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 everyone, I'm here. Big Ten spring ball is happening at all 12 campuses. Let's get started!
Gotta know where will illini be this season?? Can Nathan scheelhaase finally break out? Also who is gonna be the top dlineman for them this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Jacob, spent Tuesday in Champaign with the Illini. I think they can make some noise in a wide-open division if the offense begins to click. I really like the potential on defense in what will be a similar scheme under Tim Banks. D-linemen Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence both could contend for All-Big Ten honors, but the coaches really liked what they're seeing from Buchanan. Scheelhaase also is picking up the system faster than co-OC Chris Beatty expected.
Nate (Council Bluffs, IA)
I think the Hawkeyes are going to surprise a lot of people come this fall and possibly lead the B1G in passing, your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
I'd expect Iowa to sling it around, although the Hawkeyes need several wide receivers to develop this spring and get more from TE C.J. Fiedorowicz. The uncertainty at RB could make Iowa more of a pass-first team. But I have some big concerns about the defense, especially up front. Right now, Iowa looks like the No. 4 team in the division, but as you know, the Hawkeyes are often most dangerous when overlooked.
Who is going to play quarterback for Purdue this year? I wasn't blown away by the two-quarterback system last year with TerBush and Marve. I guess I just don't see what Marve brings to the table other than a reputation he once had as a promising prospect. Rob Henry is a great leader but an ok passer. Caleb TerBush was servicable last year but is hardly a lock for this year. Sean Robinson was another solid recruit but has been shaky on the field. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
It's a very interesting situation in WL. Henry was the guy last year until his ACL injury weeks before the opener. Danny Hope repeatedly called him the team's most improved player during the offseason. It's been a while since Rob has played, but I think there's a decent chance he emerges as the top QB. Marve and TerBush both must become a bit more consistent.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who will be the Best Player on Defense in College Football in the Big-10 in 2012?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Chris, the defensive player of the year race should be fascinating in 2012. Michigan State's Will Gholston has a chance to be an All-American this fall, but coach Mark Dantonio wants to see more consistency from him. Purdue DT Kawann Short and Ohio State DL John Simon are two other linemen to watch. Several linebackers also will be in the mix: Penn State's Gerald Hodges, Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Mike Taylor, Illinois' Jonathan Brown.
Mike (Ann Arbor, MI)
Is there any reason for concern with regard to the mobility and speed of Ohio State's offensive line for Urban Meyer's new spread offense considering most O-Linemen on the roster were probably recruited with the 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Mike, this will be an interesting subplot of Ohio State's spring ball. Meyer has made some comments about the need to transform bodies during the offseason, especially with the offensive linemen. I think bigger lineman can still succeed in the spread system, especially if they're in good condition. But it wouldn't surprise me to see Meyer give young linemen opportunities to play if the older guys aren't able to keep pace.
Ryan (Boone, N.C.)
Will Penn State have it's quarterback situation figured out after this spring or will we have to wait all summr for the drama to unfold? Also, what are the chances Danny O'Brien comes to Happy Valley and takes over as the starter?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Ryan, your two questions are intertwined, and it's ultimately why I think the QB race will continue into fall camp, whether or not O'Brien comes to State College. O'Brien would be the favorite to start if he picks PSU, but he'd still need to prove himself in practices before the season. And even if he doesn't pick PSU, I'd be very surprised if Bill O'Brien picks a starter at the end of the spring. So there will be some drama, and Penn State fans will need to be patient.
Kase (just feet away from Memorial Stadium)
Make a prediction: on a scale of 1-10 how much will Taylor Martinez improve as a passer?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Kase, I'll be in Lincoln next week, so I'll probably have a better answer for you then. But the early reviews on Martinez this spring have been positive. He visited QBs coach Steve Calhoun during spring break to work on his mechanics, which will never be perfect but can be improved. I also think Martinez will have more options in the passing game as Nebraska's WRs get a year older. So I think Martinez will be in the 6-8 range on your scale.
