Rea Chat Transcript: April 2 premium Internet subscribers got together April 2 with managing editor Mark Rea for a lively chat session that lasted nearly 2½ hours. Spring football was the main topic of conversation with defensive backs and offensive alignments getting a lot of comments. Here is a transcript of the chat.

otterbuc: Who do you think wins the kicking duties next year?

Rea: Good question. Personally, I think it's going to be Aaron Pettrey. I think he has the stronger leg and there is no doubt that JT had a big dislike for getting four field goals blocked last year. But I couch that prediction with the fact that Ryan Pretorius is extremely likable not to mention the fact he is a fifth-year senior … and we all know how Tress treats his seniors. It should be interesting to watch the battle this spring and fall.

BuckeyeBash22: How do you project the two-deep on DL to be?

Rea: Another good question. Obviously, the starting ends are easy – Cameron Heyward and Lawrence Wilson. After that, it gets a little trickier. I think the starting tackles should be Dexter Larimore and Todd Denlinger but Doug Worthington could beat out Denlinger. Nader Abdallah will be the fourth tackle but his playing time may get cut when Robert Rose comes back healthy in the fall.

As for the backup ends, Thaddeus Gibson has earned some rave reviews already this spring and I have heard that Solomon Thomas is beginning to get more and more comfortable in the system. I'll go with them as the backups.

TeddyHeisman: With the way Ray Small has been playing and the poor attitude he has shown thus far, do you see DeVier Posey possibly taking some of his playing time?

Rea: I don't know about the attitude but Ray is definitely going to have to step up his game this spring if he expects to hold onto his position this fall. It's difficult to project about Posey because he's not here yet. If he's as good as he is supposed to be, yeah, he'll be in the mix. Then again, if Small had performed the way he was supposed to, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Small has got to watch himself this spring because guys like Dane Sanzenbacher, Devon Torrence and Taurian Washington are all out there hungry for more action than they got last season. Most people don't remember just how productive Sanzenbacher was – 12 catches, 7.4-yard average, 1 TD. That compares pretty well to Small (20 catches, 13.4 average, 2 TDs) and Small got many more opportunities.

All of this said, I think Small will be fine. There is no doubt he has big-time talent. Now is the time to show it.

BuckeyeBash22: Who is your favorite to win the starting right tackle job?

Rea: I have to think that Bryant Browning has the inside track. As good as those freshmen are, it's hard to believe Tress is going to install one of them as the starter. That said, he had no problem playing guys like Nick Mangold and Kirk Barton during their freshman seasons. They just didn't start.

deflection: What percent chance would you really give on Terrelle Pryor seeing 5-10 snaps most games this year?

Rea: I would put that percentage at somewhere north of 90. Why would you have spent all the time and effort trying to recruit the best high school quarterback in America and then let him rot on the bench? Pryor is going to have to prove he knows the playbook when he gets here this summer (he already has a copy, by the way) and he's going to have to prove that he can acclimate himself to the system. But everyone believes he can do those things.

I truly believe that the key to success is to use Florida's formula from 2006. Todd Boeckman is your Chris Leaf and Terrelle Pryor is your Tim Tebow. And quite frankly, if that is not the way the coaching staff is thinking, I'm not sure what the thinking would be.

buckwild23: Warning: Don't set yourself up, Mark. Quite a few posters here want Henton to be used like Leak and Pryor to be used like Tebow THIS YEAR, and send Boeckman to the bench. Those posters need to put the xBox and Playstations down.

Rea: Those posters know nothing about how Tressel operates with regard to upperclassmen. Henton's main competition will come from Pryor for the backup role. If Boeckman is healthy, he starts. No ifs, ands or buts.

buckwild23 asked a series of questions:

1. Who's going to be the starting right tackle?

Rea: I already answered this before. I think it will be Browning although he will have to continue to play well to keep it. I think it's his job to lose.

2. Do you expect the defensive line, especially the DTs, to improve?

Rea: Yes, I expect the defensive tackles to improve. I like all of those guys but there is no doubt they have to play better this year. Jim Heacock wants to be able to blitz with his front four this year and that was something that was practically non-existent with the tackles last year. I expect they're working on those kinds of things this spring.

