Mailbag II: Return Of Mailbag

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, especially college football fans. With that in mind, Ben Axelrod does his best to keep your mind at ease by answering your questions about Ohio State and life in general.

Back by popular demand -- and yes, I do mean popular -- I bring you Mailbag II.

As always, you can send your questions for future mailbags to me at either or @BenAxelrod. And as always, these are actual questions from actual readers.

Q: Was Mailbag I all that you hoped it would be or are you hoping for a big improvement?

BA: And we’re off to a great start already!

Q: Will Urban Meyer get more money to give to assistants and is he going to raise some of the assistants pay?

BA: While this is a valid question, especially given the flirtation enjoyed by Stan Drayton, Tom Herman and Ed Warinner this offseason, I think that the real question is: will Meyer get more money?

And all signs point to the answer being yes.

As my friend and colleague David Briggs wrote about in the Toledo Blade, the landscape of college coaching compensation is changing, and Meyer could stand to benefit. Nick Saban recently netted $7 million from Alabama and the blank check that Texas is seemingly offering doesn’t figure to be far behind. Currently making $4.3 million annually, it’s hard to argue that Meyer isn’t underpaid given the way that the market is shifting, and even Ohio State likely knows that a new payday is headed its head coach’s way.

If that comes this offseason or next -- and if the new package includes additional compensation for his assistants -- remains to be seen. But whether they like it or not, the Buckeyes are in an arms race, and Meyer’s not one to go into a fight underhanded.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about Thad Matta and his back problems. If/when Matta retires who do you see as likely replacements? Also, where would you rank OSU basketball job on a list of top coaching jobs? 

BA: Three very interesting questions here.

1. When will Matta retire? He has said in the past that Ohio State’s the kind of place that he’d like to spend 25 years at, but I don’t know if that’s a realistic option, at least as a head coach. I do know that Matta has the Buckeyes job as long as he wants it and as of right now, his contract runs through 2019, with an extra year being added every time he wins a national championship.

I actually think that Matta’s health right now is better than most people believe it to be, and would say that 2019 is probably a fair over/under, which would put him at 15 years in Columbus with two strong recruiting classes (2014 and 2015) finishing out their eligibility with him.

2. Who will replace Matta? Again, it’s so early to know for sure, but up until he took the Boston Celtics job last summer, I would’ve said Brad Stevens would’ve been target No. 1. How things work out between Stevens and the Celtics remains to be seen, but there are worse places to get back into the college game at than Ohio State.

I also would keep an eye on Arizona’s Sean Miller. While that may seem like a lateral -- or worse -- move for Miller, he has a son interested in attending OSU and he’s a guy who obviously has Ohio ties. It is of my belief that once Matta retires, he’ll become the czar of Buckeyes basketball -- almost like Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin -- which is why my eye tends to gravitate toward people that he’s coached with. Both Stevens and Miller are proven winners, but I also think there’s a reason that Jeff Boals has stuck around when head coaching opportunities have been available to him.

3. How good is the Ohio State job? It depends on how you rank desirability and potential, but given the resources available and the status that Matta has built it to, I have it no lower than the 10th best job in America. Ahead of it for sure, I’d have Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville and Duke, and then a bunch of schools that Ohio State could be ahead of or behind (Michigan State, Indiana, Florida, UCLA, Arizona). Is Matta’s job the best in the Big Ten? You could argue it is. And a big reason for that is because of what he’s accomplished here in the last decade.

Q: While growing up and watching WWF/WCW, I think there were a few moments that were true game-changers. For me, the #1 most influential event was undoubtedly the introduction of the New World Order. I think #2 was probably the formation of D-Generation X. 

What moments really stand out to you? ??Also, please feel free to provide some sort of video support of these moments or anything else that really rocked your childhood.
-Clyde, Nome

Obviously, you’re correct. The formation of the nWo was arguably the biggest moment in professional wrestling history, as not only did it jumpstart The Attitude Era and Monday Night Wars, but it turned the biggest face in professional wrestling history to that point, Hulk Hogan, heel. That was unheard of in 1996.

