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 are the Running Backs for Ohio State in 2013?
Austin Ward (2:01 PM)
The Buckeyes have the same cast of characters returning in the backfield this fall, Chris. Carlos Hyde is the starter after his breakout junior campaign, with Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball filling out some depth. Redshirt senior Jordan Hall will also get some carries, though he's officially been moved to the "H" position -- the hybrid role Percy Harvin made famous for Urban Meyer at Florida.
Lamont mt.Vernon n.Y. [via mobile]
When will my boyz be in the b.C.S. Again ?
Austin Ward (2:03 PM)
With the combination of the high-powered offense and the schedule, just for starters, it's not hard to imagine the Buckeyes will be back in a BCS game this season. If not for the sanctions, as everybody is well aware of by now, Meyer would already have had Ohio State on that stage. I think the table is set for the Buckeyes to potentially make a run to the biggest BCS game of them all.
Sean (San Francisco Bay Area)
At this point is it safe to say that the only Big Ten team with a realistic shot at the national championship in the next 5 years is Ohio State? Even Michigan doesn't seem like they have the building blocks to compete with the SEC...
Austin Ward (2:11 PM)
I don't think I'd go that far, particularly given the way Michigan has been recruiting under Hoke and the amount of resources and tradition that school has to offer. But aside from those top-two programs in the league, it's hard to envision other teams being in position to compete annually for a national title. Also, I think in the short term, Ohio State is much closer to playing for a championship than its rivals to the north. Given the timeframe you've set out, Sean, I would agree that Ohio State is the safest bet.
Chris Owens (Columbus, OH)
Who do you expect to be at the top of the depth chart for the defensive backfield after spring ball?
Austin Ward (2:28 PM)
I'll start with the easy ones, Chris. Bradley Roby looked fantastic during the open practice on Tuesday, but he was already a lock to have a starting job at cornerback after flirting with a jump to the NFL. C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant provide a talented, veteran combination at safety, and their jobs aren't in any jeopardy. The other cornerback spot and the Star position in nickel are intriguing though. I did not expect to see Tyvis Powell working with the first-team defense in the nickel after redshirting last fall, but he didn't look out of place and could conceivably end camp where he started it. Doran Grant is still the most likely guy to leave spring with the other cornerback gig, though it will be worth watching how Eli Apple and Cam Burrows develop by the end of 15 workouts because they clearly have the physical tools to push for playing time.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
We've been talking a lot about football, and Urban Meyer's recruiting, but how are things going with Thad Matta on the trail? Are the Buckeyes in the mix for any elite players who have yet to commit?
Austin Ward (2:36 PM)
Oh, Tony -- I'm typically not much help just forecasting how Urban and Co. are recruiting since I leave that up to my hard-working colleague Brad Bournival ... and I'd be way out of my element on hoops recruiting. I wish I had some insight to provide there, but other than the guys currently on campus, I really don't have much to offer. Sorry!
Is perry more of a fit at linebacker in nickle as his 6'4 240 frame is going to be harder to move around then sticking 2 undersized backers behind an inexperienced line?
Austin Ward (2:39 PM)
I think that big frame is the reason Perry wasn't on the field in Nickel situations during practice on Tuesday. It's not that he doesn't have the mobility to play in those situations, because there aren't concerns about his athleticism really at all. But one of those linebackers will be Ryan Shazier, and the Buckeyes won't ever want to take him off the field, and both Curtis Grant and David Perkins seem to have a bit more ability in coverage than Perry. Good question.
I saw Chase Ferris has been moved to the offensive line, where are they putting him? At guard or Tackle? Will he see the field or be a mop-up guy?
Austin Ward (2:41 PM)
Farris actually moved over to the line last fall, and he was routinely singled out by Meyer as a guy with enormous potential and the chance to be a star on the offensive side of the ball. He's actually in the running for the vacant starting position at right tackle with Taylor Decker and saw some first-team reps there on Tuesday. He has the ability to play both guard and tackle though, and right now would figure to at least be the sixth offensive lineman and capable of filling in at either spot if needed.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think the Cal game will be an early season challenge for the Buckeyes when they visit Hippie Country?
Austin Ward (2:43 PM)
Any time a team has to travel across the country, that poses a challenge with all the logistics of just getting there, getting adjusted physically and then simply playing in a hostile environment. But I don't think the actual opponent will be all that much of a threat to the Buckeyes, even though Cal made life challenging for them a year ago.
Im impressed with the physical attributes of Curtis Grant, but why hasn't he panned out for the buckeyes? Did he look good in the first practice?
Austin Ward (2:46 PM)
You know, James, he did look good -- but he always looks good in those non-contact practices because Grant has so much athleticism and is a specimen at 6-3, 241 pounds. The issues for the last two seasons have really been mental. He's got to prepare a bit better, build his understanding of what the Buckeyes are trying to do defensively and really compete when the lights go on. The coaching staff clearly hasn't given up hope that Grant will flip the switch, but time is running out for him to live up to those once lofty expectations.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Which incoming freshmen linebacker is more likely to make an immediate impact for the Buckeyes?
Austin Ward (2:48 PM)
I could probably build a case either way, using either the freakish athleticism of Mike Mitchell or the high football IQ of Trey Johnson. I tend to lean toward Johnson at this point, though, because I think the biggest challenge of playing linebacker at this level as a true freshman isn't the physical demand as much as the mental -- with the aforementioned Curtis Grant providing one example.
Austin Ward (2:49 PM)
Tony -- also my man Brad has passed along a name Thad Matta is chasing: LeRon Black, a 6-7 forward from Memphis who was originally committed to Baylor.
Watching Cj Barnett for two years, I always thought he made tackles rather than making plays. I know he's a senior, but im not to convinced one of the young guns can give him a run for his money. Your thought?
Austin Ward (2:53 PM)
I think it will be pretty tough to move him out of the lineup, especially given his understanding of the defense and all that on-field experience he's acquired over the last couple seasons. I agree that he perhaps hasn't been able to make a bunch of impact plays, but he did come up with a couple interceptions last season and wasn't playing at full strength for much of the year thanks to that nagging high-ankle sprain. The staff is expecting big things from him, and I think it's reasonable to anticipate he can deliver them -- giving somebody like Vonn Bell some time to develop instead of rushing to replace him right away.
Tyvis Powell running with the ones was a suprise to everyone. What has he done or what exactly can he bring to the table, if in fact he keeps that position this fall?
Austin Ward (2:57 PM)
Apparently Powell earned that spot with a fantastic display during the offseason conditioning and a great work ethic, and Meyer has made clear numerous times that he'd reward the people who compete with that relentless approach. Powell's length at 6-3 certainly helps him in coverage since he's still got the speed to match up with receivers down the field, and I think those physical tools have the Buckeyes intrigued. This race has a long way to go and the incoming freshmen are going to have their say, but I think it's interesting to look and see that there are still potential contributors from that first class who haven't even seen the field yet.
Austin Ward (2:58 PM)
All right, guys. Good stuff as always -- I'll be off next Thursday just like the Buckeyes during spring break, but we'll have four practices to discuss two weeks from today. Catch you next time!