3. Who's stepped up at both safety positions?

Rea: Hard to tell since they just started spring ball. I think Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman are going to be the starters, and I think the temptation will be to slide Malcolm Jenkins over to a safety spot in the nickel package. I don't think guys like Aaron Gant or Jamario O'Neal or Eugene Clifford have made a move yet.

4. Who wants to be the third WR on the roster? Who has the heart to catch balls in the middle of the field and keep defenses guessing?

Rea: I said this before but I like Sanzenbacher. I like the way he makes plays. Nothing fancy, just catches the ball. There is no doubt that Small has as much or more ability than almost anyone on the team. But he has to step it up.

5. Is Todd Boeckman working harder in the offseason to improve as Ohio State's QB?

Rea: I have never questioned Boeckman's work ethic. He's a very quiet guy but he is very determined to play his best this season. He knows Pryor is coming and he knows that Tressel will likely keep him at quarterback because he's a senior. But he wants to erase all doubt. I look for a very good season from Boeckman, especially if Pryor gets 5-10 snaps a game. That eases the pressure on TB to try and be a difference-maker on every play.

6. Scheduling. Is Ohio State ever going to play two BCS teams a season? Cincinnati should be on the schedule every year as the "other" BCS team.

Rea: The answer is no and there is a simple explanation. There is no percentage is playing more than one non-league team from a BCS conference. Most years, if you lose, you're out of the national championship game and that's everyone's focus these days. Ohio teams and I-AA opponents are here to stay, I'm afraid.

7. How many night games this year?

Rea: Unfortunately, I think there will be three. The USC game is a no-brainer. Then, I think probably the games at Wisconsin and at Northwestern are prime candidates. I don't think Illinois will be a night game but I could be wrong.

8. How did Terrelle Pryor impact your life? LOL

Rea: How did Pryor impact my life? Not much, really. Recruiting is a beast we have to tame every year. We probably got more phone calls and e-mails about him than any other recruit in recent memory, but we're used to that kind of thing by now. Ever since about mid-November, I was 95 percent sure he was going to be a Buckeye.

9. When is your book due?

Rea: The book is scheduled to be on bookshelves (and online at Amazon) in late July or early August. Thanks so much for asking. The check is in the mail.

BuckeyeBK also asked a series of questions:

1.What are you hearing on Kosta Koufos? Is he gone?

Rea: I am not hearing anything official on Koufos. My gut tells me that he's gone. Why would he stay if he's going to be a first-round draft choice? And from every indication I see, that's what he's going to be. We can argue whether or not he can improve in all facets of the game if he returns to OSU next year. But the way he has elevated his game during the NIT run makes me think he's gone. Hope I'm wrong, though.

2. How much do you think this NIT run will benefit the team next year?

Rea: I think it will be extremely beneficial. Games against better competition, on the road, are always beneficial. It has also given the team extra practice sessions, extra work on fundamentals and extra time to mesh as a group. Matta has also gotten some valuable playing time for guys like P.J. Hill and Dallas Lauderdale and that will be good for them.

3. Is Jim Foster skating on any thin ice?

Rea: No. He wins the Big Ten every year. Do I think his program has plateaued? Maybe. But as long as he continues to win the conference championship, the early NCAA failures will be overlooked.

4. Is Tom Ryan starting to build the wall around Ohio when it comes to wrestling?

Rea: I was at Opening Day in Cincinnati and happened to talk to a guy whose kid is a middle school wrestler. He said that Ryan has opened a lot of eyes with people around the state who never looked at the Ohio State program before. Yes is the answer to your question.

5. Do you expect Boeckman to gain tremendously this year?

Rea: I guess this depends upon your definition of "tremendously." Stat-wise, he had an excellent season in '07. There is no doubt that he needs to cut down on the interceptions. But a little more sophisticated passing attack and a guy to emerge as a viable third option would help there. I guess my answer would be that I expect Boeckman to perform better this year – of course I thought he did pretty well last year as a first-time starter.

6. What recruit do you think commits next for the 2009 class?

Rea: That would be a total guess on my part. Someone always seems to pull the trigger in camp, though. Look for one or two more sometime in May.