Ron (Tiffin, OH)
How much do you see Meyer using Stoneburner and the other tight ends as receivers in his offense?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Ron, I'd be shocked if Stoneburner doesn't take on a significantly bigger role in Ohio State's offense. Meyer has been candid about his concern at the wide receiver position, and the Buckeyes will need several wideouts to grow up in a hurry. But Stoneburner is by far Ohio State's most proven pass-catcher. He should have had a bigger role in the previous system, and I don't think Urban will let him go to waste.
Will the Big Ten continue to have two BCS teams this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Ryan, every year I think the Big Ten's streak might end, and every year it continues. Ohio State's bowl ban increases the likelihood we'll see only one team in a BCS bowl, but Michigan, MSU, Nebraska and several others all are capable of making a run and attractive to the bowl selection committees. So I'm going to say yes, the streak continues.
Adam, would there be any sort of NIT tourney for the teams that don't get into the National title tourney, or strictly bowl games for those left out. I doubt it, but it would be kinda fun.
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Yeah, I don't think so, Tony. The big thing to watch is how many bowl games go away if the leagues adopt a seven-win minimum eligibility requirement for bowl games.
Kris G (CO)
Adam - My gut feeling is that this year's B1G is a two horse race between Michigan and Michigan State. They seem to have the least turmoil on their campuses (OSU's ban, PSU's coaching change, UW's staff and roster changes, etc.) and rosters. Am I out of the loop?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Kris, you very well could be correct, as both Michigan schools return strong teams. But I also wouldn't overlook Nebraska, which has some firepower. Wisconsin certainly loses a lot, but the Badgers also have some starpower coming back (Montee Ball, Chris Borland, Mike Taylor). Penn State also could make a run behind a stout defense.
The D (D-troit)
When we finally get a Final Four playoff in CFB, do you think that it should only include conference champions? There's a lot of good reasons on both sides. If they decide it's only for conference champs, do they still make a Notre Dame exception? As a Michigan fan, there's plenty of reasons I hate ND, but their special BCS rules and the face that their AD gets a spot in all the Conference Commissioner meetings are the two that stick in my craw the worst.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
You're not alone on your last point, D. I covered one Notre Dame team (2006) that got into a BCS bowl completely based off of its brand/national appeal and not because it deserved a spot. That said, Notre Dame should have an avenue into a playoff, and I'm sure there will be an opening for the Irish in whatever is decided. I'd like to see conference champions make the playoff, and I'd also be open to a selection committee.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Looking at the Hawkeyes schedule, 9 wins does not seem like to far of a stretch.. do you expect them to be that bad or haven't you taken a good look into the schedule yet?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Ryan, I agree the schedule is favorable and Iowa has a chance to get off to a good start. The Northern Illinois game would be a lot tougher for the Hawkeyes in 2011 than it should be this fall, although Dave Doeren will have NIU ready. The big swing games for Iowa look like Penn State, Northwestern, Minnesota and Purdue. If the Hawkeyes can go 3-1 or 4-0, they should be in real good shape.
Brett (Sparta, MI)
I've been hearing some talk about devin gardner getting some playing time as a WR. If so how do you see that playing out?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
I think it's fine to experiment a bit in the spring, but the ideal situation for Michigan is to have enough capable receivers to keep Devin at quarterback. The injury risk with Denard Robinson remains high because of his playing style, and Michigan doesn't want to put itself in a position where Devin can't step in for Denard at QB.
O'BRIEN TO UW, O'BRIEN TO UW, O'BRIEN TO UW, O'BRIEN TO UW!
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Haha, I think you and I have read the same report, Ryan. It would be a huge get for Wisconsin, but we'll see if there's confirmation.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Isn't the downside to the 7-win requirement that you'll end up with way more games vs 1-AA schools? I guess it's a question of which is worse, a bowl season filled with mediocre teams in empty stadia, or a whole bunch of unwatchable games in September? The best solution is to get rid of at least 1/3 of the bowl games.
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Lou, I agree you can trim the fat on bowl games. The need for home games and the nature of scheduling these days means we're going to see FCS teams no matter what. It's not ideal by any means, and I hate to see major-conference schools play two FCS teams in the same season. But I don't think increasing the bowl wins requirement will dramatically impact the amount of FCS teams scheduled.
