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)
Good afternoon and welcome to another Big East/ND football chat. Lots to talk about today, so fire away
Chris (Cincinnati, OH)
After watching spring football, who is your pick to win the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
There is still some spring ball to go, and then we have summer developments to monitor. But if I have to pick right now, I'm going with West Virginia.
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
I linked that today in the lunchtime links, and it was interesting to hear a Big East official actually speak on the record about Villanova (Luck is not shy in speaking his mind, and that makes him great in my book). Anyway, we don't know for sure who is voting against Villanova. But from WVU's perspective, you can see why they wouldn't be in favor. The Mountaineers' football program is going to be fine no matter what happens, and 'Nova doesn't add much for them.
Pitt has a lot of returning talent coming back, although they were conditioned and recruited for Wannstedt's pro-style offense rather than Todd Graham's high octane spread attack. Given that fact, is it acceptable for Graham to have a few bad seasons to install his system and players or should he have divise strategies to win with what he has now?
Brian Bennett (4:05 PM)
There's no such thing as a grace period anymore in college football. Graham told me he thought Pitt could compete for a title this year, and he said he wants a job where 6-6 will get him fired. He won big right away at Tulsa and Rice (relatively speaking), so I don't think he has a 5-year plan. It's a 5-minute plan
How concerned should UConn fans be about the QB play at the Spring game? I know the weather wasn't good but it seems like the passing game (protection, WR route running and hands and QB delivery) is in a shambles.
Brian Bennett (4:07 PM)
I would be very concerned. It's not just one spring game -- none of the QBs distinguished himself for most of the spring, and the receivers are pretty mediocre as well. UConn won last year without good QB play, but it's hard to keep doing that in college football.
I keep hearing quotes and excuses out of Cincinnati, Butch Jones sure does seem like the scond coming of Steve Kragthorpe. Is there any correlation between the two?
Brian Bennett (4:09 PM)
You can definitely make a comparison. Both guys won at lower levels, both followed arguably the best coaches in school history. Maybe I'm naive, but I think Jones is going to be OK. He needs a little time to restock and seems to be recruiting well, which Krags never did.
Hey Brian, with ND's biggest concern being running the football, do you think Wood is good enough for the job or will they use their mobile young QBs to compensate?
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
I think Cierre Wood is going to be good. In fact, I think he has a chance to crack 1,000 yards. Remember that the offensive line is pretty good. My concern with him is durability, which is why you'd like to see Jonas Gray run with more physicality for those tough yards.
What impresses you the most about Coach Marrone? I love his integrity (off the field) and gameplanning (on the field). And hope you enjoyed the Cuse. Next time you're in town stop by "Danzers." Excellent reubens!
Brian Bennett (4:13 PM)
I enjoyed my trip and had excellent meals at Dino BBQ and A La Mode. I'll add Danzers to the list. Anything, what impressed me the most about Marrone is the consistency of his message. I believe college coaching is first and foremost about communication and motivation, and he got a team saddled by losing to believe in what he was preaching because he meant it.
What kind of TV revenue per team would keep the BE stable as far as teams jumping to more lucrative conferences? Also does the addition of Rose Bowl Champ TCU and the fact the #9 BE BB team UConn is the national champion help the case? Lastly would adding UCF (Orlando Market, ESPN/Disney affiliation), Houston(Houston Market), or etc, help give the BE some leverage? With the BE being so tight on money wouldn't ridding itself of Depaul, Providence, and Seton Hall help matters?
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
The numbers thrown around in the Sports Business Journal story -- upwards of $150 million per year -- were encouraging. That would put the Big East not far behind the ACC, though obviously with more teams to split the pie. It would add some stability, though there's nothing that could prevent a raid by the Big Ten or SEC, if those leagues ever chose to go down that path.
Generally USF goes as their QB goes. That being said, there should be a considerable upgrade in the running game this year for USF. Do you think BJ finally puts it together this year since he will be in his second year of a new system, with better backs int he backfield and potentially a better group of receivers?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
I was not encouraged by the play of the receivers this spring, and the running backs were good but no spectacular. Once again, it looks like there will be plenty of pressure on Daniels. I think he will be better, just by being a year older. But he needs some help in the passing game, and those wideouts had better run tons of routes this summer.
