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 (2:59 PM)
Hello, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat. I'm here for the next hour to talk football
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I've been to Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Indiana this spring, so if you have questions about those teams, now's a good time to fire away. But we'll also talk about any team or topic you want. Let's do this.
dave / spartynation [via mobile]
How has Andrew Maxwell looked with a young wr group? What's the feeling on him? Can he be a better pocket passer than Cousins?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I thought Maxwell showed nice pocket presence and has good arm strength. The chemistry and timing with the receivers was a little off, but that's to be expected with all the youth there and with Lippett and Fowler out. I think Maxwell will be fine, but the Spartans really need some go-to wideouts to emerge. Cousins had such great chemistry and relationships with Cunningham and Martin.
kirt (dothan al)
had a thought i wanted to see your take on assuming gardner doesnt have a breakout year at wide reciever and that hes the favorite to start at qb next year with how well bellomy looks to be doing do you redshirt morris i was so upset with richrod when he didnt redshirt gardner with tate and robinson a year ahead although i think they are going to try and get a medical for gardner but what do you think about morris
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
Whew, that was a long sentence, Kirt. It's a really good question, though, because I think Hoke and Borges want to go to more of a pro style offense once Denard is gone, but Gardner will still be there. Bellomy looks decent, but I think Morris is more the future. Gardner still needs work with his touch on throws. If the experiment of moving Gardner to receiver pans out, that could answer a lot of questions. But that's very much a work in progress, to put it kindly.
Trenton (Badgerville, USA)
Please tell me where you think the Badgers will end up this year? I'm hoping for Miami, Florida, but I will settle for Pasadena for the third year in a row. Third's a charm!
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
"Settling" for Pasadena. Nice. Well, my inclination right now is that Wisconsin will win the Leaders, lose in the Big Ten championship game and end up outside the BCS, likely in the Capital One. But I'll have a much better feel for the Badgers when I hit them up this weekend in Madison.
So it had been reported that TerBush was taking a majority of snaps w the 1's. Does that change now after the spring game and Marve's performance? Also, glad to have read TerBush completed some passes over 30 yds...
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Not a major surprise, as Hope said TerBush went into the spring as the No. 1, and he did start every game last year. But remember that Rob Henry was very limited because of his ACL recovery; I expect him to be a big factor this summer. And Marve has looked much healthier all spring. I still think this will be an open competition this fall. QB is one of Purdue's smallest concerns, for a change
Brutus Buckeye (Woody Hayes Athletic Center)
Are you or Adam going to be visiting me? And when?!
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Adam will be there this week. Make sure he helps you spell out O-H-I-O
Josh Ferguson (Champaign)
Is the spring game my coming out party as an offensive threat for the Illini? Do I add a wrinkle that other defenses will have to game plan to stop me?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
You know, I just think it's good that Illinois found a playmaker of any kind, because that was a real issue for Tim Beckman's offense. Looks like Ferguson will at least be useful after a year in the doghouse. And if he can do things against a very good Illini defense, he can do those things against a lot of teams.
The Like Ninja (Unknown)
More likely to happen first, Indiana making a bowl, or Coyote catching Roadrunner?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Beep beep. Sure, the Hoosiers are down, but I expect some modest improvement this year (think 3-4 wins). Getting to a bowl won't be that hard, especially if IU schedules smartly. Get four very winnable nonconference games, then all you have to do is find two Big Ten victories. Of course, Indiana should be a team fighting tooth and nail against the proposal to make only 7-5 teams eligible for the postseason
Don't limit yourself to the B1G for this (maybe just a little). Who wins the Heisman this year?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
If I had to pick today, I'd go with Matt Barkley. But as we've seen, preseason picks often wind up looking rather foolish.
I'm confused why Michigan took out Denard after one series in the scrimmage. I know he doesn't want to get hurt, but why not run a string of pass plays to give him some looks in a game-like situation? He's a stud of runner, but we know he can have some real issues passing and I think they wasted an opportunity for him.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Disagree. Spring games are way more vanilla and basic than you think. The bulk of the work gets done behind closed doors, when Robinson is getting plenty of valuable reps. Besides, he's in his third year of starting, so it's not like he needs to experience a gameday like setting
Curt (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Do you think Iowa will produce a 1000 yard rusher this year?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
It's a great question, given the uncertainty at RB for the Hawkeyes. I'll say no. I suspect Iowa may lean on the passing game a bit more this year and that you could see more of a committee approach at tailback.
