Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago.
Send your questions now and join Rittenberg in The Show at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday!
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Hey guys, it's been a while. Let's talk Big Ten spring football, the coming football season, White Sox-Royals (I'm watching), whatever's on your mind.
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Let's get started
Blair - Chicago
What are your thoughts on all things Michigan? Any signs of life? Maybe even a winning record (did I really just type that last sentence?!?!)?
Adam Rittenberg (3:02 PM)
The schedule is a lot easier, Blair, but there's still so much concern at QB. Rod Smith told me recently that they're basically starting over there. Michigan will be better this fall, no doubt, and a 7-5 or maybe 8-4 season isn't too farfetched.
Pete (Lansing, MI)
Do you really see A.J. Jimmerson starting for the Spartans? Do you think the two freshman Baker or Baldwin make an impact right away?
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
From what I've heard, Jimmerson is having a solid spring and staying even with Andre Anderson and Ashton Leggett. But those two freshman undoubtedly will have a chance to play right away. I think they'll go with a mix -- Anderson could start -- but a lot of guys will get work.
Matt (New York)
Hey Adam, the Big Ten lost some prominent RB's to the NFL and graduation does this make John Clay the best RB in the Big Ten going into the season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:04 PM)
I would put Clay right up there with Evan Royster and Brandon Minor heading into the season. Royster is my pick at the top back, but Clay certainly has a chance for a huge fall. I love the way Clay runs. He's got to lose some weight this spring and summer -- 250 is just too big -- and his recurring ankle problems are a bit of a concern.
Chris (Evanston, IL)
Adam -- love the column. Any updates on Corey Wootton's knee? And what are you hearing out of Northwestern's practices? Will the team look good on the field? And who will be playing RB?
Adam Rittenberg (3:06 PM)
Just talked with a team official over lunch and Wootton is progressing extremely well from his knee injury. "Freak" was the term used. The defense will be among the Big Ten's best, but the offense has plenty of questions. The running back situation probably won't be finalized until several freshmen arrive this summer. Stephen Simmons is your starter at the moment.
Adam can you give an honest opinion of the development going on at Michigan? It seems to me that RR is starting the foundation of a vastly different offense than the big ten has ever seen (even at NW and Purdue). Do you feel he'll get a chance to finish his mad project?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
I don't think Rodriguez's offense is completely unprecedented in the Big Ten. Northwestern practically copied it from him when he was at Clemson in 1999-2000 (even used the same verbiage). There certainly will be some nuances with a quarterback better equipped to run the system, but it's not totally foreign to the league. Rich knows there still will be some growing pains on offense this fall, but Michigan should be better at every other position (RB, OL, WR).
What are you hearing about OSU possible change in the offense structure. Do you really think they will let Pryor make his own decisons? Do you think other big ten teams will struggle against a possibly spread speedy ohio state?
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
I've heard and read both things about Ohio State -- they could make significant changes or keep the main structure in place with a few tweaks. Tressel isn't the type to make wholesale changes, and in many ways, they tried a lot of things last year, even if most didn't work. I'd definitely expect more plays out of the Wildcat, and if the Buckeyes get some good early results out of the pistol formation, they'll go back to it.
Hey Adam, Are you shinning your goggles up to get a view of Pryor dancing around USC D in the shoe come september?
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
I'm shining them, Sylvain. Unfortunately for Ohio State, I might get a pretty good view of Taylor Mays as well. College football players really shouldn't look like he does -- a beast. Should be a good one Sept. 12.
Mike A (Altoona, PA)
With the schedule that Penn State has this season and some luck on the injury front, I don't really foresee anyone beating them. If they finish undefeated, do you think JoePa will get a shot at his 3rd national title?
Adam Rittenberg (3:11 PM)
Penn State's toughest games (Ohio State, Iowa) come at home, though the Michigan State trip won't be easy. If Penn State is the only FBS unbeaten, it will have a shot at the title. If there's another unbeaten team, I don't think the Lions make the title game. Schedule is simply too soft.
