looking at an offensive line that needs plenty of new faces to fill in and support Miller -- and a defense that should be loaded with experience at every level. The Buckeyes are already going to be in position to contend, but they haven't completely restocked the cupboards with elite talent at every spot quite yet.

Richard (Virginia)

A lot was made of osu Ooc schedule this year....next year we play fcs fl a&m. But Bama hosts 2 fcs teams Why don't they receive the same criticism?

Austin Ward
  (2:23 PM)

The SEC has actually received plenty of criticism for the way it schedules outside of the league, particularly when the drama disappears in November when the division titles are largely set in stone and it is effectively scheduling late bye weeks against overmatched FCS foes. But it doesn't really do any damage to the perception of the league because the depth of the conference and the difficulty of making it through a league schedule is still incredibly challenging.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

I've read a few articles that show how Bama has had historically good recruiting classes which has helped put them in the situation they are in now. Do you think that OSU could realistically meet them in the NCG (big assumptions being made of course they both are to make it) and have the needed depth in order to make it a game next year? Or will more time be needed in order to get the depth to compete? Would love to see how both Meyer and Saban would prepare for each other given that much time though

Austin Ward
  (2:26 PM)

If the comparison is directly between Ohio State and Alabama, then the Buckeyes aren't yet back to that level where there are five-star athletes who can't even get on the field. But that's true for really every other program in the country compared to the Crimson Tide right now, whether it's Oregon or Florida or anybody else. The classes Saban has stacked on top of each other are really hard to find an equivalent for anywhere. That doesn't mean the Buckeyes don't have more talent on hand than most other programs though, because they do and will have a schedule that allows them to get back in a title game quickly. At that point, it would be fascinating once again to see Meyer and Saban match wits.

Kevin (Columbus, OH)

Austin, with 6 new starters in the defensive front 7 next year on Week 1, do you think Ohio State will have a decent defense? With all the money the assistant coaches are making, how much freedom are they allowed with schemes and defensive formats, i.e. 4-3 vs 3-4? The front end will be young next year, do you see the coaches molding players into the existing 4-3 format, or putting the best 11 on the field and letting them have at it?

Austin Ward
  (2:29 PM)

Luke Fickell and Co. showed late in the season that they won't be married to one scheme all year long or even all game, and the ability to be flexible with alignments and confuse offenses is extremely important for the Buckeyes with their personnel. One way they did that already was having Nathan Williams play the hybrid role between linebacker and defensive end, allowing the defense to shift seamlessly between 3-4 and 4-3 depending on what it was trying to accomplish on each down. A guy like Noah Spence has that same ability, and Ohio State will continue to look for guys with that kind of athleticism to play multiple spots.

Jeff (Chicago)

Do you see Urban making any significant changes to his schemes as he bring in more and more of "his" type of players through recruiting.

Austin Ward
  (2:32 PM)

I don't think he will necessarily be changing his offensive scheme as much as actually being able to dive in more completely. One thing that was missing last year, as mentioned previously with Jordan Hall, was the ability to unleash the Pivot position and stress defenses with a player who could get the ball anywhere on the field, force defenders to account for him and still be a threat to score. There were only glimpses at times of the kind of plays Meyer used with Florida, the Pop passes or touch passes with slot guys coming in motion (Philly Brown did that a few times, for example), and as the offense adds more athletic pieces, the offense will expand. But that doesn't necessarily mean a change in philosophy for Meyer.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

I'm starting to think people may not listen to you Austin when you say you aren't the recruiting expert!

Austin Ward
  (2:32 PM)

I'm trying to tell them, Dakota. Brad has his finger on the pulse, and I'm going to have to get him in here for a live chat before National Signing Day.

Richard (Virginia)

Of late the SEC has played OOC games Late in season in case big SEC games are lost early. This helps to keep poll drops to a minimum. Should the BIG follow suit and play league games earlier?

