Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big East blogger Brian Bennett will stop by to talk some football.
Bennett joined ESPN.com in August 2008 after nine years at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where he covered college sports and the University of Louisville beat. He lives in Louisville.
Send your questions now and join Bennett Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Hello and welcome to another chat. We can talk Big East and Notre Dame here. I'm ready to go, so fire away with questions!
Best QB going into the 2011 season in the BE. And does WV still have the talent to run the new OC system. We know Mullins and Stewart wasted what RR left.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
It's Geno Smith in my book. I think there's plenty of talent on offense. The Mountaineers need some young WRs to step up, and to find a star at RB and for the OL to play better. But I expect major improvement in the offense this season.
Steve (Mansfield, CT)
whats the latest on the Uconn coaching search? so many rumors have been floated around but nobody seems to have any facts. do you have any insider knowledge of this search?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Not a lot of solid information, but it looks like UConn had zeroed in on Whipple, but that they may be a ways apart in terms of money for his staff. Remember that UConn had one of the lowest-paid staffs in the Big East under Edsall. Haven't been real impressed with the Huskies' candidate pool thus far.
With Mike Floyd back in the fold is improved QB play the only thing stopping Notre Dame from snatching a spot in a BCS bowl next year?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
Well, there's more to it than that. The defense has to play like it did down the stretch, and I think Cierre Wood has to improve at RB. And then there's the schedule. But Notre Dame has the tools to compete for a BCS game, legitimately, for the first time in a while
Brian do you have any update on Todd Graham's/Pitt Staff's recruiting? I haven't heard anything yet. Thanks-Dave K
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Well, he's been on the job for what, 48 hours? Pitt is having a big recruiting weekend this weekend. I think that's when we'll start to hear some news on that front.
John Riley (Richmond VA)
Hey Brian, with all the turmoil within the Big East coaching ranks to include a coach in waiting, who woul dyou tout as the early Big East favorite?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Well, I picked South Florida earlier this week, based on the way the Bulls finished and what they bring back. But I think it is wide open. Again.
With no candidates seeming to jump out, why not promote Hank Huges as head coach at UConn? He'd keep most of the staff intact and bring some continuity to the program.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
That's one option, and if the Whipple thing falls apart then maybe the Huskies go that route. I expect that Hathaway wants to make his mark, though. He hasn't hired a major coach yet at UConn
How much does enrolling early for spring practice help freshmen? Specifically Quarterbacks like DeMarcus Smith (if cleared) and Teddy Bridgewater?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Every little bit helps. It's especially important for a QB to get a jump start on the playbook. I imagine one of those guys will be starting for the Cards this season
Brian with the players that Rutgers has, do you think a pro offense really fits? They have 4 good receivers (sanu, harrison, deering, wright) and a smaller qb, wouldnt a spread offense seem to work better for the players they have?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Nothing will work unless the offensive line blocks. It's not so much the system as how it's implemented. I think Cignetti will base things on the talent he has.
Dennis (Airville, PA)
Brian: I still surprised that Pitt dismissed Rich Rod out-of-hand in their search for a new coach. Yes, being fired from your previous job isn't much of a recommendation but RR still has solid credentials and fit in the Big East very well at WV. Why wouldn't they at least consider him?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I think they were scared away by RichRod's perceived ego. But then they hired a bunch of RichRod's former assistants. So why didn't they just get the real thing?
Vinnie (Freezing in America)
Does Tom Bradley not interview well? Why hasn't he been given a chance?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I think he's hurt by the fact that he's been an assistant at the same program for 35 years. Had he struck out on his own at a smaller school years ago, he'd probably be getting these types of jobs.
John (Tampa, FL)
BB, I love your blog and it's the only thing that keeps me sane at work. Looking ahead to next season what's your thoughts on the opening game for USF at Notre Dame?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Thanks, John, though you might want to consider another job. I think that game will be a lot of fun. The obvious Holtz connection will be an intriguing storyline, and you could have both teams coming into the season with a lot of hype.
Johan (Coral Gables)
What is your take on Whipple for UConn. I think most Miami fans loved him last year, but wanted to run him out of town after this year. Most are suprised he would be considered for the UConn job.
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Yeah, he didn't get the most out of that Miami offense. But he does have a nice track record as a head coach at smaller schools and knows the Big East. No idea what kind of recruiter he is. Might be a good choice, but there are several question marks as well.
Carl (Parkersburg, WV)
Why does everyone think that theres gonna be turmoil in the coaching ranks at WV this year? I think Stewart will know his role and let Holgerson do his thing.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
It's just natural human reaction. If someone you didn't know was brought into your office to replace you in a year and had all his own people with him, don't you think there might be some tension?
