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)
I'm here. Let's get started.
Adam, I know that B1G schools now have the opportunity to offer incoming recruits 4-year scholarships instead of a 1-year scholarship that needs to be renewed each year. Do you know which schools have already started this? In addition, for the schools that have not, do you know if they plan on changing their approach in the future? Do you think there will ever be a B1G/NCAA requirement that all schools MUST offer a 4-year scholarship?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
For the 2012 recruiting class, nine of the 12 Big Ten schools offered multiyear scholarships. The only ones that didn't were Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota. It wouldn't shock me to see all 12 Big Ten schools eventually offering multiyear grants, but I don't think it will be required, just encouraged.
Joe Fakename (Meeting room)
Hi Adam, when the divisions were initially split up the idea was to divide Michigan, Ohio, Penn St., and Nebraska equally into the two divisions. One year on, do you think this balance will survive in the long term or will one division become consistently dominant?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
I still like the balance of the two divisions, Joe, and I think it's sustainable long term. That said, the Legends division appears to be the stronger division in 2012, and I expect the Big Ten champion to come out of the Legends. But long term, unless Penn State really takes some steps back, you'll have Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State as the power teams in one division and Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State and Iowa as the power teams in the other. You could also see teams like Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota rising up.
Jabber (Des Moines)
Greg Davis as Iowa OC? Adam, is this for real? Say it ain't so.
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Hearing there's interest, Jabber. It would be a very Ferentzian hire, but not necessarily a bad one. The interesting thing is that Davis had a lot of success running the spread at Texas with VY10 and Colt McCoy, but he struggled after switching back to the pro-style in 2010. Kirk is a pro-style coach, so you would expect the next OC to keep the basic offensive structure. That's not saying Davis can't be effective as a pro-style OC, but he'll face some doubters for sure.
Hey Adam, I am too lazy to look up the stats, but I hear that the defensive line for the Spartans is young. If that is true, how dominant do you think the defense could be in 2-3 years?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Brett, I actually think 2012 might be the big year for Michigan State's D-line, despite the youth. William Gholston is an All-America candidate at defensive end and a guy who could make the jump to the NFL after the season. Marcus Rush is young (sophomore) but had an excellent freshman year at the other end spot. Anthony Rashad White is more of a veteran presence on the inside, but MSU also redshirted a bunch of DTs last year who will be in the mix now.
The D (D-troit)
Adam, where do you see the B1G ranked next year? Now that WVU is in the Big 12, it seems like they're the top leage, followed by the $EC. It seems like they'd be #3.
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
The SEC is still No. 1 until proven otherwise, D. I'd agree that the Big 12 is the No. 2 league with West Virginia and TCU both joining. The Big Ten to me is No. 3, slightly ahead of the Pac-12, even though the Pac-12 has been a bit better at the top in recent years and should have two preseason top-5 teams in USC and Oregon. The Big Ten's challenge is to generate more truly elite teams to challenge these leagues.
Chris M. (Washington DC)
Penn State has a pretty favorable schedule this year. I can see them winning 9 maybe even 10 games. Whatare your thoughts on O'Brien getting them out of the gates quick taking advanatge of schedule which they should handle pretty well?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Chris, this is a good point and one that has been a bit overlooked about Penn State and O'Brien's first year. The schedule does set up well, and Penn State plays its two toughest division opponents (Ohio State and Wisconsin) at Beaver Stadium. The key to me is the quarterback spot and what O'Brien can get out of McGloin/Bolden/Jones. The defense might not be quite as dominant without Devon Still, and while the linebackers are fabulous, the secondary has some holes. But I don't think 9 wins is out of the question for O'Brien in Year 1.
