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April 18, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Austin Ward

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Who will be the First Ohio St. Buckeye that will be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft?

Austin Ward
  (2:02 PM)

Johnathan Hankins seems to be slipping down the board a bit heading into the draft, but he's still a sure pick to be the first player from the program to be taken next week. It will be interesting to see what happens with John Simon, because opinions appear to be all over the place with the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. I know if I had a voice in a war room, I'd want a guy like that on my team.

Joe (Home of Football (Stark County))

Any Stark county prospects Duckworth at Louisville or Kirk from Marlington or Devers (Massillon) or any others garnering any interest?

Austin Ward
  (2:04 PM)

Joe -- I'm not the guy to go to for the expert analysis on the recruiting game, unfortunately. I leave that stuff up to my colleague Brad Bournival, who is all over that aspect of covering the Buckeyes. Unless I'm mistaken, though, I don't think any of those you mentioned currently have offers from Ohio State. But Brad will have the answers for sure on that and has that part of the beat down cold. I always defer to him on those matters.

Sean (G)

What do you think the realistic chances of OSU making it to the title. I do recognize the talent but unsure about how it will play out. I could see them losing a game if Miller has an off day but then again the schedule is so easy.

Austin Ward
  (2:07 PM)

Braxton Miller certainly is the one guy who truly turns the Buckeyes into a national title threat, but they have survived some off days by the quarterback already under Meyer. Purdue, Wisconsin, even Penn State at times -- he wasn't at his best in those games, and he certainly wasn't anywhere near the level of passer Tom Herman is helping mold him into now. The key will be the continued development of the defense, which was obviously critical in a game like Wisconsin last year, just for example. The Buckeyes showed signs this spring that they should be able to fill the voids left by the seniors, particularly with the defensive linemen and if a guy like Curtis Grant does truly flip the switch like it appears he has. I don't think it's a stretch for the Buckeyes to get to the game at all.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

Who has been more impressive: Washington or Spence?

Austin Ward
  (2:09 PM)

That's really hard to pick, Andrew -- which is one reason Mike Vrabel can smile a little easier these days. At the start of camp, I would have given Spence the edge because he was eating up anybody trying to block him thanks to his speed, even if it was Jack Mewhort. At the end, Washington's power was really showing up and he was flashing the big-time potential heading into the spring game. I think in some ways it just depends on what impresses an individual most because Spence's speed is astounding, and Washington's build and the way he plays with that frame is just as eye-catching.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

After spring practices, what's your remaining concern(s) going into fall camp?

Austin Ward
  (2:11 PM)

The linebacker group is not a finished product yet, so it will continue to be a hot topic leading into August and perhaps all the way through it as the competition gets a bit more heated with a couple extra bodies. Curtis Grant's emergence is a real bonus for the Buckeyes in the middle, because they already know what they have in Shazier, and if they can play either Perry or Perkins at the other outside spot, they would be in good shape. There still isn't a lot of depth to speak of, though, so that's the area that will be watched most closely.

John Simon (The weight room)

Some experts have me in the second round, others have me as low as the sixth round. Where do you see me?

Austin Ward
  (2:13 PM)

Depending on if you showed them a clean bill medically, John, I would think you should be coming off the board in the second or the third. If you slip any lower, I would have to think there are concerns about your ability to hold up physically or the position you are best suited for at the next level -- but I know I would want you in my locker room.

Dave (Cbus)

What incoming freshmen do you think will see a decent amount of playing time this year?

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Which freshmen will make his presence knownt in 2013?

Austin Ward
  (2:15 PM)

The guys that will have the best chance to get on the field quickly or impact the season will be at the skill positions. It's a bit of a coaching cliche, but the further away in the formation a guy is from the ball, the easier the transition. So, look for speedy threats like Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall or James Clark to be the top contenders to come in and make a push for playing time right away.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

How has Curtis Grant progressed this offseason?