7. Who is your sleeper for the '08 class?

Rea: Everyone was so highly rated that it's tough to label anyone as a sleeper. But I'll go with Nathan Williams. I don't think he'll make an impact right away, but in a year or two, I think he could grow into the kind of hybrid linebacker Bobby Carpenter turned out to be.

BuckAndSomeChange: Mark, what are your thoughts on the DBs? Do Jamario or Gene Clifford have a shot at first-team safety? Is Andre Amos better the No. 2, 3 or 4 corner?

Rea: With four returning starters, I'm surprised at the number of questions regarding the DBs. Anyway, I think Eugene Clifford and O'Neal would have to make every play this spring to supplant either Russell or Coleman. I think both have a chance to get playing time in the multiple packages that the Buckeyes are going to employ, but I can't see either of them (or Gant) denting the starting lineup in the base defense.

Amos is one of my favorites and he will battle Donald Washington this spring. But while many people seem to be down on Washington, he was pretty productive last year. That 70-yard interception return against Kent was a thing of beauty. On the other side, you've got Malcolm Jenkins entrenched and Chimdi Chekwa coming off an excellent first season. IMHO, Amos will likely stay behind Washington in the corner rotation.

krenzel16 asked a series of questions:

1. What did you make of Tressel's "gentleman" comment yesterday? A dig at Rich Rodriguez?

Rea: I think everyone took that as a dig at Rodriguez. He certainly is an easy target these days. Not sure if that's the way JT meant it, though. Everyone in the Big Ten puts on a public face that they're buddies when that is clearly not the case. That comment could have been directed at RR or someone else.

2. What do you make of the upheaval in Ann Arbor? Normal transition phase or something more?

Rea: It has a lot to do with the way Carr left, the way the hiring was completely botched by AD Bill Martin and the fact that a so-called Michigan man did not get the job. There are several former players who are absolutely beside themselves because an alum didn't even get in the mix. Do you remember how John Cooper never really got what it meant to be at Ohio State? I think that's what they're afraid of in Double-A.

3. Who are you picking tonight? UMass or Ohio State?

Rea: As long as they've made it this far, I'll go with the Buckeyes. As long as they spread things around as they have been lately – and not wait for Jamar Butler to do everything as they did several times this past season – they'll be fine. Should be a good game.

CatFan93 asked a series of questions:

1. It has been reported that Boeckman was physically and mentally tired in the second half of the season. How is he preparing/training differently this year?

Rea: Where did you hear that? Everyone gets worn down near the end of the season. I do know that TB is a regular in the weight room and that I have never heard anyone on the coaching staff question his conditioning. I'd be interested in where that report came from.

2. Will Pryor be satisfied with 5-10 snaps per game next season?

Rea: Satisfied? He's a freshman. He'll be lucky to get 5-10 snaps per game.

3. If you had to pick one breakout player next year, who would it be?

Rea: I would love for the breakout player to be Rob Rose. That would mean his shoulders are OK and the defensive tackles are again a force to be reckoned with.

4. Who do you like at fullback?

Rea: Can I be honest? I don't like the fullback position. I think the power-I should go the way of the Model-T. I would love to see the Buckeyes use Beanie Wells and Brandon Saine in some sort of split back formation, and maybe I'll get my wish. Short of that, my choice for fullback would be Ross Homan. I think he could play both offense and defense and give the offense a little different dimension – that is, if they'd ever let the fullback run the ball. You can't run a fake to your fullback when the opposing team knows for a fact that he is never going to carry the ball. Here endeth the fullback rant.

Ibetonart also asked a series of questions:

1. Why has Ross Homan's name not been mentioned in LB rotations as much as it used to be? Is his injury lingering?

Rea: We've heard Homan's name mentioned quite a bit. In fact, we believe there is a chance that Marcus Freeman could move over to the Sam and leave Homan as the starter at the Will. Where does that leave Curtis Terry? Maybe sharing time with one or both of them. I have not heard any indication that Homan's injury is a lingering one. He wanted to play at the end of last season.

2. Will we use a pro form style back set with Beanie Wells and Brandon Saine across from each other this season? Have they showed that in practice at all?