I have to say that I expect UW to be pretty good this year, but I see glaring problems that a lot of teams could expose. Last year Ball did benefit from having Wilson in the backfield with him, and their passing game benefited from the likes of Toon. Aside from having questions about their starting quarterback, who's going to catch the ball and be a playmaker when it is thrown?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Abbrederis and Pedersen were both big parts of the passing game, Nick, and both players return. I'd actually argue Abbrederis had a better overall year than Toon. But Wisconsin certainly needs to find more options at receiver, whether it's a guy like Garner or Marquis Mason, who has drawn good reviews early in spring ball. I'd also like to see James White used more in the offense, as he has breakaway speed. So Wisconsin's overall supporting cast isn't bad, although it could be deeper.
Hold on, Ryan (Tampa). We don't know that O'Brien is actually going to UW because the all-knowing mothership hasn't said so.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Mark, I can't speak for others, but we credit reports from other outlets at the Big Ten blog. And we'll be sure to credit one of the best beat writers in the Big Ten if the report is eventually confirmed on O'Brien.
Brandon (Las Vegas, NV)
Adam,Urban Meyer has said he needs playmakers on O esp from the WR's. Verlon Reed seemed to be doing well last year before his injury, Yet he hasn't really been brought up in many posts I've seen. Is there a reason?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Well, for starters, Ohio State doesn't begin spring ball until later today. Let's see how Reed and the other wideouts perform in workouts and how the coaches evaluate them. I think there's some potential there with players like Devin Smith, but the overall group needs a big spring.
FFX Lion (Washington, DC)
Do you have any plans to attend Penn State's spring practice, especially given the historical nature of this practice?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Yep. I'll be in State College the week after next. Really looking forward to it.
Nick (Ann Arbor)
If Wiscy does get O'Brien, has Bielema made a pact with the devil? Two grad transfer QB's in 2 years when the season would look pretty desparate at that position....
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Nick, it would be pretty stunning. Bielema certainly couldn't foresee the nerve issue with Jon Budmayr, but Budmayr's health situation has created a huge need for a QB in Madison. Russell Wilson worked out better than anyone could have imagined, and O'Brien would be big for the Badgers.
Adam, will you be taking a ride on Taylor Lewan's tandem bike the next time you're in Ann Arbor?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Actually Brian will be up there soon. I'll see if he's interested.
Legends/Leaders final standings, GO!
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Final standings in March? C'mon. I'll give you my top 3s right now. Legends: MSU, Michigan, Nebraska. Leaders: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State.
With Ohio State banned from the BCS this year, can any other Big Ten team make a legitimate run at a BCS title and dethrone the mighty SEC?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Michigan can make a major statement in the opener by beating defending national champ Alabama. But Michigan, like every other Big Ten team, has some question marks that make me leery to say a Big Ten squad will challenge for a national title. Michigan needs to replenish its D-line and maintain the momentum on defense. Michigan State must reload at the offensive skill spots and maintain its momentum on D. Nebraska has to get back to playing the type of defense it played in 2009. So this year, I don't see a Big Ten team challenging for a national title, but I also wouldn't be shocked if one did.
Pat Narduzzi (East Lansing)
I am NEVER leaving MSU. I have decided to stay a D-Coordinator for Mark from here until he retires and I can take over the HC position. But just for fun speculation, name three big-name schools that could be a good fit for me and may make (fruitless) offers come winter time.
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Haha, good stuff, Pat. It's wishful thinking for MSU fans to think you'll be around much longer, but you never know. If Maryland decides to end the Randy Edsall experiment, you would be a good fit there. Boston College is another place where you'd be an excellent choice. Same with Syracuse. Several other potentially good fits recently filled vacancies: UConn, Pitt, Rutgers.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
How much will the Gophers running game improve in 2012 (other than Gray)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
It's imperative for Minnesota to generate a stronger run game aside from Gray in 2012. The Gophers should want to reduce Gray's carries and be able to relay on several running back to take the ball. Keep an eye on James Gillum, a juco arrival. Think he could really make some noise for the Gophers' offensive backfield.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Other than Bama-Michigan, what OOC games are you most interested in?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Derrin, really excited for Boise State-Michigan State on the Friday night of opening weekend. Also, the Michigan-Notre Dame and ND-Michigan State games both should be good. I'm also interested to see how Wisconsin (Oregon State), Illinois (Arizona State) and Nebraska (UCLA) fare on their trips to Pac-12 opponents.