For all the comments made over the years about USF's mid season troubles, lets take a look at how USF has carried the BIG EAST banner since 2006. 4-1 in bowl games. 6-1 vs. ACC. Win at Auburn. Win over top 25 Kansas. 26-4 against all non BIG EAST opponents. (the 4 loses were @ Kansas, @ Florida, Miami and Oregon in a bowl game).... Pretty impressive, and not often mentioned.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
OK, but the bowl wins have come against Memphis, East Carolina, Northern Illinois and a 6-6 Clemson team. Just saying.
I see WVU is ranked by both SI and ESPN in the top 25 for 2011. Does that surprise you?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
It does, considering the way they played in the bowl and the fact that eight defensive starters are gone. Lot of respect being given to Holgorsen
Kendal (Mt. Washington, Ky)
BB, do you ever see a scenario in the future were the BE will be able to keep it's best coaching talent, rather than lose these coaches to bigger programs. Would love to see these guy's hang around and recruit and coach the BE into national respectability.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
I think there will be guys who have success and want to stay. Doug Marrone comes to mind. But everything is a stepping stone in some ways. Pete Carroll left for the NFL from USC. Steve Spurrier left Florida. Nick Saban left LSU. It's just the nature of the business
Rutgers O-line (NJ)
Will we be better next season?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Yes, only because it's not possible to be much worse
Josh (North Haven, CT)
What's your take on the UConn job hunt? First we hear nothing, then we hear Whipple is a "sure thing," then we're back to unknown, now we are hearing possibly Pasqualoni? How much longer can this drag on before it becomes an issue? And should we judge UConn's athletic department for rumors spread by others?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Well, Edsall left on Jan. 2, so it's been 11 days. And signing day is rapidly approaching. The Huskies should have wrapped this up by now.
Corey (Pittsburgh, PA)
Pitt could be in trouble at the RB position, with only 1 scholarship RB left. Do you think that should be their #1 priority over the next few weeks?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Getting better offensive linemen should be the first priority, but RB is up there. And they'd better hope Ray Graham stays healthy.
Who's your pick to start the Irish opener at QB? Can you think of a game ND will be an underdog in 2011 except maybe the Stanford finale.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I still think it will be Dayne Crist, though Tommy Rees was impressive and just wins. The Michigan switch probably helps Notre Dame. So, yeah, on paper, there's no game before the finale where they couldn't be favored or at least a pick 'em at this point.
Tom (Ellington, CT)
Regarding your bowl rating commentary, you made particular note of the Outback bowl having a higher rating than the Fiesta bowl (and the Orange bowl as well), but would you agree that that might be more a factor of Outback being air on broadcast network TV and all BSC games... all of which suffered a decline in viewers this year... being moved to ESPN on cable TV this year?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
That might have been a factor, but I suspect the fact that it was Florida and Penn State, and Urban Meyer and Joe Paterno, that made that game more interesting to people. And it was close throughout.
True or False: Todd Graham is Steve Kragthorpe, the Sequel
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
That should be Pitt's worse fear. In Graham's defense, he won at two programs as head coach, unlike Kragthorpe. But he never won a C-USA title, while Kragthorpe did.
jerry (pittsburgh, pa)
How do you think Tino Sunseri will fit into Coach Graham's no-huddle offense? The bigger question is.... does highly touted Mark Myers stay at Pitt now that the offensive scheme will be different?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I think it will be a wide open competition. Does Anthony Gonzalez get back in the mix? Will be fascinating to watch.
Did you ever post the Best/Worst case scenarios for WVU?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
It will be up right after this chat is done.
SU is having a pretty good recruiting year even without Williams and Reynolds committing. How important is it to grab one of these guys as well to call it a turn around year for the Cuse in recruiting?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I think if the Orange could get Ishaq Williams, that would be a huge coup for Doug Marrone and could really give Syracuse some momentum.
Desperate RU fan (New Brunswick)
How does Schiano keep Flood as a coach? they were by far the worst offensive line I have ever seen. Also, he seems content to just have one juco center come in and say that "the other guys are older" How bad does this team have to get before they get rid of Schiano and start fresh?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I'm surprised by that. Maybe he thought the Flood and Ciarrocca's philosophies just didn't mix, because Flood had done a good job with the line previously. Or maybe there's more shakeup coming. Something must change in a hurry.