Do you think a coaching change might happen after this upcoming season if the Badgers seem to stumble once again? As a fan I'm just a little concerned with the lack of recurits that this staff is bringing in, because I think last year it really started to show.
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
Unless Barry Alvarez is under extreme pressure from boosters or fan support drops off significantly, I don't see him firing Bret Bielema. It was interesting to see them talk for about 15 minutes during practice last week. Most coaches and ADs don't have as close a relationship as those two, so Bielema would really have to struggle. As for the recruiting, this is a big year for Bielema because the team is almost all his own recruits. Wisconsin is always realistic about its recruiting pool, but I liked some of the 2009 signees (Jon Budmayr, Kraig Appleton).
Adam Rittenberg (3:13 PM)
And Montee Ball, forgot about him.
Pete (Lansing, MI)
Any news out of Minnesota as to what their offense is going to look like this fall? Are they going completely away from the spread??
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
Pete, it's safe to say the Gophers' offense won't look anything like the spread last year. It's one of the more interesting spring storylines, to tell you the truth. Expect a pro-style system, a lot of power running and a controlled passing attack. The spread is dead in the Twin Cities after Minnesota couldn't rush the ball last fall.
Dan (Bloomington, IN)
If you were the coach at IU would you had moved Kellen Lewis and Ray Fisher to new positions? Is Bill Lynch getting desperate?
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
For a coach on the hot seat, those are risky moves, but ones that could pay off big time. Lynch didn't make any staff changes, which surprised me, so he will largely be judged on these position switches. What I like is that both Lewis and Fisher have handled things with tremendous maturity. Lewis sounds really excited about playing wide receiver, and if Ben Chappell takes another step forward in his growth, Indiana could be dangerous on offense.
Beano Cook (Pittsburgh)
Random Hypothetical: If Bradford, McCoy, and Tebow all put up similar stats as last year, but none win their conference, while Terrelle Pryor or Jimmy Claussen lead their teams to an undefeated season, who gets the Heisman?
Adam Rittenberg (3:18 PM)
Great question, Beano. You probably would have a better answer than I, but I'd have a hard time seeing Tebow not win the Heisman if he lights it up again this fall. His previous Heisman came in a year when Florida didn't win the SEC. On the flip side, both Pryor and Clausen are such big names nationally, they could sneak into the mix.
Bryan (Chicago, IL)
It's obvious some of your colleagues don't think highly of the Big 10s chances for a BCS title this year. Who would you say has the best chance? The usual suspects (Ohio State and Penn State) or some dark horse?
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
Penn State certainly has a shot despite all the personnel losses because of its favorable schedule. But like I said earlier, things have to fall right. Ohio State needs to beat USC to have any shot at reaching the title game. Aside from those two teams, I don't see another Big Ten squad contending. Iowa's road schedule is brutal, and Michigan State probably will have some growing pains on offense.
Adam, don't you just want to punch some of your colleagues at ESPN for their knee jerk reaction to the Big Ten as always negative? I will pay you to hit Mark May
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
If you've seen Mark and you've seen me, you'd know that would be an incredibly dumb idea on my part.
Justin Iowa City, IA
Nothing "on Iowa" so I have to throw my two cents in. James Ferentz gets arrested...again. That's embarrasing. Does he deserve the boot? Clayborn supposedly punches cabbie in the face. Does he play this year? And then finally, (tangential here), Iowa should be solid this year, and still pretty young. I think 2010 looks really good given talent level and schedule. I'm looking forward to 2009 though too of course. My prediction: 9-3 with losses at OSU, at PSU, and one of either MSU or Wisconsin.
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
I really feel bad for Kirk Ferentz here. He might not have a choice but to kick James off the team. Maybe if Iowa hadn't had a recent history of off-field troubles, he could give him another chance. But after handing down a stern penalty after the first incident in October (suspended from team activities, counseling/community service), the kid goes out and gets in trouble six months later. I don't see how you bring him back ... As for Clayborn, it seems like there could be more to this story (incident happened in January, arrest not until March), so let's wait and see there. And as for the team, 9-3 sounds about right to me. Iowa should be solid at home (Arizona and Northwestern could be tough), but the road schedule is tough.