Really going out on a limb with your top 3 for each division...can you give us your top 6 for each division? haha just kidding
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Yeah, I know they're not the most daring picks, but it's so early. And, to be honest, I could see five of six teams winning the Leaders division, if certain things go right. There are so many question marks on that side of the Big Ten. I'd be somewhat surprised if MSU, Michigan or Nebraska doesn't win the Legends, although Iowa has a favorable schedule and a senior QB (James Vandenberg).
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
With the favorable schedule, add in a couple breaks, PSU could finish with 9 wins in 2012. The recruiting looks good so far for 2013 (really good, maybe?). Is it possible that the 5+ year slump predicted by many for PSU does not happen at all?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Cosmo, it all depends on if there are some larger penalties or obstacles Penn State faces after all the investigations into the sex-abuse scandal are completed. Will the NCAA or the Big Ten impose sanctions? Will there be other problems for the university administration or the athletic department? There may not. And if not, I think the football program, with its resources, is in place to succeed.
Luke Fickell (Columbus, Ohio)
Am I going to be groomed as a head-coach-in-waiting under Urban, or do I have my eyes open for other head coaching positions that will open up sooner?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Luke, I think you'll be Ohio State's head coach again, but you'll need to first be a HC elsewhere before returning to Columbus. While it's possible you could take over for Urban Meyer, my sense is you'll soon get an opportunity to lead another program and build it.
i can only see 5 winning this year, OSU can't. But dark horses for each division...Purdue and Iowa? Or possible some jump for Minnesota, and they play like they played against USC this past year, that was a good game against a really good team.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Purdue certainly looks like a dark horse in the Leaders, and Illinois also could make a run behind its talented defensive front seven. Iowa has a lot of issues on defense to work through, but we shouldn't count out the Hawkeyes, either. I think Minnesota is still at least a year away from making a serious run.
Adam, think my Gophers will threepeat? Beat Iowa and Illinois again next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Both games are on the road, so it'll be tough, although Minnesota did win at Illinois in 2010. I think a lot depends on the line play and whether Minnesota can get a lot better up front on both sides.
Andrew Maxwell (Under Center)
Since you have been watching college football for years and have seen your fair share of new quarterbacks with big shoes to fill, what advice can you offer me for the season opener and my first start so I don't put doubt into the minds of the fans?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Andrew, I don't think you need my advice, but it's important to play under control, don't force throws and make the plays you're comfortable making. The biggest thing is not to get rattled. You will make mistakes, and everyone will be looking to see how you'll respond from that first interception. From talking to you a few weeks ago, I think you'll be fine. You know you're not Kirk Cousins. You also know it's all about playing under control.
Waffles (The Real B1G BLOG)
More outlets are coming out with this rumor! Leave chat early and cover the O'Brien story please.
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Haha, will do in about three minutes!
Jim Delany (Chicago, IL)
Secretly, at nights on the weekends, I go into the B1G vaults and dive into our swimming pool full of gold coins Scrooge McDuck style. There's not a question there, I just wanted to let you know
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Thanks for the update, Jim!
1st year prediction for Pac12/B1G games...Rich Rods Wildcats vs Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Haha, Tony, I was thinking the same thing the other day! I'm guessing Michigan fans wouldn't want to see RichRod, but you can bet he wants to crush the Wolverines. But 2017 is a long way off, and I think the matchups will hinge on which teams are doing well at that time. If Michigan and Arizona both are at or near the top of their conferences, it increases the chances they'll be matched up.
Meatloaf (R "n" R HOF)
Who needed O'brien more? UW or PSU?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
It's funny, Brian and I were going to debate this Thursday. Turns out, we probably won't need to. I actually think Wisconsin needed him more, even though Penn State fans will disagree. At least Penn State has quarterbacks who have started games. Wisconsin's QB situation is really dire because of the injuries. But both teams certainly could have used him.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Time's up! Thanks for the chat. We'll have more on any Danny O'Brien developments later today.