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!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who did Ohio State sign on the National Signing Day on Wednesday?
Austin Ward (2:02 PM)
The complete list is available right here at BuckeyeNation -> http://espn.go.com/colleges/osu/football/recruiting/commitmentsThe highlights down the stretch for the Buckeyes were the late pledges from safety Vonn Bell, wide receiver James Clark and dual-threat athlete Dontre Wilson, and those three late additions ultimately pushed them up to No. 3 overall in the rankings. I'm sure we'll talk much more about them and the others over the next hour.
I think many of the incoming freshmen can contribute right away. Who do you think can offensivley?
Austin Ward (2:04 PM)
Until the coaching change at Oregon, there wasn't much I really knew about Dontre Wilson. But particularly after talking with the coaching staff yesterday when they could open up about players, I think he's at the top of the list. The Buckeyes weren't really able to use the so-called "Percy" position last year, but Wilson's top-end speed and elusiveness with the football appears to make him a legitimate option to potentially fill that spot right away. Jalin Marshall and James Clark at receiver are going to be right there pushing as well.
adam s (cincinnati oh)
with the new recruited class, who makes the most impact in the first year? ( also, how long before Saban throws Urban a haymaker for taking his SEC players?
Austin Ward (2:07 PM)
Well, I think these two guys are setting the stage to throw some haymakers with a championship on the line again real soon the way they clean up in recruiting. Since we just ran down the offense, I would guess somebody like Eli Apple or Cam Burrows would have the best shot at making an impact as a freshman given the relative ease of breaking in at that position (just by comparison, not that playing anywhere is easy) and that only one spot is truly locked down right now. I've said forever and will probably be a broken record for you all as long as I cover the Buckeyes, but it's so hard to play right away at linebacker. So while Mitchell and Johnson are certainly going to have a chance to fill in right away and seem to have the tools, I'm not ready at this point to say I expect it to happen.
Evan (Cleveland, OH )
With all the new additions in the secondary and the current upperclassman, who do you see starting this year? What offensive recruits make an immediate impact?
Austin Ward (2:09 PM)
I think the secondary will be fascinating to watch, Evan. This collection of young talent rivals some of the best classes ever put together on paper, so while it's pretty safe to assume that two senior safeties in Barnett and Bryant will hold on to their jobs and Roby is an absolute lock, there could be really heated competition at the other corner and certainly will be at the Star in Nickel. I haven't seen the new guys in person yet, so I'd have to stick with moving Doran Grant into the first team for now -- but that is definitely subject to change.
Austin Ward (2:16 PM)
Sorry for the slight break here, everybody. I've got to jump on the radio for a quick spot -- but keep the questions coming, and I'll try to make up some time and answer everything I can get to in a few minutes.
Mike (Lorain, OH)
Will Vonn Bell have an immediate impact on the field this season?
Austin Ward (2:31 PM)
Sorry again for the slight delay, guys. Bell certainly figures to put himself in line for work, but the Buckeyes should be in a position where they don't have to rely on him to come in and be a starter right away -- which is always a great spot to be in, obviously. No matter how talented Bell might be, and he looks to be a future star, there are two veteran guys capable of getting the job done at safety ahead of him. They won't play every snap and the Buckeyes will need help in the Nickel, so there will be chances for him to show what he can do early even if he's not a true first-teamer.
Jonathan ((Knoxville, TN))
Idea: What do you think about Urban putting the new recruits at the top of the depth charts and making the previous/expected starters compete to get their spot back? That way the starter is constantly working to get better (legitimate competition), and if the new recruit is still there at the top in the end then he deserves the spot.
Austin Ward (2:33 PM)
Maybe that sends a message to the returning players, but what would that say to the recruits? It's easy to come in and win a job? There is not a chance in the world that any coach wants a true freshman walking on campus and seeing his name at the top of the depth chart without every taking a snap in practice. It is much, much more important for freshmen to come in and prove it than it is to challenge guys who have been through the wars -- and just went 12-0.
Evan (Cleveland, OH)
With the variety of ways Corey "Philly" Brown was used last year and the influx of new talent at the skill positions, how will he be used now?
Austin Ward (2:35 PM)
The Buckeyes never really used him all that frequently as a rusher, but I think that package is likely to get smaller now considering the way the coaching staff is already talking about Wilson, Marshall, Clark, etc. But Brown is still a huge asset for the offense assuming he continues the development he was showing with the football at the end of last season. He is reliable catching the football, has a pretty good grasp of how to get himself open and running routes and now could have a chance to become even better as a short-to-intermediate receiver.
ohio state didn't really address the of line in the year's class. I am a little concerned about 2014 when ohio state loses 4 starters on the of line. Thoughts?