As for the formation of D-X, it’d be hard for me to put it second, considering it was just a ripoff of the nWo, even if it was a more successful version. WCW may have been the first to use The Kliq and story lines that mirrored real life, but WWF did it best.

As far as the second most important moment in professional wrestling history, I’d point to January 4, 1999, which was the first night I watched professional wrestling. WCW’s Monday Night Nitro contained The Finger Poke of Doom, while Monday Night Raw featured Mankind winning the WWF championship. From there WCW was on a straight downward trajectory, and I didn’t miss a minute of it. I watched every Nitro until the bitter end in 2001, which was really some awful, awful wrestling.

As for other moments that stand out to me, there’s the debut of the Kid Rock-inspired Undertaker, Chris Jericho: The Man of 1,004 Holds, Kurt Angle getting mad over “You Suck” chants, Vince Russo shooting on Hogan, and the moment that brought me out of my 10-year hiatus of watching wrestling, CM Punk’s worked-shoot.

I really should start a wrestling video of the day thing on Twitter, shouldn’t I?

Q: Who will be the safeties coach next year?

BA: Talk about an odd username for an Ohio State fan.

Anyways, I think the answer to the question is Kerry Coombs, because I think he’ll ultimately be made the defensive backs coach as a the new hire is likely to come in the front-seven or could just be a straight up co-defensive coordinator with no assigned position group.

As for potential candidates, I don’t agree with everybody that it’s going to be somebody who calls the defense and demotes Luke Fickell. I actually think Everett Withers leaving could be perceived as a promotion of sorts for Fickell, whose defensive philosophies clearly clashed with his former co-worker’s.

One unestablished name to keep an eye on is Ryan Stamper, a former Florida linebacker who is on Ohio State’s staff as a the coordinator for player development. Him moving to linebackers (and Coombs moving to all defensive backs) could allow Fickell to oversee the defense, and Stamper’s ties to the southeast and Meyer could make him an instant recruiting success. Stamper is certainly a long shot given his resume (or lack thereof), but I can assure you that he didn’t come to Columbus simply for an administrative position.

Q: I went to the jewelry store the other day to buy my wife some jewelry for Christmas. I went to the same jewelry store we were in months before, but for the life of me I couldn't remember what she was looking at and said she wanted.

What is the proper thing to do in this situation? Is it to:

A.) Buy something I think looks good....and I obviously I have great taste since I married her.
B.) Take a wild guess and hope I picked out what she was actually looking at?
C.) Get her a gift card and let her pick out what she wants, so I couldn't possibly screw it up (that is of course unless getting her a gift card is screwing up).

Thanks Ben,
-Jon in Gainesville

BA: Joe, unfortunately for reasons I can’t understand, the gift card has become a no-go in today’s society, especially when it comes to significant others. I got my sister one for Christmas figuring that she knows better than I do what she wants and have since been viewed as insincere, despite the fact that my gift cost $15 more than hers did. I am pro-gift cards and love getting them, but with your wife, that’s not an option. So ‘C’ is off the table.

With only the lesser of two evils available, I would go with ‘B.’ You can’t go in there assuming that you got her what she wanted when you’re not 100 percent certain that you did just that. That’s just a recipe for disaster. If anything, go in there with option ‘A,’ acting proud as hell that you did it all on your own, even if you don’t know for sure that it’s what she truly wanted. Confidence is key and this has both the highest upside and lowest downside of any of your options.

Good luck, and thank you for reminding me why I’m glad that I’m single this holiday season.

Q: If Braxton leaves, what kind of shape are we in at QB?

BA: That’s the million dollar question that everybody in Columbus is too afraid to answer right now.

We know this: Cardale Jones didn’t come here to play school, but J.T. Barrett came close to passing him as the third-string quarterback earlier this season. Now, the staff wouldn’t have ever burned Barrett’s redshirt without a serious emergency situation, but the fact that Jones -- who will be four years removed from high school next season -- wasn’t solidly ahead of Barrett says a lot in my estimation.

