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 (1:58 PM)
Hey everybody! Welcome to the first BuckeyeNation chat. Let's get it started.
Jay (Carmel, IN)
How good is Bradley Roby? does he join the likes of shawn springs, chris gamble, antoine winfield or nate clements this year?
Austin Ward (2:01 PM)
There's a good chance Roby could put himself in the conversation. He clearly has the tools, and while the coaching staff has been careful to not get carried away with the hype, they definitely like what they have in him at cornerback. Good ball skills, fantastic speed -- all they want is for him to make sure he approaches every play with the same level of intensity and find that consistency that could put him in on a list like that.
pam (princeton, nj)
Austin, is it just me or has ESPN decided that it's ok to speak positively about Ohio State? I don't ever remember an All-Access featuring the Buckeyes. Is it because of Meyer having been an employee?
Austin Ward (2:05 PM)
I have heard plenty about the perceived bias against the Buckeyes since taking the job here at ESPN, but I really don't think it's accurate. I used to hear the same accusations about the company from Tennessee fans when I covered that program. The interest level in a program like Ohio State that has the largest number of fans in the country means that many more stories that might not be national news at a place like, say, Colorado or Washington, make SportsCenter. But I think that's only because the decision-makers know there's interest in it.As for the All-Access series -- I think Urban Meyer's relationship and familiarity with ESPN probably worked in favor of both parties in trying to put it together.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
How do you think that Ohio State will do in College Football in 2012?
Austin Ward (2:07 PM)
I see a team that could easily finish with double-digit wins, which would really set up the Buckeyes for a run next year as it builds some momentum for a season that will really count. The critical game in my opinion is heading up to Michigan State to open Big Ten play -- it should reveal just how good the Buckeyes can be this fall. Win that one, and there's a real possibility they could get to 10-0 before that massive closing stretch with Wisconsin and Michigan.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
How much of an impact with Noah Spence make as true freshmen in Columbus?
Austin Ward (2:09 PM)
Spence is clearly going to play, there's no doubt about that. Physically, he came in ready to go. Even without pads on the first time I saw him he looked like he'd been in college for a while. But how big of an impact he'll have is tough to gauge, honestly, because there is so much talent on the defensive line ahead of him. As quick and physical as Spence looks to be, he's still got to contend with guys like John Simon, Michael Bennett, Steve Miller, etc. -- but that's also a benefit for him since he'll have time to learn.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What major differences have you noticed between a spring/fall camp led by Urban Meyer and one by Jim Tressell?
Austin Ward (2:11 PM)
That's tough for me to answer without having seen the previous staff operate a practice, but from the reactions of the players and the feedback I've received, the biggest change is the tempo. It's not just how fast the Buckeyes are running their offense, but the way they move between drills and the expectations for how they practice. There's no wasted time at all on that field from what I've seen.
what position can the buckeyes least afford an injury? GO BUCKS!
Austin Ward (2:13 PM)
On defense, I'd go with linebacker. There is a lot of depth on the line and in the secondary, but there just aren't many bodies the staff seems to have confidence in at the second level. There's a lot invested in Curtis Grant at middle linebacker, and he's somebody that Ohio State needs to keep healthy.Offensively, the line needs to stay in one piece. The newcomers are really talented and the future is bright, but no coaching staff wants to rely on freshmen to come in and contribute in the trenches right away.
is this staff concerned at all re: Hoke & UM picking up steam in OH? hate seeing another great OH LB like Ferns heading to TSUN ...
Austin Ward (2:15 PM)
I don't get the sense that there is any concern about that from Meyer and Co. With so much talent in the state, there have always been some players that got away from the Buckeyes and that's not likely to change. The key for Meyer is making sure he keeps all the ones he needs and wants. For what it's worth, he's vowed to go into Michigan's backyard and compete for recruits if there's anybody up there that catches his eye.
jace (chicago, illinois)
who are some players you can expect to transfer after the season?
