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!
Kirk (Las Vegas)
Who are going to be the impact freshmen this year?
Austin Ward (2:02 PM)
Look to the skill positions for those guys, Kirk. For starters, that's the easiest transition for true freshmen. Secondly, the Buckeyes had a need for players who can break a play open and signed some of the most athletic recruits in the country this year. Receivers like James Clark and Corey Smith will have a chance to contribute right away, and versatile weapons like Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson could be factors right away at the hybrid, "Percy" position.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who will be on Special Teams for Ohio State in 2013?
Austin Ward (2:04 PM)
It obviously takes a number of guys to fill out those units, so I'm not sure what specific roles you might be wondering about, Chris. Drew Basil is on pace to handle both kicking and punting for the Buckeyes, and Philly Brown and Bradley Roby are the favorites to return punts. Roby might also see more time as a kickoff returner this fall, and he's certainly seemed excited about the possibility of having the ball in his hands more often.
Hypotheticaly, signing day is tomorrow, Whois our best recruit in this class, and do we land a QB in the end?
Austin Ward (2:07 PM)
I'd have to defer on that type of prediction to my colleague Brad Bournival. He's the brains behind the recruiting side of the beat, and my analysis isn't worth much when stacked up next to him. It's a good question, ConnBuckeye, but given the way we cover Ohio State, I have to let the expert handle that -- and I know I don't qualify since my focus is on the players and coaches already on campus.
When do the (fall, but really summer) practices start? I'm really interested in seeing how much depth our new recruits will bring! BTW, Do you see Trey Johnson with his high football IQ being able to break into the 2 deep at MLB? or Mitchell challenging Perkings/perry for playing time for SLB or being relegated to the prianna tank (even though he's huge)
Austin Ward (2:11 PM)
It's definitely more like summer practice when training camp begins, Sylvain -- but I haven't seen an exact starting time for official workouts at this point. Typically it's the first week of August, and when it arrives, all eyes will be on the new signees to see if they can plug some holes. As mentioned, there is the opportunity for playing time at linebacker, and the coaching staff has raved about Johnson's intelligence and knowledge of the game even before he steps foot on campus. That will be significant, in my opinion, because it's so tough to contribute at linebacker right away given all the responsibilities at that position. Perry is really coming on, though, and he looks like a completely different player physically, so I think it will be difficult for a newcomer to push him out of the way.
Austin Ward (2:12 PM)
As for the two-deep part of the question about Johnson, Sylvain, I think that's the expectation for him right now. Starting might be a stretch right away, but the Buckeyes are anticipating a contribution from him in some capacity.
John (Cleveland OH)
Urban Meyer says he's not aiming to take down Alabama. Is he trying to hide the fact the buckeyes can take them down and not really give the bucks too much confidence
Austin Ward (2:15 PM)
I think it's more that there's not really much to gain by talking about Alabama publicly. The Crimson Tide obviously have things rolling right now (pun not intended), and that program is on top of college football. But Alabama isn't on the schedule for Ohio State, and it's not in the same conference so it doesn't have any impact on goals like winning the Big Ten or earning a spot in the BCS. If things go wrong in Tuscaloosa, Alabama wouldn't even be an opponent in a potential national championship game. So I think it's a matter of focusing on what Meyer knows is ahead of his team, which is winning the conference and beating its true rival.
Austin Ward (2:20 PM)
Couple items just announced by Ohio State about the spring game next week: 26,000 tickets have been sold so far, so there's still time to get some if you're planning to go down to Cincy; the plan is for a four-quarter, intrasquad scrimmage with no kickoffs, punts fair caught and quarterbacks protected; the game will be broadcast on tape delay at 7 p.m.
tape delayed on what station?
Austin Ward (2:22 PM)
Sorry, Matt. That is relevant, isn't it? Big Ten Network will have the coverage.
What's the good word on whose going to start opposite Roby at CB, I've been hearing good things about Powell but primarily as a slot-nickel back, is he challenging Reeves and grant for that 2nd CB spot in the 4-3 package?
Austin Ward (2:25 PM)
Powell has been something of a revelation this spring, and his size makes him an intriguing option in the defensive secondary. At this point, his first-team work with the Nickel group seems to be the role best suited for Powell and he's probably not likely to push for the second spot at cornerback. Doran Grant seems to have turned a corner and is more solidly entrenched there in the spring than perhaps many would have thought given his up-and-down play in the past. Armani Reeves has had some bright spots during open practices as well, but he's battling through some inconsistency at times and doesn't look like he'll be able to unseat Grant either.
Hey Austin, Is there any truth to rumors about Baldwin transferring?
Austin Ward (2:37 PM)
Not any that I'm aware of at this point. He's been getting second-team work at tackle and was recently mentioned by Ed Warinner as somebody needed to fill out that unit and potentially contribute. Obviously things can change, but I haven't heard anything about him leaving recently.
hunter roberts (sioux city ia)
Would you consider Braxton Miller as the Heisman front runner? And what do you think about how high Ohio State's expectations are for this season? (basically national championship or bust)
Austin Ward (2:42 PM)
When there's a guy with a Heisman Trophy already on his mantle (or wherever Johnny Football happens to keep it these days), he has to be considered the front runner. But Braxton Miller is on the short list for top candidates, and given the talent around him, particularly on the offensive line, and the path Ohio State has to a possible berth in the title game, I personally believe he has a better chance of winning it this year than the guy who did last season. I think those expectations are what Meyer wants and traditionally what the program demands annually anyway given its rich history, so the only real way to handle them is to embrace that standard. With the not-so-subtle reminders hanging in the practice facility and the new "Chase" banner, I think that's what Ohio State is doing. Winning a national championship isn't easy, obviously, so I wouldn't call it a bust if the Buckeyes don't hold the crystal ball. But I think the players and the coaching staff might.
Jon (St. Louis)
Austin - What is your #1 concern on defense? Line, line-backers, depth or other?
Austin Ward (2:49 PM)
It feels like maybe I'm hedging my answer a bit, but overall the development of the front seven is the most critical area of concern for Meyer and the Buckeyes in spring practice. I lump the linebackers and linemen together for a reason though, because Fickell and Co. have shown a willingness to tweak formations and personnel to play to their strengths -- which you'd think all coaches would want to do, but many don't out of loyalty to a scheme. So, that's one reason why the Buckeyes have showed alignments like the Dime package with three linemen and two linebackers, which capitalizes on the depth in the secondary. But in terms of base defense, Ohio State is still in the process of identifying a two deep. It can feel pretty good about Spence and Washington at end and Bennett and Hale on the inside, and it obviously knows what it has in Shazier while Perry, Perkins and Grant are doing good things as well. But the work is not done there yet.
Jon (St. Louis)
I read Braxton took a hard hit to the ribs in practice this week, although he was wearing a "Non-hit" jersey, is he okay?
Austin Ward (2:50 PM)
He's doing fine, Jon. Evidently he had been hit in a practice last week as well which had given him the sore ribs, which surely didn't feel any better after Noah Spence gave him a shot on the option. Miller was held out of a couple series during live work at the end of practice, but he did return to run a two-minute drill and doesn't have any real injury concerns moving forward.
Austin Ward (2:59 PM)
All right, folks -- have to run. Buckeyes are back on the practice field this afternoon, and I'll have some updates as usual when it's over. Thanks for all the questions and comments! See you next time.