Adam, as a Buckeye I'm very excited for the upcoming season with the experience and talent we have coming back. Along every position I feel pretty good, except for one and possibly the most important--the O-line. Last year, with 3 returning seniors (including Adams), I thought we'd be a solid group. But then, we turn out to be the tenth worst in the B1G according to you and Brian, which I agree with. So, what I'm getting at is, with 3 seniors leaving, and an already bad offensive line, do you think the Buckeyes will manage?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Great question, MJ, and one that will continue to be asked during spring practice. Ohio State is fairly young up front and needs several plays to grow up in a hurry. Mike Brewster and Mike Adams were mainstays for the Buckeyes, and JB Shugarts, despite all those false starts, started a bunch of games, too. Ohio State has recruited pretty well to the O-line spot, and Urban Meyer made a good hire in line coach Ed Warriner. I think Warriner will be a huge key for the Buckeyes as they try to reload.
How in the world does a staff get eight top 250 kids to commit over the course of 2 days?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
It was a great effort by Michigan's staff, no doubt. Colleague Tom VanHaaren, who is all over Michigan recruiting, told me that Michigan's fast start doesn't come as a major surprise as the staff has done a good job of identifying who it wants early in the process. The one word I keep hearing about Michigan's recruiting from our experts is vision. Hoke and his staff have a clear vision and they're recruiting to it and not compromising it along the way.
It sounds like the other leagues don't like JD's plans for hosting round one games on campus sites. I've also seen more and more talk about the four teams being conference champions to keep the meaningfulness of the regular season in tact. When do you expect information about the latest proposals to start leaking out of the meetings they're having today?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Jerome, I think we'll hear more proposals in the near future, even though the commissioners don't seem to be in a rush to determine a model. It's no surprise that leagues like the SEC aren't huge fans of the Big Ten model. The current setup works brilliantly for Mike Slive's league, as all the key games are played in nice weather or in a dome right in the heart of SEC West territory (New Orleans). I think we're more likely to see neutral sites for playoff games, whether they're bowls or city sites. From a Big Ten perspective, I'd just hope if they go with non-bowl neutral sites, some of them are in the Midwest.
Ted (Charlottesville, VA)
Give me, a purdue fan, something to look foreward to about this football season. I see another long 6-6 season coming up and Danny Hope using the dreaded 2 qb system again.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Ted, I'll give you two reasons. The first is Kawann Short. He'll enter 2012 as an All-America candidate at defensive tackle and will be the heart and soul of the Boilers' D. He has the potential to absolutely dominate games, like Devon Still did in 2011. Another reason is the skill position depth Purdue has on offense. While the 2-QB system annoys folks, Purdue has a lot of options at QB, RB and WR. The Boilers have good speed and athleticism and should be able to stretch the field more on offense, provided they find some more linemen.
What non-BCS bowl game currently not affiliated with the Big Ten would you most like to see added to our bowl line up?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Great question, Ryan. I think Kraft Fight Hunger makes a lot of sense. I'd like to see the Big Ten have another bowl in California, and San Francisco is appealing enough for Big Ten fans to travel. I also think it'd make sense exploring the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. There are so many Big Ten fans in the New York area, and a lot of Big Ten students hail from New York/New Jersey/Connecticut and could attend the game over winter break.
Jimmy D (Chicago)
With my school's basketball team tumbling, I've set my sights on Spring Football...Will my Illini offer me something to get excited about this year under Coach Beckman?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Yeah, it's been rough seeing the Illini and Bruce Weber fall apart down the stretch. I think there's plenty of intrigue surrounding the Illini football program. You've got a new head coach, three new coordinators and new systems on both sides of the ball. Beckman's Toledo teams were fun to watch on offense, and I wouldn't count out Nathan Scheelhaase having a rebound season in 2012. He's a tremendous athlete who could make strides if he has more weapons around him. The defensive front seven also excites me, despite the loss of Whitney Mercilus. Jonathan Brown is an All-Big Ten type linebacker, and Akeem Spence is a bona fide NFL prospect at defensive tackle.