Austin Ward
  (2:35 PM)

That's an interesting idea, Richard, but I think by the time the playoff starts and a committee gets involved, the benefits of trying to tweak the polls with that approach might be negated. The humans looking at blind resumes might still put some stock in a strong finish, but the plan is for the committee to be evaluating resumes as a whole -- and simply playing weak nonconference opponents should downgrade teams no matter when the game is played. At least, that's the theory as teams start building up stronger schedules outside of the conference.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

What do you think the chances are that one of the two current 150 LB's recruited actually make the starting line up come fall? Tough position to just walk in and be successful at to be sure.

Austin Ward
  (2:38 PM)

Linebacker and offensive line are two spots, in my experience, where true freshmen have a hard time playing meaningful roles early on -- and coaches typically don't want them in spots like that that are so critical. With the number of talented guys Ohio State recruited at the second level last year, it's counting much more on Jamal Marcus, David Perkins, Camren Williams, Joshua Perry or rising junior Curtis Grant than a newcomer. That doesn't mean a freshman can't do it, but it's not something I am penciling in.

mark (gallipolis)

Austin, what are your preditions for next year

Austin Ward
  (2:39 PM)

I have a lot, Mark. Anything in particular you want me to predict?

clayton (flordia)

i see where we have i think 5 incoming recruits already signed and enrolled, can you explain why we see so many of them doing so each year??

Austin Ward
  (2:41 PM)

Guys that want to compete for playing time early really benefit from getting on campus for a number of reasons. Physically, they get involved in the weight program right away. They also get a jump on learning the system from the 15 spring practice days, which is a significant number. It also really helps to just learn what college life is like, how to handle the time and responsibility, and it's a lot easier when there aren't games to worry about. It's not a move for everybody, because they have to sacrifice what I remember as a pretty fun final semester in high school. But that's the advantage the kids are looking for.

Shannon (Portland, OR)

With the Medical Redshirt being granted to Jordan Hall do you see any of the RB's in the stable leaving TOSU? I keep reading about Hyde and the NFL but I don't think he would go high enough in the draft for it to be worthwhile...but what are hearing/thinking?

Austin Ward
  (2:43 PM)

Carlos Hyde hasn't indicated publicly one way or the other, but by and large Ohio State is expecting him back for another season to boost his stock. There haven't been any other suggestions that a running back is set to leave the program at this point, and one more season with Hall around doesn't seem like something that should really discourage a player from competing in the backfield. Meyer has proven a number of times he will get a player involved if he's capable of providing something to the offense.

Richard (Virginia)

Do you see Fickel taking a HC job by the end of 2014? He could use some Maction to expand his resume and build his philosophy

Austin Ward
  (2:45 PM)

I think Fickell will continue to have options, but I don't think he would jump at the chance to coach in the MAC just to expand his resume. He already makes about twice as much as any school could pay him at that level, and if the Buckeyes do wind up returning to the Silver Bullets of old under his watch while the school is competing/winning championships, he'll probably have an opportunity to skip that step entirely.

M Bradshaw (MD)

I quit the cigs!

Austin Ward
  (2:45 PM)

Congrats, M Bradshaw!

Mike (Columbus, Ohio)

Austin, no disrespect at all but, if you are out of Wyo. how long have you followed the Buckeyes and do you have any scarlet colored blood in you? :)

Austin Ward
  (2:48 PM)

No offense taken, but rooting interests aren't a part of being a beat writer. I've been covering college football as a professional journalist for a while now and have been a fan of the game as a whole for a lot longer than that, so it's not like Ohio State was something I was unfamiliar with before I arrived in Columbus to start covering the program.

John (Wooster, OH)

Heard a rumor of playing Clemson in Georgia Dome in 2017. Can you confirm?

Austin Ward
  (2:48 PM)

Not at this point, John.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

On that same topic, do you think Saban and Meyer are the best coaches in all of college football? Looking at their successes I think it could develop into the big 2 and little 118. Obviously there are other good coaches but are these two the only truly elite? Both always show up for the big games

Austin Ward
  (2:51 PM)

I think those two guys are on top of the profession right now, but there are too many others around and too many athletes spread around the country for the game to ever reach a point where it's consistently down to just two programs. If Texas ever wakes up again, for example, there's too much readily available talent in that state for a program with resources like it has to stay down. USC is in the same boat. Plus, there are coaches like Chip Kelly and Bob Stoops that are capable of sustained success -- so, just that small group will keep things interesting by itself, but there's so many more elsewhere.