Rea: First of all, practice sessions are closed. We get our first look at the formations at the jersey scrimmage on April 12. That said, I already touched on the backfield formations earlier. I would like to think that the time they spent last year with the Saints didn't go to waste. We saw glimmers of that kind of attack but not until the BCS game and then only briefly. I would much rather see that than the old, tired power game with a fullback. Seems to me a better use of your talent. We'll see.

3. I would love to see Jake Ballard get more reps. Is he pushing Rory Nicol?

Rea: Ballard is pushing Nicol, but since Nicol is the senior, you can expect him to start. I would like to see both used more in the passing game. That's the way things started off last year and then they rarely went to the tight ends in the final three games.

4. Is the nickel going to be Chimdi Chekwa, Jamario O'Neal or Kurt Coleman sliding down and someone taking his safety spot?

Rea: IMHO, the nickel back is going to be Jenkins. That means either Chekwa or Amos takes his corner spot and allows him to free-lance.

BuckeyeBash22: There was talk that one of the reasons Jenkins came back was he was told they would play more man-to-man on the outside. Are you expecting OSU to play a lot more man defenses and go after the QB more?

Rea: I don't think there is any question that Heacock wants to play more man. But to do that, he simply has to get more production (i.e. pass rush) out of his interior defensive line. Jenkins can man-up on any receiver and I think Washington has that ability on just about any opponent. But if the opposing QB can sit in the pocket, it makes it extremely difficult to play man all the time. Heacock is not afraid to blitz, but he'd rather get the push up front before committing linebackers and safeties and leaving the middle zones open.

BuckeyeBash22: Which freshmen do you expect to play and which do you expect to redshirt?

Rea: My guess to play: Adams, Brewster (if he's healthy), Goebel, Mobley, Posey, Pryor, Sabino, Shugarts, Stoneburner, Sweat and Wells. My guess to redshirt: Buchanan, DiLillo, Domicone, Howard, Johnson, Martin, Rowell, Thomas and Williams.

drewlaw00buck: I think Thomas plays. I would love to see he or Mo Wells in at tailback and Beanie at the ponyback position.

Rea: You already have Beanie and Mo Wells, Brandon Saine and Boom Herron. Barring injuries, I just don't see Thomas getting enough reps to warrant wasting a year of eligibility. JMHO, though.

buckwild23 asked another series of questions:

1. Will JT open up the offense like he did in 2006? Does he trust TB enough?

Rea: I don't think you see a wide-open offense for a couple of reasons and neither of them has anything to do with "trusting Boeckman." If he didn't trust TB, TB would not be the quarterback. First of all, the 2006 team may have had Antonio Pittman but Beanie Wells is better. If they use him right and he stays healthy, I expect an assault on Eddie's single-season record of 1,927. Secondly, as good as I think Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline are, they are not going to keep defenses honest like Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez did. That's why I think you see an almost even balance of running and passing this year.

2. Your thoughts on Beanie Wells as a RB and Buckeye?

Rea: I think Wells is the best running back I have seen in scarlet and gray since Eddie George. In other words, I think a lot of Beanie.

3. Do you see any coaching changes with in the staff for the upcoming season? Like Coach Hazell up in the booth? Coach Bollman on the sidelines coaching his Block O guys up?

Rea: I expect the assignments will stay the same. Bollman likes it in the booth where he can see defensive alignments better.

4. Three toughest games in order this year?

Rea: USC, Illinois and Wisconsin in that order. All away games.

5. Has the defensive secondary philosophy changed much since coach Mel Tucker left?

Rea: The overall defensive scheme hasn't changed that much since Mark Dantonio left, so the answer to your question is no.

6. Why are you excited about the 2008 season?

Rea: No other team in the nation – not USC, not Georgia, not Florida, not nobody – has as much up-and-down-the-roster talent. If you believe the scouts, Ohio State will field a team with as many as a half-dozen potential first-round draft choices (Laurinaitis, Jenkins, Wells, Robiskie, Heyward, Saine) and any number of other future NFLers. Honestly, if the Buckeyes can't win it all this season, I'm wondering when it will ever happen again.

7. What game are you most excited about?

Rea: I am most excited about the USC game. That will measure this team and we will get to find out if they are really as good as we think they are.