The safe money is on Barrett, as Stephen Collier is headed for a redshirt of his own, but don’t count out a late run at a JUCO quarterback. Barrett has been described as the best of both worlds between Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton -- which seems like a little bit of hyperbole -- but the early word is that his talents are very highly thought of inside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Of course, this is all based on a pretty big if.

Q: Who's leaving early and who will be drafted?

BA: Nothing’s official until it’s official, but Miller sure sounded like a player who was ready to turn pro the last time the media spoke with him. When asked if he was ready to play in the NFL, he answered, “oh yeah, without a doubt” and refused to get into what his deciding factors would be. I think that ultimately his decision will come down to whether or not he has a big game in the Orange Bowl, and really it could be as simple as that.

As for Ryan Shazier, after talking to NFL scouts and other sources, I’m 99 percent certain he’s turning pro. The time just seems right and he has enough NFL people telling him he’ll be a first round pick. His stock may never be higher than it is right now, as the one thing holding him back is his size, and even with that “issue” he remains a potential first round pick. It’d be a Mike Doss moment for sure if he returned, but there’s a reason things like that happen few and far between.

Bradley Roby has already announced he’s turning pro and it sounds like Devin Smith and Michael Bennett have both decided to come back for their senior seasons. Smith’s stance, of course, could change depending on what Miller does, but right now the safe money is on him being back in Columbus.

As for who will be drafted, Roby, Shazier and Miller all will be assuming that they come out. After that, I think that Carlos Hyde, Jack Mewhort, and Corey Linsley are locks to be picked, while Andrew Norwell, C.J. Barnett, and wide receiver Corey Brown could all end up in the later rounds or in camps as undrafted free agents. This is all based on talking to scouts from two NFL teams, and obviously there are 30 other teams in the league, and it takes just one to fall in love with you for you to be drafted.

Q: Who's your entertainer of the year?
-Sean, Minneapolis

BA: I mean, it has to be Justin Timberlake, right?

Between two memorable albums, more Saturday Night Live memories, a three-minute NSYNC reunion at the Video Music Awards and starring in the atrocity that was Runner, Runner, it’d be tough to top JT’s 2013.

Also, Mr. Timberlake will always hold a soft spot in my heart, as he’s managed to bag Brittney Spears, Cameron Diaz, Alysaa Milano, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Munn, and Jessica Biel all in their primes. That’s not easy to do, even for somebody who looks like him. Saying that he’s the Frank Sinatra of our generation might not be strong enough of a statement.

Vote No. 2 goes to Kanye West. Votes 3-5 go to the girl from the Blurred Lines video. Look her up.

Q: Will Marc Loving's role continue to increase as the season progresses?

BA: I actually think it will go the other way.

As we’ve seen with Matta rotations, there’s usually an odd man out come Big Ten play and I think that this year it will be Loving. I like Loving and he has exceeded my expectations, but with such a deep, upperclassmen-laden roster, I simply think there might not be a consistent spot for him in the rotation this season.

That’s a shame, because he played pretty well up until the Notre Dame game (the first time he looked like a true freshman) and I think that his number will be called upon at some point by the time the season’s over. History and numbers, however, are working against him, but if LaQuinton Ross winds up in the NBA in 2014, Loving’s sophomore season could be his to shine.

Q: Do you plan on writing a series of articles that aren't a blatant rip-off of established national columns? If the answer is no, may I suggest writing in the style of Deadspin's Drew Magary, as he is hilarious.

BA: Duly noted.

Q: Who would you rather spend your life with as a life partner:

A) your absolute best male friend, drinking buddy and sports game fan all rolled into one but he secretly has female parts downstairs.


B) an "11" with the total sex appeal not seen in many other women--the total package except she is actually a he.

You cant tell either’s true identity to anyone -- who would be Ben's better half?

BA: Yep, these are my readers.

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