Kevin (Columbus, OH)

On special teams, I like Drew Basil, though he only attempted 11 field goals this past year. But nearly had more tackles (5) this year than field goals made (8). How is this not a great statistical relationship for a kicker to have? Should Basil be moved from safety to gunner on Kick-offs?

Austin Ward
  (2:53 PM)

Wow, that's some pretty good statistical research right there, Kevin. I don't think Basil has the athleticism to make that switch, and he might have to settle for a relatively light workload if Meyer continues to coach as aggressively as he did this year in terms of fourth-down attempts and foregoing field goals. Somehow I don't think Ohio State fans mind that approach.

Richard (Virginia)

I read somewhere that San Diego state poses a bigger threat than Michigan to derail a perfect season next year. Am I missing something?

Austin Ward
  (2:56 PM)

I think San Diego State is a fine program and will be well coached when it comes to the Shoe, but I can't see any way the Aztecs will pose a bigger threat than a road trip to play rival Michigan for Ohio State. The Game was fiercely contested this year even while the Wolverines were making a mockery of themselves with their offensive play-calling. So, no, you're not missing anything. Michigan will be a much, much tougher game than San Diego State.

Jeff (Chicago)

How do you see the team up north faring against OSU in the next few years when considering both coaches' style and recruiting success so far.

Austin Ward
  (2:58 PM)

Michigan has shown some steady improvement on defense, and that will certainly be imperative for it as it matches up with the spread attack Ohio State is implementing and already having big success with. Both appear to be doing a great job on the recruiting trail, but based on the last couple weeks, it seems Meyer and his crew are starting to clean up a bit more and re-establish themselves as the top dog in the Big Ten after trailing in the 2013 rankings for much of the year. The rivalry could be in store for some monumental showdowns, but Meyer's already gained an edge over Hoke and it might be tough to wrestle it away.

Steveb (Columbus)

Kenny Guiten seems to be a pretty good QB and there are teams out there that would allow him to play, Any chance he tries to transfer out or take a redshirt year? He obviously wont get a chance to play much while Braxton is around.

Austin Ward
  (3:00 PM)

Kenny Guiton has already taken a redshirt, so his only option would be to drop down a level. From my experiences with him, he loves being at Ohio State too much and has still found ways to contribute, obviously, so I would be stunned if he left.

Dakota (Lancaster, OH)

What are your thoughts on the upcoming playoff as far as conferences getting in? Emphasis is supposed to be on conference champions, and with five "power" conferences somebody obviously gets left out. Do you think having four different conferences is the norm or will it be just three? Two? Does this help or hurt the BIG?

Austin Ward
  (3:02 PM)

I think there might come a point where there will only be four super-conferences, and that might solve that issue for access. But that's probably getting a bit too far ahead of things. The way the last few seasons have played out, I would expect three conferences might wind up being the average. The Big Ten champion should almost always be in great shape for inclusion, so I anticipate the new system helping the league.

Mike (Columbus, Ohio)

Austin, Please correct me if I am wrong here. I didn't miss one second of any games this year with my Bucks and there was one back that stood well above the rest....Rod Smith. Is this Rod Smith cousins of Yeldon from Bama. They are both absolute beasts for 18 year olds. I hear these folks looking for more threats with new recruits and Rod Smith no doubt from what I saw this year could be a Heisman contender if he got to play more. What's your thoughts on him?

Austin Ward
  (3:04 PM)

I think a Heisman campaign is probably a stretch for Rod Smith, but from a physical standpoint, he's definitely capable of providing a big boost to the offense in the backfield. The thing that's holding him back, though, is his carelessness with the football. When he gets going with his speed and his size, he's certainly tough to bring down. But until he takes better care of the ball, he's going to continue to be a complementary piece behind Hyde and potentially Hall to some extent.

Austin Ward
  (3:04 PM)

Thanks for all the fantastic questions again this week, folks. Enjoyed it, as always.