Austin Ward (2:17 PM)
It's a little early for me to project something like that, Jace, and also not really fair to the kids involved. There's a lot of time left for them to prove themselves, and transfer situations are always fluid. That's just not something I feel comfortable speculating on in August.
Whatever happened to Verlon Reed? He seemed like the no. 1 receiver last year before he got hurt, haven't heard anything on him this year.
Austin Ward (2:19 PM)
He's in the mix at receiver, Alex, but he's yet to really impress Meyer. As he's proven throughout his career, Meyer isn't shy about expressing his feelings about a player, and the only time he's really talked about Reed much is to say that he couldn't play the pivot position.However, he did mention Sunday that Reed was still "a little gimpy" from the injury, so it might just take more time for him to get back to that previous level.
Ben (Westerville, Oh)
How good is noah spence? Does he remind you of anyone
Austin Ward (2:24 PM)
He's the real deal from what I've seen, Ben. Without seeing him in a game yet, that's a tough question ... but for comparison's sake, there might be a little bit of DeMarcus Ware to Spence's game. He's got the size-speed package that looks like he could play either standing up or in the traditional defensive end spot where the Buckeyes can use him. It will be interesting to see how quickly he gains an understanding of how to play at this level, because physically there doesn't appear to be any issue.
Austin Ward (2:25 PM)
Good stuff so far from you all. Keep it coming!
Is there anyone at the wr position that could be special? Seems like the quality of wr has faded from the rich tradition of players like cart, boston, holmes
Austin Ward (2:30 PM)
I'm not sure the Buckeyes have that true breakout star at wide receiver yet, honestly. With Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Philly Brown -- and now Stoneburner -- there are enough options for the Buckeyes to have a passing game that is dramatically better than a year ago. But I'm not sure any of them qualify as true stars at the position right now.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
I don't mean to beat up on Jim Bollman, but the OL has been the weakness of the Buckeyes in big games vs. premier DLs. What has changed under Urban that can bring optimism to Buckeye fans?
Austin Ward (2:32 PM)
The intensity of Ed Warinner is a great place to start. Again, I didn't know the previous coaching staff, so it's still hard for me to compare those sorts of things. But watching Warinner work last week, I was blown away by his attention to detail and the way he gets after his players. Those guys will absolutely play with a nasty attitude.
Tony (Summerville, SC)
When Urban stated that he would like to have both Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton on the field at the same time, does that mean for gimmick plays or because Guiton is that good of an athlete?
Austin Ward (2:35 PM)
Good question, Tony. Any formation that would include those two players is going to allow for some gimmicky stuff, but I don't think it's Meyer's intent to go all Boise State and dial up circus plays by putting Guiton on the field. He genuinely believes that Guiton has the athletic ability to contribute, though I also don't think the Buckeyes will needlessly complicate things by putting a lot of gadget plays in the package. So, that's a long way of saying it's hard to tell exactly what Guiton would do, but my hunch is that it wouldn't be all that crazy.
Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
How much will the offense improve this season?
Austin Ward (2:37 PM)
I think it's going to be hugely improved. The passing game really could not have been much worse than it was a year ago, and that has been stressed more than anything else through spring and into fall camp. Even if the Buckeyes just improved to the middle of the pack nationally, that would give them an enormous lift in terms of points and yardage considering what they are capable of on the ground.
How much impact will Brionte Dunn have this year?
Austin Ward (2:40 PM)
Dunn has a big opportunity coming his way during the first two weeks of the season. He's currently bracketed with Rod Smith at the backup spot behind Carlos Hyde, but from what I saw a week ago, I believe Dunn will win that battle and get a chance to show what he can do with Jordan Hall on the shelf. Hyde has kind of pulled ahead of those other guys, so how quickly Hall gets up to speed should impact how much the Bucks need Dunn this season -- but I think the freshman could still be a factor even as the third guy by getting a couple touches a game. But, again, I expect he'll have more than a few opportunities early to prove that he has to be used either way.
Besides the Stoneburner "move" to WR, any surprising developments thus far in camp?
