Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Hello, everybody. It's nearly 70 degrees where I am, so I'm in an excellent mood. Will be even happier when we start talking some Big East/Notre Dame football. Fire away with your best questions.
How much of an upgrade/difference do you think Dana Holgorson will make with the WVU offense over Jeff Mullin's less-than-stellar three-year stretch?
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
If history is any indicator, it should be a major upgrade. Holgorsen's offenses have been incredibly productive wherever he has been. That's no guarantee of future success, but I sure look forward to seeing it in action.
How concerned should UConn fans be about the departure of Robbie Frey? It basically leaves them with Shoemate (not the same speed as Todman or Frey) or McCombs (not even cleared to play right now). Does this make option read / wildcat from the QB more likely? Is it feasible that an O-Line used to pro-set style blocking can make that transition in one offseason?
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
Well, Frey looked to be the top candidate to start at tailback, though he was such a straight-ahead runner that I don't know if he would be a top-notch every-down back. Haven't seen enough out of Shoemate to convince me he's the guy. Who knows about McCombs or the incoming freshman. Something tells me UConn will find a productive tailback, though.
John (Boston, MA)
What do you think of 6-4 Luke Massa to WR other than clearing up the QB logjam? See any playmaking ability from him? Size seems to fit a TE, but we have plenty of solid TEs(Eifert, Welch, Golic, Koyack).
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
I'd be higher on Massa at WR if he had gotten any reps there last year or in high school. It could be a slow process. I wouldn't expect a major impact this year. But he clearly was going to be last in line at QB, so it's potentially a very smart move for him.
Mark Chisholm (Tampa and Dunedin)
Coach Holtz has dubbed the QB position to be a "competition" going into the spring practices. Both Bobby Eveld and B.J. Daniels will be given an opportunity to earn the job. Do you buy that?
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
Daniels definitely has the edge, both because of his experience and skill set. But I think Eveld, and Gunsby, will get a legitimate look this spring. If nothing else, they will push Daniels. He didn't have anybody competing with him last year, and that's not good for anyone's development.
How do the Cincinnati back up QBs look? What does the future hold for the position in the Queen City?
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
Chazz Anderson is still around as a backup. Brandon Kay is promising but hasn't really gotten on the field. Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Luallen should be eligible. I think the greatly-named Munchie Legaux might be a receiver going forward. This is still very much Zach Collaros' team in 2011.
Hey Brian thanks for putting up my Valentine's email and my, ahem, Simpsons quote saying that your dad likes to eat copious amounts of food at restaurants causing them to close down. I'm sure your father eats quite normal amounts of food and is a fine man.As for my question, how do you see the Big East backloading the schedule this year? UCONN just won the title but isn't necessarily a TV draw nor are they really a favorite to win with so much uncertainty at the most important of positions. USF-WVU seems like a good choice, no? I really can't think of any other games to put on championship weekend seeing as every other team is either unproven or losing some key pieces.
Brian Bennett (4:13 PM)
I enjoyed them, Jay (or "Yay," as Gloria on "Modern Family" might say). The first thing I look for when the schedule comes out is that last weekend. The last couple of years, it's been Rutgers-WVU, Pitt-Cincy and USF-UConn. I hope they mix it up, and a USF-WVU matchup could be a lot of fun. I'd also look for Syracuse and Louisville to play on the last weekend after being absent from that for a few years. The schedule should be out in the next week or so, from what I'm told
What I still don't get about the Villanova situation is the BE said they wanted 10 teams, presumably for 2012. Villanova won't be able to compete in the Big East until what, 2015? How does that help the BE football situation currently?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
It's not an immediate fix, but waiting a couple of years could help the schedules that are already set. Villanova's main selling point is that the Big East wouldn't have to add another school to bring them aboard.
Cameron Graham was hands-down the best TE in the BigE. Does he have a future playing on Sunday?
Brian Bennett (4:17 PM)
He was easily the best TE in the league this year. I think he'll get a shot, but he's not overly big or fast. He has good hands, though.