Adam, anything promising that you can say about Purdue? I haven't seen them discussed yet.
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
Just talked to Joey Elliott about 15 minutes before the chat. He said the new coaches have brought a new energy to practice, which has been good. And like Danny Hope, he praised the progress of the tight ends, particularly Kyle Adams, who got hurt in Week 1 last year. Purdue's offense is very dangerous when the tight ends are involved -- Dustin Keller made that unit go in 2006-07 -- so that's a good sign.
Is Jim Bollman (OSU's offensive line coach) really in trouble after his squads have continued to struggle for the past few years?
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Jim Tressel is incredibly loyal to his assistants, but this will be a big year for Bollman. I think some of the criticism he takes for the offense is a bit misguided, since Tressel is the play-caller there. But Bollman's offensive line grossly underachieved last fall, and they need better results with a young group this year. It'll be interesting to watch.
Have you had a chance to look at Minnesota's new offensive line? Any thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:27 PM)
Just saw them on the first day of spring, when they were in shorts, so you couldn't tell that much. But the new left tackle, Matt Stommes, really looks the part. He's big but very lean, an NFL-type body for sure. And I like the way new line coach Tim Davis gets after them in practice. Davis might have been the best hire of the offseason in the Big Ten.
Hey Adam, you mentioned maybe 7-5 or 8-4 for Michigan but don't include them in Iowa's tough home games. Who are the other 2-3 wins on Michigan's schedule besides Western, Eastern, DSU, and (hopefuly) Indiana and Purdue?
Adam Rittenberg (3:29 PM)
Michigan could push Iowa in that game, but it comes a bit early and I think the Wolverines will still be going through an adjustment period. I think Michigan wins at least four of the five games you mentioned, and it will have a shot against Illinois and Wisconsin, even though those games are on the road. The Notre Dame game, even though it's early, also will be interesting.
John (Iowa City, IA)
Strictly statistically, do the Hawkeyes have a higher average number of player arrests/off-field issues compared to other schools, or is part of the publicity on new issues due to a heightened profile as a result of 06? Also, when you are in town, please tell the players to stop getting arrested. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (3:31 PM)
Will do, John. Every team has its problems, and some are more publicized than others. But Iowa has had an usually high number of arrests since 2007 after several years of relative quiet. I'm sure you know about Penn State's recent problems, though things have quieted down there. Iowa's number is above normal, for the Big Ten at least.
What is the nature of most of the coaching relationships in the Big 10? Are there any really heated rivals or are they all pretty good friends?
Adam Rittenberg (3:33 PM)
Most of them are friends, Mike. There are some coaches that are closer than others -- Tressel and Dantonio, Paterno and Ferentz, Bielema and Fitzgerald -- but most get along all right. There are some rivalries for sure, but this isn't the SEC.
Travis(St. Paul, MN)
Denard Robinson's 100 meter times are sick... reports of a 10.28 are out now... why not just move him to WR and watch him run by every corner in the big ten?
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
I guess they could do that, Travis, but there's so little depth at quarterback that you need to try him there in preseason camp. Don't be surprised if Robinson puts himself right in the mix. In addition to being extremely fast, he might fit the entire offense better than anyone else they have, including Forcier.
Hey Adam, I am a Michigan State fan and I believe that we will be able to find adequate replacements at quarterback and running back but do you think the O-line will be any better this year.
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
Good call, Brian. I'm really interested to see how the offensive line is coming along. Though Javon Ringer had a huge season last year, the line was just so-so. They lose a couple of starters in Miller and Martin, so the development of younger players will be key. I really like the Joels (Nitchman and Foreman).
Pete (Lansing, MI)
Any news in spring practice as to who's leading the quarterback race at MSU? Keith Nicol seems too good not to win the job...
