Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten 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 Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Hello, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat. I'm getting back into the swing of things after a week off, so let's jump right in.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Fire away with your best questions
Which B1G player do you think has the biggest chance of being the Heisman candidate? Many will say Montee Ball, but if Wisconsin does not thrive this year, I dont think there will be any chance for him to shine.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
You have to put Ball as the top candidate, since he was a finalist in 2011. But he will have a tough time replicating his numbers from last year, especially if the passing game isn't as strong to take pressure off him. So that could be a detriment. Denard Robinson has to be considered a strong candidate at the beginning of the season, and I see Rex Burkhead as a darkhorse right now.
What has been the key to Michigan's recruiting success so early in the 2013 class?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
If you'll recall, Michigan did a great job last year in sewing up a lot of verbal commitments early, though not quite this early. Obviously, the staff there does a great job of identifying targets early and making a push. The key now is holding on to them for the next 11 months while adding others.
Matt M (Baraboo, WI)
I think it's been overlooked that Urban Meyer recruited so well, even with the bowl ban for the coming year. Maybe fans at UW, MSU, etc should wonder why their own coaches couldn't use that to negate Meyer's impact. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Overlooked? Hardly. Meyer's recruiting got a ton of pub. The bowl ban didn't seem to deter many kids, nor should it. A lot of guys could live without going to a bowl game their freshmen years if they thought they had a legit chance to play for national titles later in their career.
Purdue really struggled to pressure the QB last year without blitzing multiple people. Do you know how new DC Tibesar likes to pressure the QB or what he did in the past? Depend on the DL-sit back in zone, does he really like to come after the QB or does he fall somewhere in between?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I can't say I've studied Tibesar's past schemes closely, but his defenses at Kansas State and in Division II usually put up a lot of quarterback sacks. The key for Purdue will be getting better pressure from the defensive ends, and a guy like Ryan Russell developing into a strong pass rusher is crucial.
Addison (East Lansing)
Is it possible to have MSU,OSU,PSU,UW,Neb,Iowa and um to all be able to sustain 9 + win seasons at once? I don't think the Big Ten has ever had as many as 7 teams capable. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
Simple math probably doesn't allow such a thing to happen, unless every team goes undefeated in the nonconference and wins its bowls. More realistically, some teams will jump up and others will fall back. It's fairly cyclical. But several Big Ten programs are in very good shape with their leadership and should be able to bounce back quickly from an odd bad season.
kirt (dothan al )
hey brian will this be will campbell's emerging year and can hoke get that defensive line working well enough by sep 1st and can we stop alabama's run game and also move the ball on them ourselves
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I think Campbell should be a solid contributor, but I have serious doubts as to whether he can become a star. If it hasn't happened by now, why would it? Rebuilding that D-line will be Michigan's top offseason priority, and the Wolverines will be facing an awfully stiff first challenge.
Hey Brian, what do you think I've got a better shot at....Rushing for over 1,000 yards, or passing for over 2,500?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I'll take the rushing. Miller already had a few 100-yard rushing days as a freshman, and he should continue to run the ball under Meyer. He still needs to improve as a passer and doesn't have a great receiving corps at the moment.
Who ends up the starting QB at PSU? Do we see Bolden and McGloin as the only contenders, or does Jones or Bench get into the mix?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
I'd think there's a clean slate and everyone will be given a shot. Awfully tough for a true frosh like Bench to step in right away, and Jones hasn't proved he can even get to the field. All in all, you have to give McGloin a big edge right now, but it will be an important spring and summer for him and all the QBs.
Hawkeye Eddie (Kansas City, MO)
Do you see #B1G schools enbracing Pac12 non-conf football games before the 2017 "scheduling agreement" begins? How will teams be assigned opponents (like the Big10 / ACC bball challenge)?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
It's entirely possible, given the good relationship between the leagues. But schedules are done far in advance, so there aren't many openings between now and then (and there are already some scheduled, like Cal-OSU and Oregon State-Wisconsin). How the matchups will be assigned hasn't been determined yet but competitive balance and attractive games will likely figure in heavily.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids, Ia)
Hi Brian, I keep hearing that regardless of who Iowa hires at there new OC that our offense will still be pretty vanilla, which I agree with, and understand why. But for a team that isn't to flashy on offense, it seems like Iowa takes more deep shots than most teams I've seen them play. Just wondering if you had a stat for that and if I was correct. Only 6 months til Kickoff!!
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
I don't have any stats on hand for that but will see if I can dig up some in the future. Iowa wasn't too boring when Vandenberg was going deep to McNutt, was it? The offense is clearly heavily run-based without a lot of frills, but that doesn't mean it can't be successful. I doubt we'll see many drastic changes under Ferentz.