Austin Ward (2:42 PM)
That official change for Stoneburner has been the most notable development so far in my mind. The other that really jumped out to me was Adolphus Washington getting so huge (up to 288) and moving to defensive tackle. I expected him to come in and compete at end, but he's seemingly made a seamless transition to the inside and told me on Sunday that there's where he wants to stay.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
Really, two questions on Noah Spence....Really?
Austin Ward (2:42 PM)
I just take them as they come!
How will Zachary borne be used in the offense this year?
Austin Ward (2:44 PM)
Boren suggested over the summer that he would line up all over the field, and the open practices last week confirmed that. The Buckeyes might not hand it to him all that much in the running game -- though it's an option -- but I think he'll be getting some targets in the passing game. He's got reliable hands and much better agility and quickness at his lighter weight, and Meyer has made no secret that he trusts Boren to handle the football.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think Braxton Miller can/will evolve enough as a passer this season to make the Buckeyes a serious championship contender in 2013 when they regain bowl eligibility?
Austin Ward (2:48 PM)
From what I've seen from Miller on the practice field, I don't have many doubts at all about his ability to lead Meyer's offense. To me, he's shown much improved accuracy, and I was most impressed by his ability to deliver the ball into tight spots while throwing on the move. With his ability to burn teams with his legs, he becomes a real threat when he's outside of the pocket and the defensive backs have to continue to respect his arm. Given another season and offseason before the 2013 campaign, he's going to be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the country next year in my opinion.
Jake Stoneburner (Woody Hayes Athletic Facility)
Am i your breakout player this year? if not.. who is?
Austin Ward (2:50 PM)
Thanks for stopping by, Jake!Offensively, I think Stoneburner is going to be a great playmaker for the Buckeyes, no doubt. During one of the open practices, I saw him make two plays deep down the field in one team period, which was when I started thinking he didn't look like a tight end. But I think I would pick Carlos Hyde right now. He's taking his responsibilities seriously, and he's a tackler's worst nightmare running 4.45 at 235 pounds.Defensively, Ryan Shazier is the choice. Big things are coming for that kid.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
What can we expect to see out of the OL that we didn't see out of the tressel years?
Austin Ward (2:52 PM)
I think one notable difference will be the body composition. These guys have to be a bit leaner to play the spread style that Meyer is incorporating, and so in some cases, they almost look like tight ends instead of huge, hulking masses on the offensive line. Granted, Reid Fragel was a tight end before, but even at over 300 pounds now, he still looks like he could run a route.
Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)
What have been your early impressions of Urban Meyer?
Austin Ward (2:54 PM)
He's got the attention of his team, I can tell you that for sure. I enjoyed watching him operate his practice last week, and it showed me a lot about him. He seems to have a natural way of communicating with his players that I think goes a long way toward getting them to play so hard for him. It doesn't look or feel forced when he's out there with his team, and that tight bond is important.
Austin:Wondering about home town boy, Chase Farris? Is he in the 2 deep?
Austin Ward (2:56 PM)
Don't recall seeing him work any with the ones or twos during the practices that were open last week. Only mention of him I have in my notebook was him getting ripped for a poor stance.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
How comfortable is the Ohio State staff with there stable of running backs entering the 2012 season?
Austin Ward (2:58 PM)
Not as comfortable as they would be with a healthy Jordan Hall, obviously. But when they get him healthy, I think they have more than enough guys in the backfield to feel comfortable. As I mentioned earlier, Dunn gives them a nice, new option. Rod Smith is doing some positive things, and Hyde drew major praise from Meyer on Sunday. The other guy, while he might not be a big contributor early, is Warren Ball -- and I saw the freshman doing some good things in those practices. That guy is quick and put together well.
Austin Ward (3:00 PM)
All right, folks, have to run. Very sorry I couldn't get to everybody -- this was a new system for me and I'm working out the kinks. But I'll be here every week at this time, and promise to get better as we go along.Thanks again!