Kevin (East Hartford, CT)
What exactly does UMass moving up to FBS mean for UConn? Is it something we should be concerned about because of recruiting etc. or is it more positive like they could potentially be a decent replacement for BC when it comes to a rivalry game? Any chances somewhere down the road they join the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:19 PM)
I wouldn't worry about recruiting. I mean, if you can't outrecruit a MAC school as a BCS team, you have only yourself to blame. I do think this gives UConn a potential rival, though the Huskies aren't going to want a straight home-and-home. UMass can establish its program and potentially become an expansion candidate. But Villanova's main selling point was that it was already a BE member.
Stuck in Class (South Bend, IN)
With the Blue-Gold game now over, were you more impressed with Golson or Hendrix? Golson had the only passing TD of the day, but it was hard to ignore Hendrix's two rushing TD's of 10+ yards...
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
Golson has more pure athletic ability and potential. Throws a rocket and is elusive. But he also has some fundamentals he must fix, like the way he carried the ball. Hendrix is a little more advanced at this point, but Golson is just a true frosh.
Bob D. (Pennsylvania)
Speaking of rain, any impression after Cincinnati's Spring Game?
Brian Bennett (4:21 PM)
It was hard to get much out of that, with the bad conditions and the fact it wasn't a real spring game. If anything, it was good to see the defense rise up and make some plays. But I'm not reading a whole lot into it.
What do you think of USF's linebackers? With Barrington and Lattimore, plus Weatherspoon, Cliett, Lanaris, and Jeune, do you think they have the best linebackers, top to bottom, in the Big East?
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
Skip Holtz seemed very pleased with them, which is good enough for me. A lot of teams have inexperience or questions at LB this year (Syracuse, UConn, WVU, Pitt to name a few). So USF might in fact have the top group at that position.
Hi Brian. I do not think that WVU has to beat LSU in order for the Big East to gain respect because there is no shame in losing to elite SEC teams. I think the Big East gains respect when BE invitee beats the BT champ Wisconsin in a bowl game, or in games like Cincy vs NC St, Iowa vs Pitt, USF vs Miami. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
I think WVU has to play well in that game, especially since it is at home and so many eyeballs will be on it. If LSU beats Oregon to start the year, there's a chance the Tigers could be No. 1 coming into Morgantown. People remember big wins and bad losses more than solid middle-of-the road wins. And I'm not sure the Big East can count that TCU credit on its own ledger just yet.
Joe (Charleston, WV)
I know I'm a little overconfident, but if Holgorson can put us in a couple of BCS games over the next few years, is he moving on to bigger and better? I guess my question is, are we still a stepping stone, or will a couple more BCS games make us a destination job?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
He'd definitely be in high demand, and yeah, he'd probably move on. If native son RichRod wouldn't even stay ... But wouldn't you take the tradeoff if Holgorsen leads the Mountaineers to those heights?
Tony (Richmond, CA)
I've heard in recent years that ND can't attract enough top defensive talent to South Bend to compete with the big boys like the SEC. However, Brian Kelly is really getting it done recruiting wise, with another top corner recently committing to the Irish. Is this the classic example the right coach means everything? How long before the Irish are in title game?
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
It's always about the right coach, and ND finally got it right. Momentum helps a lot in recruiting, and the Irish have it. Let's hold off on the title game talk, though. ND first needs to prove it can get back to a BCS game and actually compete in one.
When do you think villanova will make their desicion on whether or not to play big east football?
Brian Bennett (4:30 PM)
Villanova has already decided. It's now up to the Big East to decide whether to let the Wildcats in. The timetable is unclear at this point, but I can't see the conference letting this drag into the summer. I would imagine by the time the league finishes its spring meetings next month, there will be a verdict.