Austin Ward (2:37 PM)
Urban Meyer is just as concerned as you, Jay. That was the one thing he was clearly disappointed about in the class he just signed, and for the exact reason you mentioned. There are guys waiting in the wings capable of stepping up and taking larger roles next year after signing a pretty respectable group a year ago, linemen like Taylor Decker (who should start this year), Jacoby Boren and Kyle Dodson to name a few. Chase Farris drew a lot of praise at the end of last season as well, but the issue could well be depth heading into 2014 given how things stand right now.
Urban doesn't always seem to get the best rated players, but those close that seem to have a chip on their shoulder and ready to prove they are the best. Do you see that in this class?
Austin Ward (2:41 PM)
There may be something to that, Scott. I hadn't really thought about that aspect with this particular class, since he has such a large number of ESPN150 picks that all have been considered among the best players in the country. I think it would probably apply to a large number of three-stars he's coached in his career though, because he's got such a successful approach to motivating players that if there's any personal fuel inside a kid at all, he'll tap into it and could potentially take him to another level. Somebody like a Darron Lee could fit that mold this year.
Alex (Port Clinton)
Biggest worries for next year?
Austin Ward (2:43 PM)
It's hard to see any real concern on the offensive side of the ball at this point -- and one there may have been in terms of an explosive playmaker might now be erased. Defensively, the group up front has to take a big step forward. Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence and Tommy Schutt have all shown already they have the tools to be studs in the trenches, but that was in limited work. How they handle the responsibility as full-time players will ultimately help decide if Ohio State can win a title.
Ty (Louisville, KY)
Austin, another Wyo alumni here. What do you think of Christensen's latest recruiting class?
Austin Ward (2:46 PM)
Good to hear from another Poke, Ty. DC is a tough guy for me to figure out in general (I only covered him briefly when he was hired and have been shocked at some of the things he's done since arriving), and trying to gauge any recruiting class at UW has always been tough to do. I'm really not trying to dodge the question here, but I think with the Cowboys, it's much more about how the coaches are able to develop the talent than who they attract -- leaving their classes difficult to judge for a few years. I know, I know, it still sounds like a copout.
Who is likely going to return for kickoffs and punts? Wilson, Marshall, Clark, Brown, Elliott, Dunn, etc.? (The list goes on and on...)
Austin Ward (2:49 PM)
Looks like a much deeper roster at that position now, doesn't it? Philly Brown deserves to stay at the top of the list at this point for punts given the way he embraced and thrived in that role, something I think also spurred him on as a receiver down the stretch. I know Roby would like to get a couple more chances to touch the ball on special teams, and I would think he'd be better suited for punts than kickoffs so that will be worth monitoring. Kickoff return wasn't really much to write home about last fall, so Meyer will certainly be taking a hard look there. One returner to watch there would be Rod Smith, in my opinion.
would you be surprised if ohio state is not at least in the rose bowl this year?
Austin Ward (2:50 PM)
Coming off the season the Buckeyes just had, the pieces that are returning and the way the schedule shakes out, it's hard for me to envision a way they're not at least playing for the Roses at this point.
jay (cincy )
what is the deal with the punter/kicker we were suppose to get in this class, did he switch to a different team?
Austin Ward (2:52 PM)
Unless something has just recently changed, Townsend hasn't signed with another program and his offer is still on the table to come to Ohio State. I believe the family made some comments to a reporter in Orlando about a situation that had them weighing their options, but based on what I heard yesterday from the Buckeyes, it wasn't an issue of having his scholarship pulled. Alabama was rumored to be in the mix, but again, I don't believe he's signed anywhere yet and remains an option for Ohio State.
jim trevethan (solon ohio)
any rumors about what the new divisions will be called as leadrers/legends was a big flop?
Austin Ward (2:53 PM)
Sounds like the powers that be have listened to the public and will most likely going with easy-to-use geographic names this time around. There's still work to be done with figuring out which programs go where that take priority over the name changes, so I don't know for sure what the Big Ten will end up with, but I am anticipating East and West.
Austin Ward (2:56 PM)
Good stuff from everybody today. Thanks for all the questions and comments. I don't see any others in the list, so I'm going to get back to the grind. Talk to you all next time!