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Last updated: 03/23/2014 0:19 AM
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The-Ozone Mailbag: Happily Wading Into the Confluence
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — We have finally reached the second-best sports season of the year -- our beloved March, which sees the NCAA Tournament and Spring Football come together and form a super storm of excitement that is topped only by the six months of football that are waiting for us in August.

While the Buckeye basketball team may be done, there are certainly still questions to be answered. The football team, meanwhile, is two weeks into spring practice, which brings questions of its own.

With so much going on, now is a good time to get a mailbag going and talk about what's on your mind at the moment. If you've got something you want to ask, you can put it in the comments below, or send me a tweet or an email and we'll try to address it next time.

If Thad Matta wasn't the Buckeye head coach, what other coach in the B1G would we want (as a second choice)? -- IndianaBuckeye

You know, as I looked through the list of possible head coaches, I began wondering if we might not be overrating the head coaching talent in the Big Ten. The obvious answer to the question above is Tom Izzo, but if we amend the question to only include those coaches who would leave their present job, the names become much less appealing. I'd put Michigan's John Beilein number one, but he's not leaving that job. Is Bo Ryan leaving? I don't think so. And I'm not sure how much the OSU fanbase would even be interested in him despite how much his teams win. Everybody else in the Big Ten would be open season, in my opinion. Ohio State could go get anybody they want, including Indiana's Tom Crean. (This is more due to the shaky ground that Crean is currently on, however.) At Ohio State, the basketball program does better with an excitable and outgoing coach, and for me, that's either Nebraska's Tim Miles or Illinois' John Groce. Groce is a Matta protege, but I do wonder what Miles could accomplish in recruiting at a more influential program. I think I might go with Miles, knowing that if he screws it up, I can go out and find somebody up-and-coming again in three years.

Urban Meyer really praised Cardale Jones' development with regard to maturity. Did you see evidence of this in practice, and how does this compare to similar development by Guiton? 

It's difficult to see maturity in practice given that everybody is on their best behavior. But it's easy to read between the lines. If Jones hadn't matured, he wouldn't be getting the #1 reps in practice, and he wouldn't be earning raves from both Meyer and Tom Herman. Comparing the development of Jones, a redshirt sophomore, to Kenny Guiton's development, I think he's ahead of Guiton's pace. Remember, in the spring of Guiton's redshirt sophomore season, Terrelle Pryor was sitting out with an injury and Joe Bauserman, Braxton Miller, Taylor Graham and Guiton were all battling for the #1 job due to Pryor's injury and his never-realized five-game suspension. Guiton did get some time with the ones, but the snaps were split into so many fragments. Compare that to Jones, who is repping with starters and taking half of the snaps. Combine that with the fact that Jones has only known the coaching of Meyer and Herman throughout his career, and it's pretty easy to assume his development is ahead of Guiton. Will it match Guiton's in 2015 and 2016? That's the real question.

Who will be the first QB to take over when (not if) Braxton Miller goes out with injury? -- Purgatory Buck

If you would have asked me this two weeks ago, my answer would have immediately been redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. And if you asked the coaches themselves a year ago, they probably would have given you the same answer. Right now, however, I think the answer is Cardale Jones. I don't know if it's proper to say that Jones has surprised the coaches, but I'm sure they saw a scenario in their planning where Jones didn't end up being ahead of Barrett at this juncture. There are still over two dozen practices between now and the first game though, so plenty is still going to happen. I think the coaches feel better about Jones being able to help them in your scenario than they did six months ago, which is completely normal.

Curious on Kerry Coombs' demeanor. Does he do more yelling or coaching (or something else) in practice? -- @BuxJackets

We have now seen 2.25 practices and as I think about it now, Kerry Coombs has seemed a little more subdued to me. Some of that may be that in the past the cornerbacks have been right in front of where the media were permitted to stand, and this year they're on the other side of the field so we don't hear as much when they're in their individual groups. But even when the team is scrimmaging and Coombs is within earshot, he seems quieter. He's still just as fiery, running up to his players to talk to them about what they did right or wrong, even to players on offense. On Saturday he went leaping for a chest bump after a broken up pass. I'm one of the guys who thinks Coombs has gotten a bad rap while at Ohio State. Let's not forget that in his two years at OSU he has had three First-Team All-Big Ten cornerback honorees and one who received Honorable Mention. He'll add to that in 2014 with Doran Grant. Who knows, maybe he has decided to tone it down a bit himself because even last year he talked about his coaching in practice being on YouTube too much. I know some will want me to attribute any perceived change to the hiring of Chris Ash, and that may absolutely be the case, but it might just be something as simple as lessened Red Bull consumption or the different viewing area.

Which redshirt offensive skill player from last year will make the biggest impact this year? -- @jschairb

There are a few acceptable answers to this, and each of the healthy candidates: Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, Jalin Marshall, Jeff Greene and Bri'onte Dunn have had their moments already this spring. There is also James Clark, who is still rehabbing from his leg injury last year. Of course, Marshall is no longer healthy, but his injury won't have any lasting effects this summer. Given all of that, I'll go with Michael Thomas. He is the only one of the bunch consistently running with the ones right now. Though I am concerned because he has had good springs before, and I'm not sure how many of his reps are due to Evan Spencer being injured. I'd like to say Jalin Marshall, but I need to see more of him first.
Who will be the leaders on the football team this year? -- Buckeye Ho Tep
The leader that the Buckeyes need will be quarterback Braxton Miller, and I think the coaches fully expect that to happen. In fact, I would be shocked if he's not a captain. Left tackle Taylor Decker is already the leader on the offensive line. Tight end Jeff Heuerman will also add his input on the offensive end. Defensively, it starts with tackle Michael Bennett, who was also the leader up front last year. Cornerback Doran Grant will be the leader of the secondary. Will the linebackers have a leader? They are all talking a good game right now, but somebody will have to emerge. If I'm guessing on four captains this year, I'll go with Miller, Heuerman, Bennett and Grant.
Is MSU the only "loseable" game on the football schedule in the fall? -- Purgatory Buck
No, I think half of their regular season games are technically "loseable". Navy, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan are all dangerous. Heck, you might want to put Minnesota in there as well. The Michigan State game will be the only game where Ohio State is an underdog, but I can come up with a scenario where each of the teams listed above could provide trouble.
Do you think LaQuinton Ross comes back?
No. I sensed a bit of Bradley Roby-itis from Ross early in the season when he was struggling. At this point, I would be surprised if he returned. He turned his game up during the postseason for a second-consecutive year. I don't think he'll "waste" this most recent effort.

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