Mailbag IV: MailbagMania!

Between spring practice, March Madness and WrestleMania, this is the busiest time of the year for Ben Axelrod. Still, the Buckeye Sports Bulletin staff writer found the time to answer your questions, which included determining who would win a Royal Rumble match between the Ohio State roster.

Given the polarizing reaction that these mailbags have received on our oh so friendly message board, I seriously pondered whether or not I wanted to continue writing this piece on a regular basis. After a three month hiatus that coincided with the final stretch of basketball season, I returned to the board to ask if it'd like to participate in another mailbag.

Its answer?

That settles that.

As usual, these are real questions from real readers.

Q: We've heard repeatedly that they are working hard with Braxton Miller on the mental and vocalization aspects of being a big time QB at the highest level.

  From what do these issues stem? Is Braxton essentially a reserved, quiet guy that doesn't take command? Is he generally considered a bright kid, or does he struggle as a learner?  What kind of a student was he in high school and at OSU? Does he have to work harder than most to learn the verbiage and breadth of knowledge for the QB position?
-BaileysBuck

BA: You hit the nail on the head with your first guess. Braxton, by nature, is a laid back guy who really has to make an effort to be a vocal leader both on and off the field. Even when dealing with the media, he has seemed uncomfortable throughout his career, although in my one interaction with him since the season ended, he seemed much more comfortable than he did just a month before.

I don't have access to his grades in high school or in college and frankly, I don't care. I've seen plenty of players with poor GPAs both succeed and fail (and vice versa) that I don't think that you could prove that there's a strong correlation between the two. It's the same reason I don't comment on a kid's "character." If I'm going to praise the good kids, I might as well be outing the bad ones.

Back to your question, I think what you're referring to is one of the biggest things Urban Meyer used to sell Braxton on coming back. For as talented and successful as he's been on the field, Miller knows that he's not ready for a Jon Gruden quarterback-type setting, and he'll be practicing those situations throughout the year. Miller may know what he's doing himself, but he needs to prove to everyone around him that he can verbalize it if he's really going to make the jump to a first round pick.

Q: What are your thoughts on unions...not specific to amateur sports, but just in general?
-AspenBuck

BA: Yeah, I'm not touching this one.

Q: Is Sunday the day for Daniel Bryan?
-fotownbuckeye

BA: I mean, it has to be. Right?

For those unfamiliar with what fotownbuckeye is asking, Sunday is WrestleMania XXX (yes, they opted for the porno roman numeral rather than just "30") and many believe that it will be Bryan's final ascendance to WWE world heavyweight champion. He's won the belt twice, but both reigns lasted for less than 24 hours and for the better part of the last eight months he's been feuding with "The Authority," led by real life/on-screen WWE executives Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.

Bryan has a match with Triple H on Sunday and the winner of that will be inserted into the main event -- a triple threat match featuring bad guys Randy Orton and Batista. Got it?

Everything is setting up for Bryan to finally get the best of Triple H and then topple Orton and Batista, with WrestleMania XXX going off the air as the entire New Orleans SuperDome chants "YES! YES! YES!" Of course, there also remains the chance that Triple H trolls the entire WWE Universe and walks out champion himself, which I'm also semi-rooting for as the riots in New Orleans would make national news.

Either way, I'm excited for the show, especially with The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar and John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt on the undercard. For my full WrestleMania XXX breakdown with former Ohio State defensive lineman Matt Finkes, you can listen below.

Q: Does it seem like other teams -- in particular Penn State -- are eating our lunch at the present time with regards to recruiting?
-urbanplease

BA: Not really. It seems more like it's April and National Signing Day 2015 is still more than 10 months away.

Sure, Penn State has 11 commits and the Buckeyes only have three, but Ohio State's biggest targets are still out there. Maybe because it's still early, but it seems like the kids the Buckeyes are targeting will be deciding later than most have in the past, but like I said, it's still April.

Of the Nittany Lions' 11 recruits, only two jump out as kids Ohio State really wanted (Steven Gonzalez and Andre Robinson) and those are far from make or break players in this class. Ultimately, if the Buckeyes possessed Penn State's current class, I think most of you would be disappointed, even if you wouldn't admit it out loud.

James Franklin is a great fit at PSU and has a chance to do some real damage as the sanctions get reduced. But let's wait for the Nittany Lions to beat the Buckeyes on an absolute stud that both equally want before conceding the Big Ten East to Happy Valley.

Q: What is your favorite Homage shirt?
-theman19

BA:

Did I mention that you can get 25% off at Homage by clicking through this link? They really do have some incredible shirts and sweatshirts (I highly recommend the sweatshirts).

Q: Your favorite interview among current players? Past players?
-semperfibuck

BA: Of current players, I'd go with Jeff Heuerman, Dontre Wilson, Doran Grant and Taylor Decker.

Heuerman mixes a good balance of being both media savvy and candid. He knows what you're looking for when you ask it, but also isn't afraid to speak his mind or insert humor. There was also an incident after his big game against Purdue where he accidentally hit my recorder out of my hand and responded by patting me on the head on the middle of the press conference. That really made me feel like a man.

Wilson is such an interesting player and came in with as much hype as any freshman since Terrelle Pryor, but never seems bothered by having to deal with the media or repeat answers. He by far had the biggest crowd at last year's media day and stayed on the field longer than anyone, which was very impressive for an 18-year-old kid. He's also a player who can give you enough good quotes to make a story out of nothing (in a good way.)