Krystal (South Charleston)
Should Pitt and WVU be the front runners with the new OC, since both are wide open offences?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
It takes more than offense to win a conference title, and both will be going through some transitions. But both could win the league. Again, it's wide open on paper.
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Word to the wise: if you post your question 35 times, I'm not going to answer it. Thanks.
Tom (South Bend)
Since you cover the Big East and have followed Brian Kelly longer than me, has BK ever had a defense like he could potentially have next year? I always seem to remember his teams excelling offensively. If he can get ND's offense playing like Cincinati's did, look out.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
He has had good defenses in the past at other stops, and that '08 Cincinnati defense was the key to that team's success. The Irish could be really good defensively if they play the way they did down the stretch. I'd still like to see one or two more real difference makers up front, though.
John (Martinsburg, WV)
WVU had one of the best D's in the nation in 2010, losing 8 guys do you think Casteel has some magic up his sleeve? The 3-3-5 looked good this year but i remember years past where it looked awful... Last question, do you see BS stepping down (with a little Luck) or are we stuck with waiting another year for DH to take control
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
The defense is never going to be terrible under Casteel, but it's just hard to replace the talent and savvy all those veterans had. The defense could be on the field more because of Holgorsen's offense, too. Stewart has no incentive to step down, and I don't think it happens.
Charlie Strong is outrecruiting the rest of the Big East right now -- how long before that translates into championships?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
It's probably going to take another two years. Then, watch out for the Cardinals.
I think most UConn fans are dissapointed in the names being floated. Who do you think would have been a good fit? It has to be an up and comer considering UConn seems against paying the assistants what the rest of the league does...
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
It's not an easy job because of the location. I think it has to be somebody who knows the Northeast, and I agree that an up-and-comer would be the right way to go. Not a lot of obvious choices out there who fit that mold. I don't understand why UConn is nickel-and-diming the assistants.
Karel M (Liamston)
Will TCU go undefeated in the Big East when they join?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
That's in 2012. How can anybody possibly know the answer to that?
Brian, should USF be excited about our running game next year with the transfers finally seeing the field? Supposedly, scott is tearing it up in practice.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I thought the running game was decent this year and should improve. Scott didn't fulfill his potential at Colorado, so he's got to prove it first.
i know it is impossible to answer this question with any certainty, but - as a Pitt fan - i feel much better about the program right now than i did two days after the Haywood press conference...did Mike Haywood actually do Pitt a favor?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I think Todd Graham is a better hire than Mike Haywood. And for the long term health of the program, the fact that Pitt was willing to step up its financial commitment was good. So the do-over might help in the long run.
Everyone talks about how terrible a location Storrs, CT is (and believe me as a UConn alum there is not a heck of a lot to do out there), but isn't using it as a reason for poor recruiting a cop out? UConn wasn't always a national power in basketball, but Calhoun and Auriemma were able to build successful programs there.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
It's much different in basketball, where you don't need as many players. It's not the location of the campus so much as there is no natural talent-rich recruiting base.
So, Butch Jones gets two more years and if he doesn't get it going by then Urban Meyer returns to coach his Alma Mater correct (he is already a financial contributor to the football program at UC)
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Lot of time to daydream at work today, Eric?
Todd D (Chicago)
Hey Brian! So, what do you think Notre Dame football will be like next season? As good as this season?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I think the Irish will be better than 7-5. Kelly's teams have taken off in Year Two historically, and there's a boatload of starters returning.
Scott (Buckhannon WV)
I think the addition of TCU in 2012 will help the conference gain some respect. However, I believe TCU will be surprised at the level of competition they'll face in a league that beats up on itself annually. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I'll say this: If the current coaches and quarterbacks are all in place for 2012, the Big East could be really good top to bottom. And TCU will not waltz through the league.
Brian, love the blog. Do you see any chance that Strong stays with Louisville for a long time if he see's continued success. I mean we were the only school to give him a chance, he's a king in the city, and being at Louisville is not hurting his recruiting.
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
I do think he is very loyal to Louisville right now and wants to win big there. But it's going to be hard to say no when those big-time programs come sniffing around. And they will.
John (Oakdale Ct)
Do you think if U Conn signs Whipple they will become the doormat of the Big East until he gets recruits?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
I wouldn't go that far, not at all. Still a lot of good players there.
Jared (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
After his performance in the Pinstripe Bowl, what are the odds of Ryan Nassib being the Syracuse starting QB for the next two seasons?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
He has the inside edge for 2011, for sure. There are some younger players who will push him, but experience is huge.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all my time for today, folks. Thanks for all the questions, and enjoy the rest of your week!