Who do you expect to start at quarterback for penn state next season? Also, what do you think of Bolden redshirting for a year to learn the system? I think he could be really good in 2013 if that does happen.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
Eric, I really think it's wide open entering the spring. Matt McGloin obviously has the most experience, but he also has a track record that creates some unease. A lot of Penn State fans think Bolden and Paul Jones have higher ceilings than McGloin. I don't think redshirting Bolden is a good idea because Penn State has so little depth at QB. If the Lions picked up another QB or two in the last recruiting class, I'd feel a little better about that possibility.
As a Badger fan, I'm not too worried about the QB or O-line this year. I think Brennan showed some things and that he'll can be a capable starter this year. I'm more worried about the WR/TE position. Who should I look to step up beyond Abbrederis and Pedersen?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Jon, I think it's more likely Joel Stave starts at QB than Joe Brennan, but we'll see. Also depends on Jon Budmayr's recovery. Abbrederis and Pedersen are definitely the team's top pass-catching threats, but I think Mannasseh Garner can contribute as well if he stays healthy. Can Jeff Duckworth, who made the huge play in the Big Ten title game, take some steps? There are definitely some playing-time opportunities out there for these two groups.
Adam, I think concerns about preserving the regular season ignore just how popular football is. People come to college football games in September because they love football, and I think that would be the case in whatever postseason format there is. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Patrick, I tend to agree. The bowl-loving commissioners use the regular-season popularity as a reason to keep things in place, while at the same time acknowledging the popularity a playoff would generate. We're still only talking about a 12-game regular season and most likely a four-team playoff. Every game still would matter if only four squads made the playoff. Right now, we have a bunch of bowls that don't matter, and a natural letdown after the regular season. No one wants this to turn into college basketball, which doesn't move the needle until mid February, but I don't see it happening.
Adam, do you see Roy Roundtree having a bounce-back season this year? He had great production two years ago but really saw his numbers decline in Brady Hoke's first year at Michigan. Is that something we'll see change, or is he just not a good fit for the current offense up in Ann Arbor?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Adam, I think he has to for Michigan to have the season it wants in 2012. The Wolverines lose Hemingway and won't have Stonum, who many saw as a potential No. 1 receiver this coming season. Roundtree is a better fit in the spread than the pro-style, but he's also an experienced player who can grow and expand his game. I think he'll embrace the pressure of being seen as the team's No. 1 option entering the season.
Hi Adam,Do you think Kyle Prater will be an impact player at NW?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
I think he will, Zolty, primarily because he won't be the only threat Northwestern has at receiver. Northwestern has recruited and developed receivers well in recent years, and Christian Jones, who played last year as a true freshman, has star potential. The tandem of Prater and Jones could be very dangerous if both men play to their potential.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
I was not happy at all about OSU hiring a guy who has quit football twice in as many years. But I think he learned from Penn State that if delegated correctly, even an 80-something can survive as a big time head coach. So, I am wondering.....will Urban see the end of his 6 year contract, or retire/quit before then? I personally think that if he wins a National Title before 7 years are up, he is gone until Notre Dame or the NFL calls. If he does not win, then the pressure and his bad habits will come back and he will have to quit in 8-9 years. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Jason, some interesting comments here. I think the wise approach for Ohio State fans is to enjoy Urban while he's there and not expect him to stay 10+ years. The track record is what it is, and I could see him moving elsewhere if he wins a national title. Then again, he has a lot of affinity for the state of Ohio and has roots there, unlike Florida or Utah. But I don't see him as a guy who stays for more than a decade. I could be wrong. But I think it's important for Ohio State fans to take this mind-set.
Matthew (Zionsville, Indiana)
Can you do a what fan base most hates their own coach the most poll? If so, can I vote for Danny Hope at work, home, the library, Apple Store. . .
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Ah, giving me ideas. I know some Big Ten coaches didn't appreciate our first poll, but hey, it's the offseason and we need content! Hope doesn't seem to be overly popular with Boiler Nation right now, and I'd imagine Bo Pelini would get a few votes as well.