Matt (Notre Dame)
I've noticed ND is playing four teams with new head coaches: Stanford, Pitt, Maryland, and Michigan. How often does this happen? Does this give ND an easier path to a potential BCS game?
Brian Bennett (4:19 PM)
It doesn't hurt, that's for sure. But I think it's more of an advantage earlier in the season, in the games against Michigan and Pitt. Those teams might not have their new systems down by that point. By the time the Maryland and Stanford games roll along, it shouldn't have much bearing.
Brian,What's a realistic goal for Rutgers in 2011, your opinion? They obviously need to show significant improvement - and thereby justify the coaching upgrade. They got Savon Huggins at RB, but not enough O line help...Is 9-3(5-2) too much to hope for?
Brian Bennett (4:21 PM)
The first thing is getting back to a bowl. The nonconference schedule is not too challenging (shocking, I know). So even a a 4-3 Big East record could lead to an eight-win season. That O-line is still scary, though.
Do you think the new coaching staff will use running backs from last year like Clarke and Alston or do you think they will go with the new recruits. Also do you root for the big east basketball conference?
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
Talked to Holgorsen today, and he said Clarke looks good and Alston has been hurt. There's also Trey Johnson and some newcomers. He said he really didn't know what to expect from the running backs at this point, but his system allows for bigger backs to succeed. Alston showed some potential down the stretch.
In your opinion, after talking with Skip, what are the biggest holes in USF's team. I see no reason that they cant win this thing this year. As long as BJ remains calm under pressure, our athletes are as good, if not better then anyone else in the BE. agree?
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
The offensive line needs to replace several starters. I don't think USF matches up well at receiver with the best teams in the Big East at that position. And the Bulls simply have to get more consistent quarterback play.
Rachel Bilson (Hollywood)
Why didn't I get any flowers from you on Valentine's Day?
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
Flowers are so cliche. Did you get the Big East media guides I sent you?
IF you were a UConn fan and were told on January 2nd that UConn would end up having the coaching staff it does now would you have been happy?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
Well, six of the nine coaches are holdovers from the old staff. Don Brown seems like a really solid hire at defensive coordinator. So I guess it comes down to whether you're excited by the Pasqualoni/DeLeone reunion from their Syracuse days. I doubt many UConn fans would have been thrilled by that on Jan. 2. But all that matters is if they're winning by Nov. 2
We talk all the time about who the favorite is for next year. But who is the dog?? I cannot decide who should be last, is it RU?
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
I agree with you, Andrew. This league is so balanced, there's no true favorite or doormat. I would put Rutgers eighth if things started today, but I could also easily see the Scarlet Knights being in the thick of the race if things break right for them.
Phil (Chicago, IL)
Who would you say is the best spread QB that Notre Dame has on its squad? Rees, Crist and Golson all seem to be able to run the system, but who is most capable?
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
Golson has the most mobility, but he's a kid straight out of high school so who knows at this point. Rees gets rid of the ball quickly and makes sound decisions. I think Crist, when healthy, has the best combination because he can run a little bit better than Rees. But he hasn't been healthy, and might not be for a while.
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
Pitt and West Virginia, only because they're installing such drastically new offenses. The Morgantown trip is especially intriguing given the nature of that staff dynamic.
Ty Elliott (Louisville, Kentucky)
Who should my UofL Cards start at QB this next season? True Frosh but talented Teddy Bridgewater or Senior experienced but short Will Stein?
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
I like Will Stein and think he's capable of being a good quarterback. However, Bridgewater has far more potential, and you might as well get the future started now. I say this, of course, before Bridgewater has ever gone through a college practice, so keep that in mind.
James (Fredericksburg, VA)
Brian,Saw ESPN's Thursday night schedule recently (or what has been released) and it looks like the BE might not get more than one spot (NSCU @ UC). Who picks these matchups? It wasn't long ago that the Big East was one of the only conferences that would play on Thursday, and now that other leagues have figured out the exposure it seems as if there arn't any spots left for the league that made Thursday nights big. Do you see more Friday night games for the BE? It seems a big unfair, and I don't think I am alone is saying I hate the Friday night games. I for one hope my Mountaineers say no to any Friday night home games.
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
It's a TV thing and that's why the league gets a bunch of money from TV. Teams aren't really in the business of saying no to TV. I'd look for more Friday night games. Thursday night has become a showcase slot, and unfortunately the Big East lacks showcase teams after a miserable year in 2010.
Rachel Bilson (Hollywood)
Really? Media guides? You so don't know the way to a woman's heart. You could have at least done little football shaped chocolates.
Brian Bennett (4:35 PM)
Must be why you never returned my calls
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
Realized I forgot to post the question for the answer I gave about Pitt and West Virginia. Gwig asked which spring practices I was most looking forward to. Sorry about that
Evan (Rochester, NY)
Last year SU's LBs were their strength, what spot in the defense do you think will have the most potential to be their strength next year?
Brian Bennett (4:37 PM)
I'm going to say the defensive ends. Chandler Jones seems on the verge of a major breakout, and there are other talented players there. It's a deep position for the Orange.
Brian I think you underestimate Rutgers line. Now I may be a hopeless optimist (can I really be a hopeless optimist if I realize that I am a hopeless optimist?), but in 2009 RU brought back all five of its OL starters and produced pretty horrid results, and then we know what happened last year. The change wasn't necessarily the quality of the OL but the Offensive Coaching! Now the coaching has changed, some of the redshirts got some extra seasoning, and we received a JUCO center. I predict a much better line, and a tremendous reduction in sacks.What say you Brian, WHAT SAY YOU?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
Well, it can't conceivably be any worse, I'll give you that. The same offensive line coach is there, so we'll see what improvements can be made. The spring should be telling -- it was easy to see last spring that the line was not playing well.
Hi Brian. In my down time I always have your blog transmitted my way. Would you like my help in picking the Big East winners?
Brian Bennett (4:39 PM)
Yes. Please help me be fitter. Happier. More productive.
Tom (San Francisco)
Are there any impact players that were recruited by UC that might help out the defense high school or Juco guys?
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
Junior college safety Malcolm Murray has a chance to play right away. Some good high school defensive ends in this class, too, but we'll have to see how they develop
What do you think are realistic expectations from the Cardinals this year. I have heard people saying we will finish last, but based on the talent influx have a hard time believing that. I know we are a year or two away from contending, but is 7-5 or 8-4 unrealistic?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
New offensive line, new quarterback, lots of young players, games at Kentucky and North Carolina ... I'd say 8-4 is probably the optimistic high end.
Answer: Rachel BilsonQuestion Who will Brian Bennett never date?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
Aw, Watson. I thought we were friends!
I know many are tired of the BE expansion questions but as a an diehard UCF fan I'm just curious to see where you would place UCF and TCU if you ranked them with the current BE teams for the 2011 season? I enjoy reading your BE blog and hope to see UCF join in 2012.
Brian Bennett (4:44 PM)
I'd have TCU as the favorite for 2011, no question. I admit to not knowing as much about what UCF brings back, but after their strong finish I'd probably place them in the upper half.
Do you forsee any BE teams being in the pre-season Top 25? If so, who?
Brian Bennett (4:44 PM)
The Mountaineers, maybe, if the offense looks good in the spring. Other than that, nope.
Mike (Storrs, CT)
With Robbie Frey leaving, what do you think about putting a kid like Leon Kinnard at RB this spring? It didn't seem like he had found a role on the team before getting hurt.
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
I think we will see some players switched around. Kinnard is a guy who needs to get on the field. I'm not sure if he's big enough to be an every-down back, though.
Kevin Busch (York, PA)
Love the blog, Brian! You make the off-season actually bearable so thank you! I've noticed on several occasions that you've eluded to the fact that Pitt's home game attendance statistics have been disappointing. I don't have the links on hand, but I remember one article in particular where you wrote about their bowl game this year (Kentucky vs. Pitt) saying that a showdown between their basketball teams would likely attract a bigger crowd.My question is do you have something against Pitt? I'm a die hard WVU fan so saying "Yes" is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I welcome comments like that.
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
It's no secret that Pitt's attendance isn't the greatest. The Panthers do OK for home games, but they are known as the worst traveling team in the league for bowls, a reputation they made sure to uphold for the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Ryan (São Paulo, Brazil)
Do you think Hendrix will get enough reps to show his skills this season or are we more likely to see him fall of 2012?
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
It all depends on health. I would think Crist and Rees are 1-2, but one injury puts him in the two-deep, most likely. Brian Kelly isn't afraid to throw his QBs into the fire.
Bearcatvol (Dalton, GA)
Such a balanced league. Is there any team that has no logical argument why they can win it?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
I think Cincinnati and Rutgers need to make major improvements and are stretches to win the league. But then again neither would surprise me too much if they won it. There's no other major league like this, for better or worse
Do Dah Man (Providence, RI)
Why is it so hard to make decisions man? The boys from Mickey town should be in the league like now. Gimme some cheetos and lets think about it some more.
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
Still waiting on the boys from Philly
Have a way to early prediction for the USF vs. Notre Dame Game?
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
I'm no predicting games in February. Hard enough to do the week before they're played
Dan K (Washington, DC)
Hey Brian, who do you think is the best OC and DC combination in the Big East? And how would they stack up against other top BCS programs?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
On paper, at least, it's got to be Holgorsen and Casteel. I believe either one would be an excellent fit at just about any other BCS program
Jimmy K (Pipersville, PA)
Can Rutgers win with Dodd at QB. They have a suspect line and he is small for QB
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
They are going to have to. I think he can certainly win games for them, as he did last year, and size can be overrated, especially in this league. The question remains whether they can block for him and keep him healthy, or if Rutgers will have to turn to a true freshman backup for the third straight year
Orville (Lubbock, Texas)
I think that the Big East can sweep up the remains after the Big 12 implodes. If any one Big 12 team wavers, Missouri, the Kansas teams, Iowa State, and even Baylor and Texas Tech will be left with few options. If the Big East is patient, they can add teams and credibility. They've alread jumped the geography with TCU and adding Big 12 residue could turn them into a competitive conference, even though they have not much to offer in the short-term.
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
If the Big 12 were to break up, I think the Big East would be very interested in Kansas, Missouri and even Kansas State and Iowa State. But it's still a big if. At this point, those teams have no reason -- i.e., no strong financial incentive -- to leave.
Robert Burton (Greenwich, CT)
I can be your valentine Brian, just don't expect any donation until you consult me on every article you write
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
Ha. Um, you're not quite my type, Bobby
Other than Tavon Austin, who will be the core of WVU's receiving corps this coming season.
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
Brad Starks, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney. The Mountaineers are actually pretty well-stocked at receiver for 2011
Brian, despite notre Dame's mediocrity over the years, do the Irish still have the largest fan base in the Country?
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
I haven't checked the demographics lately, but I know this: Nobody causes more of a reaction, both positive and negative, than the Irish. They're always relevant.
Football Fan (Cleveland, Ohio)
If after spending all of this time to "decide", do you think there will be bitterness from the football playing league members IF 'Nova says no?Think about it this is an absolute gift for a I-AA program to get a pass to the front of the line to land in a BCS league.
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
No, I don't think so. The league understands that this is a huge financial commitment from such a small school. And if Villanova decides not to do it, the league will be ready to pounce on another school immediately.
Hey brian how do you see the receiving corps at rutgers shaping up? they have so much tallent there with sanu and harrison. Deering was horrid with drops and tim wright is healthy along with Schuler coming in. How do you see them getting touches this year?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
It should be really good, with Sanu being able to focus more there without the Wildcat stuff, and Quron Pratt also coming back. Cignetti should help. Again, it all comes down to Dodd having enough time to look downfield and throw.
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
Wow, the hour really flew by today. Thanks for all the great questions, especially in the offseason. See you again next week!