Big Ten Friday mailblog

Have a great weekend. You know how to reach me.

Tim from Zeeland, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, do you happen to know when the Big Ten spring games are? Are they locked in yet like the SEC or is it going to be a few more weeks before we know? Thanks

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, I'm currently in the process of collecting key spring dates from all the Big Ten squads, but spring games will take place either April 16 or April 23 (both Saturdays). Here are the ones I can confirm. April 16: Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern, Indiana. April 23: Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin.

Matt from Chicago writes: RE: Notes from Iowa news conference You need to stop making a mountain out of a mole hill in regards to the presser. The story is what it is and what happened to the athletes is quite common. The type of exercises are typical to what athletes have done in the past in the Ferentz era and these injuries occur when there is long lay off on exercise. There is nothing else the staff or doctors need to say except that the athletes are recovering.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, with all due respect, 13 student-athletes in the hospital with a potentially serious condition shouldn't be described as a mole hill. It's disrespectful. And while the case with the Oregon high school is similar, to call the situation "quite common" is inaccurate. There isn't precedent with a major college football team like Iowa. While I'm sure these workouts aren't unique to Iowa and the long layoff certainly contributed to what happened, there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered. That's why the school is conducting an investigation. Thirteen players hospitalized is a major news story and should be treated as such, period.

Ray from Chicago writes: Hey Adam, I was surprised to see that of all the FBS schools, Northwestern has the smallest average recruiting class size over the past 5 years. I know that many NU athletes stay 5 years but that cant be the sole reason. Can you think of any other reason why Fitz and Co shouldnt be signing larger classes?

Adam Rittenberg: Pat Fitzgerald loves to redshirt as many players as he can, and that's really the driving force behind having smaller signing classes every year. While not every player stays five years, most do. As you probably know, the Big Ten prohibits oversigning, Northwestern doesn't run off players and attrition there is minimal. So if guys are happy being in the program, the numbers simply aren't there to sign more recruits.

Adam from Baltimore writes: Hey Adam, The returning starters article is pretty interesting, but I guess the main comment I would make when looking at is that most of the teams that really struggled were in the top half of that list, and I would be one to guess that those lower down who actually won the conference, while they relied on seniors for experience and leadership, also built quality depth. While Michigan, Northwestern, Illinois, and even Penn State had winning seasons and return a lot starters, I seriously question the depth of all of these teams, whereas I expect OSU, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and even MSU to be able to fill those gaps because they were able to build quality depth with some game experience behind the starters they lost this year. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: You make some good points here, Adam. Michigan and Northwestern both have major concerns on defense heading into 2011, despite having so many returning starters. A lot of folks seem torn on Penn State. Some think the Lions are poised for a huge season in 2011 and will challenge for the division title. Others cite the question marks at quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and elsewhere as potential stumbling blocks. Ohio State has proven time and again that it reloads. Nebraska seems to have enough coming back to contend for the league title. Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State all will be tested to varying degrees on reloading, especially the Badgers and Hawkeyes.

Wilson from New York writes: Hi Adam, love your work. I read your comment in this week's chat about how Hoke should've had 2 more months to recruit. I respect your opinion but I'd like to know the basis behind that comment. I think we can agree that Harbaugh was the #1 choice for everyone and it seemed that we'd get him. He was unwilling to commit until after the Orange Bowl, and kept Brandon waiting with Brandon probably thinking that we'd get him after Rodriguez and Harbaugh both coached their bowl games. His stock blew up after the game, and the NFL was drooling all over him. The best NFL job for him, in SF, opens up and he takes it, leaving UM in the dust. So even with the Les Miles courtship that may or may not have been for show, it sounds like you're saying Hoke should've been hired after the Ohio State game. I just don't know how that is possible with Harbaugh unwilling to commit. Many UM fans have said we should've given him an ultimatum or something like that, but if we forced Harbaugh's hand and lost him, only to end up with Hoke, the fanbase would not have been happy about that either.

Adam Rittenberg: Wilson, thanks for the note, but you're wrong about Jim Harbaugh's stock blowing up after the bowl game. It was already soaring well before the bowl game, as everyone seemed to be talking about him for potential NFL vacancies in the month of December. By early December, Mike Singletary's fate with the 49ers was more or less sealed. Everyone knew that job would open, as would several others. Unless Harbaugh sent very strong signals he would take the Michigan job late in the regular season or early in December, Michigan should have opted to look elsewhere and make a change after the Ohio State game. You have to anticipate a bit better in these situations, and Harbaugh always seemed likelier to go to the NFL or stay at Stanford than take the Michigan job. I'm absolutely saying Brady Hoke should have been hired after the Ohio State game to give him an extra six weeks to recruit.

Scott from Phoenix writes: Adam, please continue to refer to both "NU"s as NU. Regardless of the misnomer, Nebraska has always been NU during my lifetime, much like former Big 8 affiliates, OU and KU. Nebraska even had "NU" on their helmets at one time. Nebraska will always be NU to its fans regardless of whether other universities use it too.

Adam Rittenberg: Scott, thanks for the response. I invite other Nebraska fans to weigh in on this as well. My sense is that most folks will agree with you and want to keep the NU designation for the Huskers. I'm completely fine with this. We'll have two NU's in the Big Ten blog, and both fan bases will be satisfied. If you're confused by a headline, read the actual blog post and you'll soon know which team I'm referring to.