Steve (Burlington, VT)
Explain to me the idea of creating a Big ten playoff and bringing bowl games to new locales, specifically those up north. Could this system automatically increase The Big Ten's record in the "post-season?" Will this even the playing field? What team would the Big Ten champ play - not, necessarily, The Pac-12 champ, even if the Big Ten champ is playing for the national championship, correct?
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Nothing is guaranteed, Steve, as you need to qualify for the playoff and be seeded high enough to get a home game on campus. But what the proposal offers is the chance -- not the guarantee but the chance -- for the Big Ten to exploit an advantage it currently cannot. Big Ten teams are conditioning to playing games in the cold, but all the big national games are in warm weather or climate-controlled domes. The Big Ten's proposal would reward the very best teams, if they qualify, by providing them a huge weather advantage.
Adam (Austin, TX)
Adam! Do you think the B1G will ever realign the divisions? I would love to see them realign them every eight years to keep it fresh as well as keep the divisons even.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Anything is possible, Adam, and the Big Ten will continue to evaluate. But don't expect any changes to be made soon. A lot depends on the power balance within the league. If Michigan State continues on its upward trajectory, Iowa reclaims its 2009 form and Northwestern takes another step or two, the Legends might be much stronger than the Leaders. But remember that Purdue was a strong program in the late 1990s and early 2000s. If the Boilers reclaim that form, Wisconsin continues to win, Penn State gets back to elite status and Ohio State does its thing, the Leaders might be stronger.
Adam, love the blog. In the combine article you note that Wilson needs to pove he can throw over massive lineman. I find this perplexing, as Wisconsin fields the 3rd largest line in all of football. Hasn't he already proven he can throw over massive, NFL caliber lineman and be very successful in doing so?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
James, that's a good point, but he'll have to make those throws at a level where the speed of the game is much greater. Russell did an excellent job of moving the pocket at both Wisconsin and NC State. He'd run to a spot and create time and space to make throws with his strong arm. That'll be harder to do in the NFL. He'll have to make more throws within the pocket, over the heads of big offensive linemen and big defensive linemen, into tighter windows against better defensive backs.
Jared (San Diego)
Your article with Canada is just one example of the B1G poaching from NIU in recent years. This is happening more and more from the top MAC programs like NIU, Toledo, etc. Any reason the B1G never looked to these schools when considering expansion? I mean, let's face it, teams from NIU and Toledo have been better than the Indiana's and Minnesota's of the last 7-8 years.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Jared, unlike some leagues, the Big Ten looks at more than the quality of a football team when exploring expansion possibilities. A school needs to be a cultural fit (major research institution, strong academics) and an overall athletic fit, boasting the facilities and support to survive in the Big Ten. NIU and Toledo have great football programs, but as overall institutions, they don't fit in the Big Ten. So it's about much more than just the football teams.
Addison (East Lansing)
What is biggest MSU's strength on the defensive side of the football? They are returning all of their starting LB's and only losing Robinson in the secondary. An improved Anthony Rashad White, Gholston, and Rush could mitigate the loss of Worthy (ALA Jones and Gordon at LB last season)
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
The strength is in the front seven, Addison, and I actually might pick the linebackers as the strongest group. Bullough is a Jones/Gordon type who will start his entire career and finish among the school's best. Denicos Allen, meanwhile, is a tremendous playmaker who can blitz well and apply a ton of pressure. Both Allen and Will Gholston could put up huge pass-rushing numbers in 2012. Should be fun to watch.
I understand that T Magic has 2 more years that he will probably start. But would it be a waste of 2 years when you have a stud like Tommy Armstrong coming to Lincoln this Fall? Armstrong seems to fit better with Becks offense, ie the quadruple option he invented and used during the Michigan game. It takes time and experience to run the option well, will we waste 2 more years on Taylor?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Chris, I think the staff has to have an open mind about the quarterback spot. That doesn't mean turning their back on Taylor or not supporting him, but you don't need to play him simply because he's started games or to prove a point to fans. That said, if a quarterback wants to take Martinez's job, whether it's Carnes or Armstrong, they need to perform exceptionally well in practice. But those opportunities should be provided. It shouldn't just be a foregone conclusion that Martinez is the guy for the next two years.