What do you think about the undersized LB's this year for the Cuse? there is about 6 months until camp and they really need to put on some serious weight. They look more like WR and DBS
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
They are small. In this league, though, you can get away with it. Against USC might be another story.
One of the weakest positions for Pitt has been the LBs. What's your view on that unit for the Panthers now that Pitt's spring is over?
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
I think it will look a lot better when Brandon Lindsey, Dan Mason and Todd Thomas are all healthy this summer (hopefully on Mason's part). The staff appears to be finding ways to utilize strengths like Greg Williams' speed and hiding other weaknesses. It's still not a great unit, but it should play better than last year.
What did you think of Teddy Bridgewater? Also, what is the likelyhood of DaMarcus Smith winning his NCAA appeal?
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
Tall, athletic and still learning for Bridegwater. Nothing surprising there, as he should be prepping for his senior prom right now. I see him being worked in slowly this season to start. As for Smith, I wouldn't count on him winning that.
Based on his outstanding performance in the Blue Gold game, what should Irish fans expect out of Aaron Lynch this year?
Brian Bennett (4:37 PM)
We've seen lots of players dominate spring games then disappear, and Lynch is only 18. So patience is definitely in order. That said, he looks great and will definitely contribute. A freshman year similar to Manti Te'o's, only on the defensive line? That seems reasonable.
Kevin (Washington, DC)
What are the chances that OL coach Kyle Flood of Rutgers can get the O-Line back into 2006 form? Speculation was that now that Kirk Ciarocca is gone Flood can really focus on getting the O-Line stronger as a unit.
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
I don't buy the line of thinking that Flood was distracted and now will be more focused. Ciarrocca was the playcaller, and the co-coordinator thing was a title as much as anything else. What I think will help is another year of experience for the linemen and, mostly, a system that better suits their skill sets under Cignetti. They just need to be adequate for Rutgers to be much better as a team.
Eddie (Clarksburg, WV)
A lot of talk here about both the offense and defense not getting to practice against what they will see this fall because of the uniqueness of our schemes. The defense will not see anyone run the Spread/Air Raid/whatever we call our offense now and the O will not play against the 3-3-5, but each has to practice against it. Is this really a concern, even the coaches have mentioned it a few times?
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
It might be a bit of a concern for the spring, but by the time the season rolls around, each unit will see the scout team for more detailed game prep. I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.
Which Pitt receiver do you expect to have the best year?
Brian Bennett (4:42 PM)
I like Devin Street. He has the best combination of build and speed. I'm a fan of Shanahan as well.
Brian, if WVU has a 'breakout' receiver this year like Justin Blackmon at OSU, who would you think that might be? I think McCartney has a lot of potential, and Austin is a proven commodity. However I have heard that the big guy Tyler Urban is tearing it up in the slot!
Brian Bennett (4:44 PM)
Ah, the annual "Tyler Urban breakout year" predictions. I hope for his sake he does it, but I've heard it too many times before. I say it's McCartney.
CHRIS TENNENT (KENDALLVILLE,IN)
The first thing I heard from the announcer from the first irish game last year was "nobody has ever seen the spread offense ran at this level'. Please! 40 other schools in america run that offense better than Notre Dame!Can we let the irish prove they can compete before we give them that kind of hype! Remember how little Charlie actually accomplished?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
Um, OK. I think beating Utah, USC and Miami to end the year last year, and to do it with dominating defense and then bring back the majority of the starters, is enough to give the Irish a preseason ranking.
Brian R (Florida)
Any more word on the TV contract. I am very encouraged by those numbers. ESPN's first offer will certainly not be there best offer. Negotiation 101 is you never lead with your best offer. It looks like ESPN is very concerned about the rising prices of these TV contracts and trying to get this one squared away quickly. I would be shocked if we don't see a final number in the ACC range of $150MM - $160MM. I have a friend heavily involved with the media business and he states that Comcast with their NBC purchase really wants to expand their college sports and are planning to get very aggressive with the bidding. The Big 12, Big 10, ACC and SEC are contracted out for quite some time. The Big East and PAC 12 are the only BCS conferences with TV deals expiring in the near term so don't be surprised to see both get very large contracts due to the heavy competition from ESPN/ABC, FOX and now Comcast/NBC. I also hear now that Turner wants to be a player. The Big East's contract expiration couldn't be at a better time.