Austin Ward
  (2:17 PM)

The reviews from the coaching staff were extremely positive for Grant's devotion to the game and his newfound approach to working off the field. On the field, in the open practices I saw, it was clearly showing up. The guy has always looked the part, and this spring was no exception. But his reads seemed to come more quickly, he was solid as a tackler and was somebody who clearly looked like a different guy than the one who couldn't hang on to a starting job when he had it last fall.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

At one point, Hankins was considered a first round talent. Now there's some discussion about the third round. Why the sudden drop?

Austin Ward
  (2:19 PM)

There are a lot of options at his position, for starters, and the crowded pool of interior linemen means that somebody has to drop a bit. There have also been some concerns about his lack of many big plays last season, which I think kind of overlooks his ability to occupy blockers while still being a great run-stuffer, but those two things are causing this apparent slide.

Charles (Columbus, OH)

How confident are you that Braxton Miller will get some help on the outside after witnessing spring ball?

Austin Ward
  (2:21 PM)

I don't think there's any question that Braxton will have plenty of options at his disposal. Philly Brown has taken yet another step forward in the spread offense, Devin Smith isn't totally consistent yet but is an invaluable deep threat, and Chris Fields, Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas are all well ahead of where they were a year ago. Throw in the speed from the signing class and a deep stable of running backs, and this Ohio State offense is absolutely terrifying to try to defend.

Bud (Canfield)

Do you follow any Major League Baseball? Have a favorite team?

Austin Ward
  (2:21 PM)

Sure do, Bud. I'm a lifelong Braves fan -- and really enjoying the start of the season, obviously.

Derrin (Plano, TX)

Will Urban Meyer try to use Dontre Wilson in a manner similar to Percy Harvin at Florida?

Austin Ward
  (2:23 PM)

Definitely will, Derrin, that's the plan with Wilson. He will be cross-trained with the wide receivers and the running backs when he arrives on campus, giving him a variety of ways to touch the ball and potentially break open plays with his explosive athleticism. Jalin Marshall will do some of the same things, but Meyer has spoke openly about his desire to find a guy (or two) to fill the "Percy Position," and Wilson is going to get a long look there.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

At the end of the season, the best receiver on the Buckeyes will be....

Austin Ward
  (2:25 PM)

Philly Brown will be the most productive receiver on the roster this fall, from start to finish. He's probably not going to be burning many cornerbacks deep the way Devin Smith will, but Brown has added to his repertoire as a short and intermediate route-runner, is typically reliable with his hands and has a good knack for working well with Miller when plays break down and the quarterback scrambles. I expect Brown will put up some huge numbers.

Tony (Richmond, CA)

Braxton Miller took a pounding last year in Urban Meyer's spread offense? Who is the No.2 starter right now? And is he capable of executing the offense at a high level if Miller were to get his bell rung again?

Austin Ward
  (2:27 PM)

Nothing has changed for the Buckeyes at quarterback. Kenny Guiton is back as a redshirt senior, and the coaching staff could not be any more confident in what they have backing up Miller. Guiton proved on numerous occasions that he can fill in and keep the offense clicking thanks to his deep knowledge of the playbook and better athleticism than he gets credit for. Would there be a drop off if Miller were out for an extended period of time? Absolutely, because there aren't many people who can do what Braxton can do. But Guiton is still well equipped to steer the ship if needed.

Phil (Columbus)

Ready to make a national title game prediction? If anything, give us a BIG Championship game prediction and winner?

Austin Ward
  (2:30 PM)

Wow, I'm not sure I'm quite at the point where I could lock one down yet, Phil. I think the path is clear for Ohio State to get back to the BCS title game, and it probably will be favored in every game. The other pick that seems logical to me is Alabama, based both on their recent track record and the insane recruiting roll it has been on. As for the Big Ten title, I think the conference is probably headed for an Ohio State-Nebraska showdown -- which it also would have had last year, incidentally.

Charles (Columbus, OH)

Are any of the young Buckeye defensive tackles ready to step up and become factors on the interior now that Hankins has gone to the NFL?