Mike (Lewis Center, OH)
Do you think that Urban Meyer kept Fickell on the staff to make the alumni base that was still backing him happy? I find it curious that he was interviewing for the Pitt job......not all happy in Buckeye Land?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
No, I don't think that's the case, Mike. Fickell loves Ohio State. He's a terrific recruiter and a good defensive coach. Why wouldn't Urban try to keep him if he's willing to stay? That say, Urban also knows Fickell likely will take a head-coaching job in the next few years. He'll be a hot commodity, and every assistant wants to be a head coach. Meyer brought in Everett Withers, a veteran defensive coordinator, to work in a co-coordinator role with Fickell. My view is that Withers is poised to take over the defensive play calls if and when Fickell departs to a head-coaching spot.
Hi Adam. I've asked this a few times but haven't gotten a response (I'm beginning to think you're ignoring me). It seems to me that, with a new head coach, Penn State has a strategic advantage on the field for at least the first few games. Other teams can look at last year's tape, but won't know what to expect. This would seem to give PSU an decided advantage until there are enough games for other teams to know what to expect. How long does this advantage last and how big is it?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Mike, it's your lucky day. Hmmmm ... your "decided advantage" phrase reminds me of another New England Patriots offensive coordinator taking over a brand-name program. And to be fair, Notre Dame had an excellent offense under Charlie Weis in 2005 (and 2006). Teams struggled to contain the Irish, and the scheme certainly had something to do with it. I agree that it'll be challenging for opponents to scout Penn State, other than to watch what the Patriots did in 2011. The big difference between PSU under O'Brien and ND under Weis is that ND had Brady Quinn at quarterback and Penn State has major question marks. So a lot depends on the development of the QB spot.
Travis (Ann Arbor)
I know you don't hold much water with recruiting, and neither do I. Considering two years from now, all these fans won't even remember 75% of the kids names they are so excited for right now. However, what does this weekend "boom" say for Hoke and co? I also love the emphasis Hoke is putting on the Midwest/Ohio border. To me, it shows he's not afraid of the big bad recruit stealing (as far as Bielema and Dantonio are concerned) Urban Meyer.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Travis, I think it once again shows how Michigan will recruit under Hoke and his staff. The Wolverines will start very early and have a clear vision of who they want. Will all eight commits become stars at Michigan? Probably not. But some likely will. And from a perception standpoint, it helps Michigan after so much attention has been on Urban and his recruiting success.
who are the other potential oc for iowa beside davis and moore.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Haven't heard about too many outside candidates, Dev. One internal candidate who should be in the mix is Erik Campbell. He's done a very good job with Iowa's wide receivers and has been a position coach in a major conference since 1994. He served as Michigan's assistant head coach from 2003-07. While he hasn't been a play-caller, he boasts a ton of experience coaching both WRs and RBs.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Hi, Adam. Wondering what you think of the Michigan versus Air Force matchup next year. The Wolverines should be able to put up plenty of points, but I'm wondering how well a DL with the losses of Martin and RVB can slow down the tricky option offense of AF. Add to that a bunch of position changes on the DL (Beyer, Roh, Black), how does that matchup look to you?
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
Excellent question, Nick. Air Force also is a bit of a trap game, falling after the Alabama opener. It takes tremendous discipline along the defensive line to contain the triple option, and Michigan will need a strong effort from players like Craig Roh, who boasts a lot of starting experience. The defensive tackles also loom large (literally). Very interested to see if Will Campbell can take the next step in 2012.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK guys, time's up. Great chat. Let's do it again next week.