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
Realize that this is very early in the negotiation process. The current deal isn't even up until 2013. The increased competition is a good thing, as are the numbers thrown around for other leagues. The Big East will have to decide if chasing extra money is worth leaving its long-term partnership with ESPN. The league and the network grew up together, basically.
Rich (New York, NY)
I know it was sloppy for Rutgers' last scrimmage, but Chas Dodd still went 3 for 19 for 47 yards. Should I be more concerned about our QB situation than I am right now?
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
You don't like QB ratings of minus-175? It was a rough weather day, and I don't expect Dodd to be that bad, especially with a good group of receivers. And there's nobody else, really, so it's got to be him.
What did you think about the way USF had two spring games? What was the point? Seems to me like it would just split their attendance figures and increase chances of injuries.
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
Well, it basically a case of stadium availability. All teams scrimmage on the final Saturdays of the spring, so it wasn't anything different than normal. Cincinnati is doing the same thing.
Alex (Upper St. Clair)
What offense and what defense looked the best of the big east teams you saw this spring?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
Tough question to answer, because I saw teams at different stages of their springs (some full contact, some not) and many were major works in progress. I probably came away most impressed by WVU's offense and defense, but none seemed ready to go. I didn't see UConn, and I think their defense could be really good.
Steve (New York, NY)
What's your early pick for the game of the year for the BE? I'm guessing WVU-USF? Or if you're going OOC maybe looking at something like WVU-LSU?
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
Both of those are at the top of the list.
Allan (South Carolina)
Out of USF, WVU and Louisville, ( all have dynamic or presumed dynamic coaches ), Which head coach either Strong, Holtz, or Dana Ho will be the first to reach a BCS game?
Brian Bennett (4:54 PM)
That's an excellent question. Obviously, Holgorsen isn't eligible for that until 2012. Holtz has the better chance this year. I'll go out on a limb and say Strong. I think Louisville gets there in 2013 (following TCU in '12).
Hey Brian, love the blog and really appreciate all the work you do. I just came across some pretty interesting stats for Big East schools in an article on Rivals. It states that Cuse, USF, and WVU have not had a 3000 yard passer and UCONN, Cuse, and USF have not had a 1000 yard receiver this decade. While, Geno looks poised to break that mark this year in Holgy's pass happy offense, do you think the other three schools with their relatively new coaches will reach these numbers in the next few years?
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
I've been doing the 1,000/3,000/1,000 thing myself (1,00-yard receivers tomorrow -- end shameless plug). Smith should go over 3,000 this year, but it's not surprising about Syracuse and USF; they just haven't had those types of offenses. The next best bet is for a USF receiver to get to 1,000. Sooner or later, the Bulls have to find a stud wideout out of their Florida backyard, don't they?
My main MAN(ti) (ND)
Who should we be most excited to see play this year at ND? One player on Offense (other than Floyd), and one on defense (other than Manti).
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
I like big things for Cierre Wood on offense and think it will be fun to watch him develop. On defense, there are a lot of candidates. I'm looking forward to seeing how Ishaq Williams contributes. He's physically very impressive.
Thoughts on Olly Luck's proposed beer policy at Mountaineer Field? What impact may it have on the atmosphere, for better or worse.
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
I want to know what the beer policy is in the press box. Just kidding. I think it's a good idea to eliminate the practice of letting people leave the stadium and come back in -- you're just asking for trouble. Will be interesting to see how it works. I know at some places that serve beer, like Louisville, the party becomes more important than the game. That's a concern.
What BCS bowl will the BE champ most likely go to this year? Back to Miami?
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
It should be the Orange, based on selection order. Nothing wrong with a week in South Beach
Brian Bennett (5:01 PM)
OK, folks, looks like my time is up. Thanks for all the great questions, and have an excellent rest of your week.