Austin Ward
  (2:32 PM)

Joel Hale isn't young, and neither is Michael Bennett, but both of them have really done encouraging things for Mike Vrabel on the interior. The hopes are still high for Tommy Schutt as well, though the rising sophomore was slowed by a couple injuries this spring. Another returner starting to turn more heads is Chris Carter, believe it or not, and if he's able to keep his weight under control and build a bit more endurance, throwing in somebody at close to 340 pounds to stop the run would be a significant addition to the rotation.

Phil (Cincinnati)

I am interested to hear how the early enrollees, and less heralded recruits are doing i.e. Tyquan Lewis, Tracy Sprinkle...Also, I have always been impressed with Jamal Marcus' motor and physicality...Will he see the field?

Austin Ward
  (2:38 PM)

Lewis and Sprinkle have some tools, but there is certainly a long way to go for those guys before they could crack the rotation on the line. That's not a knock on them, because playing at this level when a kid is supposed to be getting ready to graduate high school isn't easy. It's a plus for them that they've each been able to get on campus and figure out where they need to improve early, which should help them start pushing for more at this time next year. Marcus has a decent shot at seeing some action as a backup now that he's moved to defensive end, which I think was a good switch for him. He looks more natural and comfortable there, and that nasty, relentless approach of his could be beneficial if he only needs it in short bursts this season.

Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)

How do you see the backup RB battle finishing out?

Austin Ward
  (2:41 PM)

There's really not much doubt that Rod Smith is the top guy behind Carlos Hyde. From a natural talent standpoint, that probably would have always been clear in a competition against Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball. But Smith still had to prove it with the way he approached practice and every carry in the spring, particularly with Hyde largely watching a lot of the workouts since he had nothing to prove. Smith delivered, breaking some big runs, fighting through tackles -- and generally taking better care of the football. Dunn and Ball really haven't done enough to pull away from the other as the No. 3 guy, but that's a tribute to each of them because they both had moments in the spring where they looked really dangerous.

Derrin (Plano, TX)

What is the strength of the Buckeye defense at this point? Do you think this defense will be strong enough to allow Ohio State to play for a national championship?

Austin Ward
  (2:42 PM)

It all starts in the secondary for the Buckeyes, and that group will no doubt be leading the charge when the season starts. Having a first-team All-American cornerback and two seniors starting at safety makes the defensive backfield an easy pick as the strength of the team, and it will also be where the majority of the leadership comes from as the Buckeyes fill six different starting jobs in the front seven. By the end of the season, though, there's a chance Spence and Washington could turn that defensive line into a group that could at least make this more of an argument.

rodzay183 (south carolina)

do you think ohio state go undefeated.

Austin Ward
  (2:49 PM)

It's hard to pick against them running the table through the Big Ten title game at this point. There are still a few questions to be answered on defense, and road games against Northwestern and Michigan could prove to be hurdles for the Buckeyes, but I think Ohio State will be in the BCS title game. I don't know yet if they've got the defensive ability to win it, but there's a long summer ahead of us to debate it.

Aaron (Leesburg, VA)

Is LaQuinton Ross the heir apparent to replace DeShaun Thomas as the star, and go to guy, on the Buckeye basketball team?

Austin Ward
  (2:51 PM)

From a scoring perspective, Ross will need to be that go-to guy for the Buckeyes if they're going to have the type of season they just did -- or perhaps better. The star and face of the franchise will be Craft, but I think Ohio State might be better balanced next year on offense anyway with guys like Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson improving their games on that end of the floor.

Dave (Cbus)

Is our O-Line that far behind our young D-Line or was that just the way it seemed in the spring game?

Austin Ward
  (2:54 PM)

Well, that was hardly the real Ohio State offensive line. Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley watched the entire spring game from the sideline, and while Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall were on the field at guard, that was really the only thing that was normal for that group. Taylor Decker is the favorite to win the job at right tackle, but he was on the other side of the formation in place of Mewhort. Chase Farris is coming on to push Decker and could play multiple spots on the line, but he's not technically a starter at right tackle and those guys were having to battle rising stars in Washington and Spence. The spring game is instructive in a few ways, but it shouldn't lead to any concern at all about the offensive line.

Austin Ward
  (2:57 PM)

All right, folks. Really good stuff today, hope you all enjoyed it. Catch you next time!