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
Nichol didn't transfer to East Lansing to sit on the bench, and I know they were pleased with how he ran the scout team. The big question is how important mobility will be for Mark Dantonio in this offense. I keep hearing how MSU will adapt its offense to its quarterback, but last year's scheme was pretty vanilla. If Michigan State wants a Drew Stanton type who can make plays with his feet, Nichol seems to fit the mold. On the other hand, Cousins performed well as Hoyer's backup last year and might be a little steadier as a passer (74.4 percent completions last year).
Matt (Champaign, IL)
Adam, I am huge fan of the blog, check it everyday. But what is the deal with never having Illinois stuff. I am not blaming you, I am just wondering is there off season events that boring or are they Illini not very helpful with the media?
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Not to worry, Matt, I'm heading down to Champaign tomorrow afternoon to visit with Ron Zook and the crew. Illinois started spring ball a little later (March 31), and I had an item on the defensive line earlier this week. But look out for more Illini coverage in the coming days.
Jon (Columbus, OH)
Shouldn't the Ohio State offense run better without Beanie Wells? Basically, you cannot depend on one person anymore, forcing everyone else to step up and perhaps diversify things.
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
That's certainly a glass-half-full way to look at things, Jon! I don't think Jim Tressel would mind one bit if Beanie had stuck around for 2009, but his departure will create opportunities for others.
Rick in Pittsburgh
Adam, Do you agree with the many people who always suggest that the big 10 should add a team and then split to have confernce championship game for one, and then also to give the top 2 big 10 teams a less of a time gap between their last game and the bowl games. In my opinion that extra 2 weeks off has killed us in the past. Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
The Big Ten will be extending its schedule by a week starting next year -- Wisconsin and Illinois are playing Dec. 5 this season -- so the time off won't be as big a deal. As for expansion, it would be nice to have it, I guess, but I'm pretty realistic and don't expect it any time soon. I don't think the Big Ten needs it as much as others do. Just start winning bowl games again.
Rod, Waterloo, Iowa
If you get to Iowa City for spring practice, maybe you could overload on some beers so our players do not have as much to drink!!
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
Uh, I'd rather keep my job, thank you.
Rick from Pittsburgh
Adam, When are you heading to State College?
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
Next week, finally! I'll be in State College on Wednesday visiting with the Nittany Lions. Looking forward to it.
Hey Adam, love the blog. Do you have any idea why DJK is in the doghouse? He is buried in teh depth chart and been said to be walking around practice carrying a grabage can.
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
I'm not sure, Nick. I'm scheduled to talk with Derrell on Friday in Iowa City, so I'll have an answer for you soon. I hear he's a pretty entertaining kid, and he came on strong last year.
Arman New York City, NY
I know a ton has been written about the QB battle going on at Wisconsin, with Dustin Sherer presumably in the lead. What are your thoughts on who YOU think should get the starting job? That is, not necessarily an individual, but rather a mindset of "Lets just plug in the next senior in line" versus "Lets put in an underclassman, and bring them up through the program as a mutli-year starter." As a huge badger fan, I much prefer the latter option. Its what was done with John Stocco, and in the end he yielded great results. I think its about time there was an established multi-year starter for QB at Wisconsin. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
This is a very interesting debate, Arman, and one I thought about when I was up there. Though I don't think Bret Bielema is on the hot seat, he needs to have a better season than last year, so he needs to play the best player. And right now, the guy is probably Dustin Sherer. It would be a good idea to get Curt Phillips some playing time because he's fast and Wisconsin hasn't had enough mobility at QB. As for Jon Budmayr, love the kid's attitude and strong arm, but I doubt he'll be ready for significant time this year. Ultimately, you have to play the guy who's ready to lead the offense. If Phillips, Tozien or Budmayr become that guy by August, you play them, no doubt. But you can't deny Sherer a chance just because he's a senior. Understand your frustration, though.
Adam Rittenberg (3:48 PM)
OK, guys, that's all the time I've got today. Really enjoyed the chat and hope to do it again soon.