8. Will the Michigan rivalry intensify with Rodriguez now being the man up there?

Rea: The rivalry is intense enough as it is. The hiring of Rodriguez makes little difference in that respect.

9. It wouldn't be a plug without the title of your new book.

Rea: The title is "Ohio State: When Legends Were Made." Thanks again for the plug.

Clevbuck: Who is your surprise player for this year? Cameron Heyward came in and blew up last year. Just curious as to who you think could be the name that surprises us this year.

Rea: I get this question every year and it's a toughie. After all, would Heyward have gotten a chance last year had Wilson not been hurt? I've already mentioned Rob Rose and Dane Sanzenbacher as players I think will play bigger roles this year. As for a surprise, maybe Jermale Hines. The guy has all kinds of athletic ability and if he can harness it and get on the field, he could possibly be a surprise – a very pleasant one.

BuckeyeBash22: What are your thoughts on Curtis Terry? What kind of year are you expecting from him?

Rea: I've always liked Terry. He's a guy who's been shuffled around a little bit, looking for an opening. He's a senior and I expect a big year from him. Depends on what kind of spring he has, of course, because the competition at outside linebacker is so keen right now. But I expect him to be a major contributor in the fall.

BuckeyeBash22: So far in spring practice, how would you rank the six freshmen from most impressive to least impressive (five excluding Brewster)?

Rea: Impossible to say since I haven't been allowed to watch practice yet. I will know more after the April 12 jersey scrimmage. I will say this: I probably should have included Jake Stoneburner when I was talking about receivers with the ability to go over the middle. I like the way he can stretch the field, but there are also things you can do in the short and intermediate zones with a 6-5, 225-pound receiver.

BIGGbuckeye04: Who gets the most carries as a back-up behind Beanie? Will Dan Herron get carries in the fall?

Rea: Good question. IMHO, it should be Saine although Maurice Wells will get his opportunities. How Boom Herron fits into the mix, I'm not quite sure.

drewlaw00buck: Mark, what is your honest prediction on the USC game? If we lose to them and everyone else has two losses, will we still make it to the national championship game after our two previous performances there?

Rea: I see no reason why Ohio State cannot win that game. Let me put it this way: "To be the man, you have to beat the man." And, yes, either team can still make to the national championship game if they lose that game. It will be early enough in the season that attrition will allow the loser to move back up the polls – and it won't take everyone else having two losses either.

thedietz: Does Grant Swartz have a chance to see any PT besides special teams? I've been rooting for the kid and would like to see him do well.

Rea: I like the kid's attitude but I don't think he's going to see much time at receiver. Too many others in front of him with Posey coming in the fall.

boulderbuck1: I'm taking by your comments that you are assuming Rose will slide down to DT fulltime if he is healthy?

Rea: My preference would be to use him at tackle. I like him there because he gives the interior another option in terms of rushing the passer. Then again, I'm not the defensive coordinator. I believe Heacock wants to keep his options open with Rose, especially until he sees how the end position shakes out with Gibson, Thomas and Mark Johnson in the backup roles. If those guys are solid, I look for Rose at tackle. If not, he'll be on the edge.

chuangtsu asked a series of questions:

1. Where is Nate Oliver? I rarely, if ever, hear anything about him.

Rea: Nate Oliver was redshirted last year and is just getting back into the mix. This will be a good spring for him to show what he can do and perhaps get some special teams play in the fall. Next spring is when he should begin to make some real noise.

2. Any idea of what kind of spring Antonio Henton is having? This seems to be make-or-break time especially if Joe Bauserman is having a solid spring.

Rea: We have been told that both Henton and Bauserman are having solid springs. Honestly, unless Bauserman completes every pass and Henton stinks up the stadium, Henton is going to head into fall as the No. 2 guy behind Boeckman.

3. Can Brian Rolle or James Scott (both special teams demons) get on the field this year?

Rea: Everyone likes Rolle and his mentality, but at 5-11 and 221, he's certainly not the prototypical linebacker. I expect he'll be in the mix but I also expect most of his PT will come on special teams. Same for the 5-10, 170-pound Scott. Tough to send him up against 6-2 and 6-3 receivers.

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