Grant is hit or miss depending on if he feels like talking that day or not, but if you can get him to open up, he's a very thoughtful guy. I spent the better part of an afternoon interview session talking to him about Akron, LeBron and of course Swenson's, and he had some really interesting things to say. When I asked him about LeBron saying that he was "just a kid from Akron, Ohio," you could really tell that resonated with Grant and he was honest about it. I talked to him yesterday and he seemed different as a senior, more willing to take on the responsibilities of being a leader on this team.

Maybe I'm pandering to VBCoach by including Decker on this list, but I really enjoyed talking to him earlier this spring. He's had such a crazy journey and I can't remember a player ever going from "baby" to "veteran" in the span of a few months. I asked him about seeing Khalil Mack at the top of NFL mock drafts and before I could get the rest of my question out, he interrupted me and said, "it's comforting." I think he's a player who Ohio State will use to represent itself a lot in the next two years.

As for past players, Bradley Roby is at the top of most reporters' lists -- at least he was in 2012. He was the first player to state that the AP national championship was the Buckeyes' goal (he did it after the Nebraska game) and he was famous for ending interview sessions on his own with a prompt, "last question!" You could tell that his semi-struggles got to him a year ago and he wasn't as open with us, but he's clearly a kid who understood the media at a young age.

Basketball players are different, because we talk to them 3-4 times a week (before and after each game) and the sessions just become so repetitive by season's end. I will say that Aaron Craft became difficult to interview because anytime you'd ask him about himself, he'd deflect it toward the team. Deshaun Thomas was probably about as great of a quote as we could've asked for ("In fourth grade, that's how I knew I was something special. I was in the gym throwing up shots and they were going in") and Jared Sullinger also did an amazing job with the media despite being a megastar.

As for my least favorite players to interview... well, let's just move on.

Q: Best rassling family ever: Dusty and Goldust, Cowboy Bob and Randy Orton, Johnny and Greg "the Hammer" Valentine, or Owen, Bret and the British Bulldog?
-AKRick

BA: If I choose the Steiner Brothers, does that mean I hate Ohio State?

How about the Laurinaitis'?

But in all seriousness, you're missing one big one in the Anoa'i family, an American Samoa wrestling family that includes Peter Maivia, Rocky Johnson, The Rock, Yokozuna, Umaga, Rikishi, Roman Reigns and The Usos. Like the Harts (my runners-up), The Anoa'i family is wrestling royalty. Wanna see a crazy family tree? Check this out.

Q: Was Anthony Lee the most important recruit in Matta's 2014 class?  
-BuckDiego

BA: No. But he's a close second.

D'Angelo Russell will ultimately be the Buckeyes' most important recruit, especially if Ohio State can keep him on campus for more than one year. He's a Gary Harris-type, who if this were a basketball school, people would already be pre-ordering jerseys of. I'm already penciling in Russell to be the Buckeyes' leading scorer next season and am really looking forward to three-guard lineups consisting of him, Shannon Scott and Kam Williams.

Lee, though, is a big get nonetheless. I don't know if he'll bump Amir Williams to the bench or play alongside him to start the game, but I anticipate him taking the majority of Ohio State's center minutes next season. Iowa State was thought to be the frontrunner for his services too, so the fact that the Buckeyes managed to nab a player who will be their top returning leading scorer and rebounder next season is certainly impressive.

I think that even fans with a pessimistic outlook on next year's team will be wowed by the impact that Russell and Lee both manage to make right away.

Rank the 5 moves from best to worst: Torture Rack, Razors Edge, Diamond Cutter, Rock Bottom, Stone Cold Stunner. Also, your favorite obscure finishing move from a less popular champion?
-BuckWrestler141

BA: Stunner, Razors Edge, Diamond Cutter, Torture Rack, Rock Bottom. More obscure move: Rob Van Dam's Van Terminator.

I'd like to know who will be the focal point of the offense this season (besides Braxton, of course). Who will be Braxton's primary weapon?
-BeerAndExercise

BA: I think you'll be surprised by how much Dontre Wilson gets used. After being a decoy (at best) last season, the Buckeyes are really make a concerted effort to get the ball into his hands and make him a focal point of the offense. He's not quite Percy Harvin -- few players at the college level are -- but I think when all is said in done, he'll be the player responsible for replacing most of Carlos Hyde's productivity, albeit in a different way.

I thought that Wilson would make a bigger impact last season, but his growth thus far this offseason is more than just coach speak. With Miller out of the OSU lineup, the Buckeyes are getting Wilson the ball and I expect that trend to continue even once Braxton is back on the field.

Which player would win a Royal Rumble consisting of the current Ohio State football team?
-@DaMattHook

BA: See, this is the type of question that this mailbag was made for!

As is the case with most Royal Rumbles, it would come down to who drew which number. Obviously it is easier to win the rumble entering at No. 30 than it is at No. 1 (although I'm not sure history supports that. Funny how that works.)

Taking it back to the old WCW World War 3 battle royal days where everybody starts in the ring at the same time (actually, it was 60 guys spread over three rings), let's try to narrow this down to a Final Four. Heuerman would definitely be in it given that he has the highest bench press and vertical jump on the team. Then I'm going to go with Michael Bennett, who has an extensive martial arts background. After that, I'll throw in Big Hungry Chris Carter (6-4, 342) for obvious reasons, as well as Adolphus Washington (6-4 and a more chiseled 288).

From there, I think that Washington clotheslines Carter, taking both of them over the top rope. Heuerman and Bennett -- both likely captains this season -- would then square off, with Heuerman emerging with a main event spot at The Showcase of Immortals.

Man, do I love WrestleMania week.

Why do you suck at this? Discuss.
-Tttm2610

Not a fan of yours at all. Prove to me why I should be.
-jowags32

BA: Yep. These are definitely my readers.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories