Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg will stop by to talk college football.
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 Wednesday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.
How many PSU assistants sticking around once Joe pa leaves?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Good question, David. Some of those guys are toward the end of their careers, so it'll be interesting to see if they want to keep coaching. It all depends on the next coach and who he wants to bring in. Typically, you only see one or two coaches from the previous regime sticking around. Penn State's situation is unique, though, with so many long-tenured assistants.
Adam:which is most likely to happen first?..the Irish competing for a national title or the Illini competing for the Big Ten title.
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Well, Illinois wasn't too far out of the mix in 2007 and won a Big Ten title in 2001. Notre Dame appears to be on the rise, but I can't see the Irish competing at the national level for a few more years. I'll go with Illinois.
Greg (Cedar Falls)
Do you think Marcus Coker will break 1000 yards next season if he stays healthy?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Good chance he does, Greg, but staying healthy is obviously the big key. Iowa lacks any proven backs besides Coker, and I'm sure Kirk Ferentz would rather not overload the sophomore. But Coker showed in the bowl game how explosive he can be. With some more fine-tuning (lower pad level, etc.), he can be really special for the Hawkeyes.
Alex (Iowa City)
Will you change your chat times so I don't have to keep bring my computer to class? You're hindering my education, Adam!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
I'll see what I can do, Alex. It's all about you, right?
Steve (Findlay, OH)
Hey adam, dane really put his quickness on display at the combine, what do you think the pro scouts' opinion of him as an NFL player is?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
There's so much to like about Dane Sanzenbacher. Sure, he's not the prototype NFL receiver in terms of size, but he brings many other things to the table. If I'm an NFL GM and need a receiver who can play the slot, who can block, who is fearless, I'd draft Sanzenbacher in a heartbeat. But we'll see what happens in April.
I was watching the combine and didn't see DJK where was he for all of this?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Wasn't invited to the combine. It'll be interesting if DJK holds his own workouts for NFL teams or how he approaches the situation. After what happened in December, he has to be a bit more creative in marketing himself to the pros.
Hi Adam - I didn't read much about how Schilling & Mouton did at the combine. Were they less than impressive?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Chris, they didn't exactly stand out. I'm hesitant to ever say players had a bad combine because there's so much more into the equation than running around cones, but neither Wolverine hopeful make a huge splash in Indy.
It doesn't seem right to include Nebraska's players at the combine and draft as Big 10 players.Their entire collegiate careers were as Big 12 players.Why does the Big 10 get credit for players that left Nebraska before the school was actually a Big 10 school?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Not taking credit, DJ, just passing along information. A ton of Nebraska fans read the Big Ten blog, so they want to know how their players performed at the combine. It's providing a service, not trying to take credit. Sheesh.
Where do you think Pryor's draft stock would be if he came back from his suspension and put up similar numbers to his 2009 season, capping the season off with at least another BCS bowl win?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
It'd be interesting, Hoff. There's a portion of folks who will never see Pryor as an NFL-caliber quarterback. They'll want him to play receiver or tight end at the next level. But if he continues to improve as a passer, make fewer what-are-you-thinking throws and leads Ohio State to another BCS bowl win, I think he has to get some looks as a QB.
I don't see Hoke having the kind of immediate impact in recruiting alot of people do. I think MSU continues to win recruiting battles in state but the margin starts to even out in the next few years. your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
It's too soon to tell, Cory. Hoke and his staff did a nice job preventing disaster with the 2011 class. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is an excellent recruiter who should help both regionally and nationally. But you're right, I don't see Michigan State backing down within the state. Ultimately, Michigan needs to start having more success on the field to attract elite recruits. Beating Michigan State would be a big step.
rmilia1 (cedar rapids)
Next years legends division is WIDE OPEN. I could see any team aside from Minnesota winning the division. What is the biggest key for any of these to separate themselves from the others?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Totally agree, but each of the five teams has a pressing issue or two entering the season. Nebraska enters a new league with a new offensive coordinator and faces a treacherous schedule. Michigan has a new coaching staff. Northwestern must revamp its defense, while Michigan State also has holes to fill on D. Iowa loses a sizable senior class and must reload at spots like QB, safety and DL. The team that best addresses its individual issues will contend for the division title.
Tyler (Eden Prairie, MN)
Do you see Nebraska or Wisconsin going to alternate uniforms when they play against each other? They have the same sponsor and basically the exact same uniform except for the W and N on the helmets. Like all reds vs all whites or something.
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
That would look pretty cool, Tyler. Wisconsin goes with the all whites on the road, so maybe we could see this for a future game in Lincoln. For this year's game, the Badgers would have to go all red while Nebraska would have to ditch the red pants for white ones. I'll pass along your suggestion to Bret Bielema the next time we talk.
A recent article on Kevin Wilson and staff's new workouts at IU has players quoting how hard it has been like nothing they have ever experience. Is that maybe why Bill Lynch was beloved by the players because he was a players coach he never strained them? Can Kevin Wilson turn this thing around with any type of success this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Chris, I think you hear quotes like the ones from Indiana players any time a new staff takes over. The new staff wants to ramp things up, show that the old losing ways won't be tolerated, etc. Now I think the strength and conditioning program has been enhanced, and you'll see a more demanding approach from Wilson and his coaches in spring practice. But these types of statements after a coaching change aren't new.
Adam, have you set a schedule for yourself to attend some games this coming fall? If so where will you be heading?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
I wish, Mike. As I'll often tell you guys on chats, blog posts, etc., I don't set the schedule for where I go. While I certainly have some ideas and some games I'd love to see, I'll go where they send me.
Oliver (Columbus, Ohio)
Have people honestly seen Joe Bauserman in game action? It seems like he's perpetually under pressure (Happy Feet). What if Taylor Graham, Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton all look better than Bauserman? Still start the fifth-year senior (to avoid questions)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Tressel's past would suggest he'll go with the experienced player, but he's also getting more QB recruits that are ready to play earlier in their careers. He went with Pryor as a true freshman ahead of Todd Boeckman, so if Miller, Graham or Guiton really outperform the others this spring and summer, I think The Vest wouldn't be afraid to use them. But it likely needs to be definitive if a young QB wins the job for the first chunk of the season.
Who do you have more confidence in heading into next year, Persa or Scheelhaase.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Both players inspire a ton of confidence in their teams. I'd go with Persa just because of his experience and what he meant to that offense last year, but I spoke with Ron Zook yesterday and he raved about Scheelhaase's leadership with Illinois this offseason. Scheelhaase is a real find for the Illini.
Chris (Westerville, OH)
How much credence do you put towards Spring Practice and the Spring Game in determining next year's starters and/or "Fill-ins" for certain Top 5 programs? There are certain players who completely blow-up in the Spring Game (but never play in the Fall).
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Totally agree on the last part, Chris. It's only one game and the coaches see these guys every day in practice. I put a lot more credence in what the coaches say about a player's stock rising or falling during the spring than what a guy does in a glorified scrimmage. There are some cases where players really emerge in the spring game, but I don't think they should be taken too seriously.
Drew (Evanston, IL)
Obviously Northwestern's Defense struggled a ton during the end of the season, but it seems that over this year and years past NU has played satisfactorily against Pro-Style offenses (Iowa, MSU this year) while completely getting shredded against Zone-Read offenses (Purdue, Illinois, Vandy to an extent). How accurate do you think this is, and with Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota (not 100% sure of their new system) on the schedule is this something that they can significantly prepare for/improve in the off season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Some good points here, Drew. Northwestern has to improve in its defensive front seven to limit damage against spread/zone read teams. The Wildcats generated practically no pressure against those offenses and tackled very poorly at times. To be fair, Northwestern also got destroyed on defense against Wisconsin's pro-style offense and, to a lesser extent, against Penn State. Northwestern was a pretty bad defense in 2010 and the Wildcats have a lot of work to do on that side of the ball.
Tom (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Adam, do you really buy into the 'wide open' quarterback race at Nebraska? If Martinez stays healthy, wouldn't he be the smart choice?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Tom, I think there's a natural inclination to think things will be wide open because Nebraska has a new offensive coordinator in Tim Beck who will want to shake things up a bit and put his mark on the program. But the fact remains that Martinez boasts a good amount of experience and showed spectacular skills early last season. If I had to estimate, I still think he wins the job, but he'll have to prove himself again this spring and summer.
Adam, who do you consider the top defenses in the B10 entering next year? How much will the loss of OSU's linebackers and Heyward and Wisconsin's JJ Watt impact the Leaders Division race?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Nebraska brings a lot back on defense and should be one of the league's premier units. Ohio State's ability to reload on defense each year can't be overlooked as the Buckeyes try to replace Heyward, Rolle and Homan. The Wisconsin situation is interesting because Watt did so much for that defense. I'd expect the Badgers' D-line to take a step back without No. 99, but Wisconsin could be very good at linebacker as Chris Borland returns to the mix and joins Mike Taylor and others. The Badger LBs might need to carry the defense early on.
Ben (Austin, Texas)
PSU had somewhat of an off season this year, not winning games or contending for the title like they usually do. What are you seeing from the Lions this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Ben, I really think Penn State could contend in the Leaders division if a few things come together. The QB situation is paramount, of course, and it'll be interesting to see how all the signal callers, especially Rob Bolden, perform this spring. The second element is line play on both sides of the ball. Penn State's offensive line play hasn't been consistent enough, and the D-line fell off last season. The skill position depth on both sides of the ball is there, so if the lines improve, Penn State could have a very good season.
John (New lexington ohio)
Do you think Nathan Williams can repalce some of what Cam Haywood did as far as getting to the QB, or who do you see replacing him?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
They're different types of players, but I could see Williams becoming a lot like Thad Gibson was for Ohio State in 2009 if things go well for him. Ohio State will be more reliant on its younger defensive linemen like Joel Hale and Johnathan Hankins. But Williams and John Simon will be key for the defense.
Chances Jerel Worthy breaks out in the Nick Fairley/Marcel Darius mode during the 2011 season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Or the Corey Liuget/Jared Odrick mold, to bring things back to the Big Ten? ... I really liked what I saw from Worthy at times last season. The big key for him and the rest of Michigan State's defensive line is greater consistency. Once Michigan State has elite line play like Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin, it will be a consistent contender for the Big Ten title. As the Spartans replace two very productive linebackers in Jones and Gordo, Worthy is a guy who must have a big 2011 season.
Do you consider Purdue the biggest question mark coming into this next season, on both offense and defense? On defense, they lose Ryan Kerrigan, who defenses always had to pay extra attention to. Losing him could mean the young defense could step back. And on offense....well, I think we all know what happened there last year
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Doc, there's certainly no shortage of question marks in West Lafayette this spring. But I like Purdue's approach, which is not to be overly reliant on players coming off injury. If Robert Marve returns to form, great, but Purdue realizes the need to develop other players. Kerrigan is undoubtedly a huge loss, but Purdue could be stronger in other areas of the defense, especially the secondary, and Kerrigan wasn't the only Boilers D linemen who could penetrate the backfield last season. The bigger issues are on offense at the skill positions, but coordinator Gary Nord really likes what Purdue has along the offensive line.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Do you see any teams in the Big Ten that are instant national title contenders for next season? At least for the last few years the conference would be able to throw Ohio State's hat into that ring, and occasionally Iowa, Penn State, or Wisconsin. This year it seems that every contending team has question marks, including the newbie Nebraska. Could that potentially favor the B1G down the road if competitiveness appears to be at a high level and the divisions are up for grabs late in the season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
I agree, Brett. It's hard to put Ohio State in the title mix going into the season because of the suspensions, but the Buckeyes certainly could play their way into the discussion. I'm not sure if the Big Ten lacking a preseason title contender helps the league in the long run. It ultimately comes down to a Big Ten team running the table. Go undefeated and go to New Orleans.
Will the Badgers running game be close to as dominating as last year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
It might not be quite as dominating, Willy, but I don't forecast a major drop-off for Wisconsin. Montee Ball and James White both are capable of carrying the load, and while Carimi, Moffitt and Nagy are big losses up front, Wisconsin has been able to develop O-line depth nicely these past few seasons, in part because of injuries. The big issue is whether Wisconsin can complement the run with the play-action pass, which Scott Tolzien executed so well. Tolzien is the really big loss for UW.
Hey Adam,Do you foresee the Big Ten being good enough next year to be able to knock off the SEC in the bowl games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
AB, it all comes down to matchups. In 2009 and 2008, the Big Ten had some more favorable bowl matchups against the SEC like Penn State-LSU and Iowa-South Carolina. This year, it wasn't the case. I think Michigan would have fared much better against Tennessee than Mississippi State. The Cap One/Outback matchups generally haven't hurt the Big Ten too much against the SEC. The real key is for the league to start winning more BCS bowls against the SEC.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Are you also thrilled that next season the shared conference title will cease to exist? While Ohio State deserves a ton of credit for their consistency that is unmatched... really? I mean really? "Six straight titles"? I'm sure Wisconsin joins in our displeasure every time that's uttered.
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
Brett, I'm definitely excited about the end of "co-champs." It was painfully little league.
Is it wishfull thinking that Devon Still can become an elite tackle this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Not at all, Michael. Still recorded 10 tackles for loss and four sacks last season, leading the team in both categories. Although you'd like to see more consistent dominance from him, especially against the run, you'd have to put him among the Big Ten's top returning interior linemen.
Who is the frontrunner to run the ball for OSU while Herron is suspended?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall have the most carries among the returning backs (Berry with 32, Hall with 37), but the competition is certainly wide open entering the spring. Roderick Smith turned heads with his performance in bowl practice, and Carlos Hyde also is in that mix. I'd expect Ohio State to go with a committee in the first few games unless someone like Smith blows away the competition in the coming months.
I see you said that if a Big Ten team runs the table, they go to the NC. But is that true if the team happens to be NU (could argue weak schedule), IU (unlikely), or another team that isn't normally thought of as upper tier?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Sam, that's a good point. We need to see what happens elsewhere. The SEC has pretty much staked a claim in the national title game for its champion, whether the team is undefeated or has one loss. But an undefeated Northwestern would have wins against Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan State and Iowa, while Indiana would have wins against Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Those profiles aren't too shabby.
Who will be Wisconsin's starting quarterback next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
I've got to lean toward Jon Budmayr right now because he backed up Tolzien last season and should get most of the reps this spring as Curt Phillips likely will be limited. Now if Budmayr doesn't have a good spring, all bets are off.
Frank (Arlington, VA)
Who will emerge as the primary running back at Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Frank, that's another intriguing competition this spring. Vincent Smith had his moments last year, but his size could be a concern for a downhill offense. Michael Shaw actually had some decent numbers last year (5.4 ypc, 9 TDs) in limited work. I'd like to see more of Stephen Hopkins, who brings good size to the backfield.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. I'll check in with you after my vacation.