Sam (Madison, WI)
With the allegations against Oregon for Illegal recruiting, do the Badgers have a shot of being handed the Rose Bowl Victory?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
'Fraid it doesn't work that way, Sam, just as Arkansas wasn't handed the 2011 Sugar Bowl trophy after the Buckeyes vacated that win
Ben (Happy valley)
There has been talk about the B1G returning to MICH & OSU and everyone else. Most of the talk views this as a negative. Wasn't the big ten more relevant as a whole when those two schools were dominant. The alternative has been the likes of my Lions and WI losing the rose bowl regularly. Can't an argument be made that the conference needs them to be the leaders in order to reverse the slide into irrelevance?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
The most important thing for the Big Ten's relevance is getting teams back into the national title hunt and winning championships. In that sense, it doesn't really matter whether the teams doing so are Ohio State and Michigan or Purdue and Minnesota. People do tend to pay attention more when the "brand name" schools are doing well. But winning on the biggest stages are what increases relevance and credibility as a whole.
Lebum Shames (Miami)
How did you like my game winning shot with 5 seconds left last night? Anyway what is going on with The Ohio State University and the 2013 class? I am surprised Meyer hasn't brought in some high ranking recruits in response to Michigan's huge haul a couple weeks ago.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Meyer has already gotten some high-profile 2013 commits. The recruiting battles between the two schools will be fun to watch for the next 11 months.
Ace (Darien, IL)
What do you think of Jenkins impressive 40 times and relatively good broad and vert jumps, do you think the combine might of rose his stock a bit. Since his biggest downfall last year was an ILLINI offense with no other weapons.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
No surprise that Jenkins is an excellent athlete. Hard to blame him for the downfall of Illinois' offense in the second half, as his QBs had no time to throw and he had little help. Don't see him as elite NFL receiver in this draft but he should get selected
Jeff (Middle of the Mohave)
Brian- Welcome back. Hope you had a good vacation. Looking at yesterday's QB results from the combine, one can argue that Russell Wilson is on par, statistically with Stanford's Luck and Cam Newton. However, everything I hear is that teams are concerned about his height, or lack thereof. With the size of UW's line (3rd largest college or NFL) this year, I don't completely buy this argument. Is there something else that the NFL says he's missing?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Thanks, Jeff. It was a staycation, but an excellent time to rest and plan for my upcoming nuptials. As for Wilson, it's all about his height. He is only about 5-11, and he will have some trouble finding throwing lanes in the NFL. Plus, NFL scouts have a very narrow view of what makes a prospect, and those who don't fit inside their box usually have to fight for their chances. I wouldn't bet against Wilson, because he's a great competitor. But he has some challenges to overcome.
Any chance that B1G invites Rutgers to the conference? The team seems to be on the up-and-up, they have a nice media market, and their academics are solid. The land grant thing helps too.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
The Big Ten doesn't seem interested in further expansion right now, but never say never. I see Rutgers as a possibility if the Big Ten needs to add two or more teams for balance, not as a top target. If the league could get, say, Notre Dame, then adding Rutgers to get to 14 would make sense. But it's not on the near horizon by any means.
How do you guys favour MSU this year in the legends div. Ill take Denard, and Michy at home all day against a freshman QB and depleted offense.... Also, Adam is taking crazy pills wanting Denard so low on the top 25 players. Yep lets put a DB, and WR ahead of him, that makes sense? Maybe Montee ball, deserves to be ranked higher, and thats about it....
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
It's an extremely close call in the Legends race, and we may well change our minds between now and the start of the year. For now, we both like MSU because of its defense, and don't forget that four-year winning streak vs. the Wolverines. I argued for Denard in the Top 10, while Adam wanted him much lower. I see his point on the turnovers, low completion pct, etc., but no one could change a game quite like Denard when he was on
Goofer nation (The basement)
Chances Minny wins a NC in the next 20 years?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Don't get me wrong, I like Jerry Kill and the direction he's taking. But I probably have a better chance of being the drummer in Zooey Deschanel's next band than the Gophers do of hanging a national championship banner anytime soon.
What Round if any will Kirk Cousins Be Drafted and by who?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I'm not a draftnik, but I definitely believe someone will draft Cousins in the later rounds. He's just too smart not to get a chance, and he would be an asset to any roster with his leadership skills. As to who might take him, that's anyone's guess.
Brian do you think Nebraska's offence and Defence will finally click in the same season and finally push the Huskers to a 11 win or more season
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I have serious questions about the defense this year. I do think the Huskers offense will be really good and will be the strength of the team. I predict more like another 9-win season in 2011.
Hawkeye Eddie (Kansas City, MO)
will the 2 new Coordinators in Iowa City be a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stale offensive scheme / 4-3 (no blitz) defense? #Hawkeyes
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
We'll have to wait and see what kind of defense Phil Parker runs, whether he keeps the same schemes as Norm Parker or injects his own ideas. And we don't even know who the OC is yet, officially. As I said earlier, I don't expect drastic changes on either side of the ball because Ferentz has a system. But some new voices and perspective could be a healthy thing for the Hawkeyes
College Football (ESPN)
I stumbled upon that you also cover college basketball as well, how dare you! I thought we were in a monogamous relationship.
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Hey, I've only covered three games all year. I will be doing some moonlighting during the tournament, but football is always first priority
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
B.O'B. is saying all the right things so far. Do you think he will open practices up to the media so that people can see how he is developing the team? JoePa seemed to always keep practices private.
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I think having at least one open practice would be an excellent gesture. O'Brien's regime so far is already more open in terms of media access than what we were used to in recent years at PSU
Do kickers become more important with the touchback now being moved up to the 25? It seems like now there is more room near the endzone to try to drop kick-offs and punts to pin a team deep in their own zone or at least behind the 25...
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
It's going to be really interesting to see how coaches handle the new strategy there. I think most would gladly accept having the other team start at the 25 if their kicker can knock it in the end zone. Others may try to force other teams to catch the ball inside the 5 and return it. But a lot of coaches are risk averse, especially in special teams, and wouldn't want to risk a big return by a guy like Mostert or Abdullah or Stoudermire.
Which team from the bottom half of the league - Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana - do you think will win a national championship first?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I'd be really surprised if any of them won a national championship in my lifetime. Illinois and Minnesota probably have the most potential, with Purdue right behind. But given how the game has skewed toward the south and west and traditional powers for the most part, I don't see it happening anytime in the foreseeable future for any of them.
Brian, do you see the bowl ban as a possible "blessing in disguise" because of less pressure being placed on the team and the ability for Urban to recruit after the season, or do the loss of the 15 bowl practices out weigh it?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
That's an interesting way of looking at things, but there's always pressure in Columbus because of the nature of that program. And Meyer was never going to be judged on Year One. The 15 extra practices are helpful but I believe that is often overstated. Meyer can concentrate on recruiting next December instead of bowl prep, and that may prove even more valuable.
Is the door for Iowa to win the B10 beginning to close with the new look OSU and UM teams on the up-swing?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
That's an excellent question. Don't forget the addition of Nebraska to Iowa's division and Michigan State reaching new levels of consistent excellence. With back-to-back underwhelming seasons, Iowa is at a little bit of a crossroads here and needs to avoid losing more ground.
Matt (Green Bay)
Who do you think the Badgers will have as a starting QB next year?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Still mostly a mystery. If Budmayr is healthy, he could have an edge. But that's a big if. And there's still the outside possibility of a transfer in the Wilson mode. It will be the No. 1 story of the offseason in Madison regardless.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Over/Under 3 years for Urban Meyer to return Ohio State to the BCS Championship Game?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Well, there might not be a BCS championship game in two years. In fact, there's a very real possibility of a four-team playoff coming down the line. That said, I like Ohio State's chances of playing for the title as soon as the 2013 season.
Tony (Lincoln, NE)
Can Taylor Martinez become an elite Big Ten QB next season?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I like the steps he took to improve as a game manager and leader in 2011. The next step is improving his passing accuracy and decision making. I'm not sure he'll ever be a great thrower with those mechanics, but if he can complete around 60 percent, avoid turnovers and maintain his threat as a runner, that will be enough to make Nebraska's offense extremely dangerous.
Dave (B1G Country)
From a player's perspective, what do you think makes more of an impact- getting a new coordinator/position coach, or getting a new head coach? Do you see any schools making such changes having a seamless transition, or will some schools have to rebuild?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
If a new coordinator or position coach brings a drastically new style of play, then that can have a major impact. Still, I'd say a new head coach still affects players more, because the guy in charge sets all the standards and expectations throughout the program, which can often be radically different from the previous head coach.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Leveon Bell emerge as the 2013 Montee Ball in the Big Ten given the additional carries he should receive next season with Baker gone?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Much different types of runners, as Bell weighs in at over 235 pounds and is a bruiser. I do think he can have a big season and the running game will need to carry the load early for MSU. The O-line needs to continue its improvement as well, but I like Bell to go over 1,000 yards next season.
BB, biggest question of the day: Being a Cards fan what do you think of what has gone on the last week with Braun??
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I'm happy because I have Braun on my fantasy team and I enjoy watching him hit. But I don't think the Brewers are a big threat this year in the Central. The team that worries me is the Reds.
As a Buckeye fan do I have to worry that Braxton may turn out to be like T-Mart in an athletic player who plays QB, but not great, or will he be able to become a more Micheal Vick type player who can do both?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Time will tell, but I think we saw him make progress as a passer as the year went on, and he definitely has a knack for the big moment. Combine that with a system that suits him perfectly, and I think Miller has a chance at greatness in a couple years.
If the ILLINI want their best chances at being successful this season and improve on last years record do you think they need to return a strong defensive unit and go back to having a strong running game?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
The defense returns enough good players to be solid. The improvement will really need to come from the offensive line, the QB spot and at RB. And the switch to a spread offense will test everyone. It's not going to be an easy transition.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
Well, that went by fast. My time is up today, folks. Thanks for all the great questions. See you next week at the same time!