Now that you've seen MSU's D up close, what's your assessment of how good a unit they can be?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
It can be outstanding. What's different this year is that there's great depth everywhere, to go along with some top-notch starters. They need someone to step up and become dominant at defensive tackle but have a bunch of bodies there. Gholston, Bullough, Adams and Lewis all look fantastic.
matt (pittsburgh pa)
Brian, entering his first season as hc of psu, coach o'brien said he will not be coaching into his 80's. In your opinon, how long does coach o' brien coach the nittany lions?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Wow, he hasn't coached a game yet and you want me to predict his longevity? I will say that PSU is a destination job, so I'd be surprised if he ever left for another college gig. An NFL head coaching gig could lure him, though; what if Belichik retires in a few years? And of course, he has to win. But we'll never see anything like JoePa's tenure. These days, 10 years in one place is an eternity.
After watching both the Michigan and Alabama spring games over the weekend, I'm more convinced than ever that Bama will throttle the Wolverines in Dallas. No way Michigan's front seven can hold up against Bama's massive OL, and Bama's front seven will overwhelm a green UM OL. If games are truly won in the trenches, then this game has mismatch written all over it. What do you think?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I tend to agree with you, UC. It's not just the size, it's the depth. Michigan doesn't have much of it on either line and may count on some true freshmen to help. That could really be a problem if 'Bama starts to wear them down. Michigan's best chance is that is has Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint, and the 'Bama offense is not exactly known for being explosive
Hey Brian. In the B1G now, the two QBs most talked about pretty much are Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller. How do you see them? Do they have more similarities or each of them have their own special trait?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I definitely see similarities. Denard is a little more of a dynamic runner, while I believe Braxton has the chance to be a better passer. Both have that intangible leadership quality that makes teammates want to follow them.
Waffles (Waffleville, WA)
What do you expect out of the Badger QB play this weekend? Will they show off what the new offense will have to offer, or is it more or less a dog an pony show since we likely won't see either QB once game action starts this fall.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
By all accounts, the two QBs (Stave and Brennan) struggled in Saturday's scrimmage. Which makes Danny O'Brien's arrival even more important. But Wisconsin has to keep trying to get the most out of these guys. Even if O'Brien takes over and is solid, there's always the chance of injury, and the offense needs to go full speed in practice to help everybody else.
Did you have Lane or Pete last night?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Lane all the way. Pete's too scrawny. But I like Lane's dad to beat both of them with his pimp cane
Ben (Westerville, OH)
What is tOSU's biggest potential win this year? MSU/PSU (revenge), Bucky (Urban vs. Bret), or TSUN (obvious)?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Gotta be Michigan. Obvious answer, yes, but especially after losing last year. And it will basically be Ohio State's bowl game, at home. The Buckeyes don't want to give Brady Hoke any more momentum, and a win over the Wolverines could set up good things in Columbus for '13
It seems like a lot of the optimism at PSU surrounds the fact that O'Brien coached Tom Brady and "look at what they did" idea. I don't understand where that is coming from. Brady did what he does when Weis and McDaniels were in NE and their coaching did not translate to HC jobs. Plenty of NFL coordinators have failed spectacularly as college HC. What makes O'Brien different or what is giving all these PSU fans such confidence? If I'm not mistaken, they never won anything of importance (i.e. the Super Bowl) while he was coordinator.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Some fair points, Jon. I'd sure like to coach Tom Brady. If there's a difference in O'Brien's favor, it's that he had extensive college experience as a coordinator, unlike his predecessors in NE. He seems to "get" the college game. Will that make him a great head coach? The jury is still very much out on that, but I am impressed with his early recruiting and public relations moves.
Hi Brian,What do you feel was the biggest suprise in your time in East Lansing. We all know about the defense and about Mr. Maxwell and the young receivers. Was there anything that you thought might sneak up on us spartan fans (good or bad)?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I was really impressed with how well the O-line blocked and how good Bell looked. I expected the line to be better, of course, but this was not a great rushing team last year. If it can run the ball well in '12, then Michigan State is going to be very tough.
Who did you think would be the one to throw the punches at Pete last night? NO ONE would have guessed Lane
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I had the German au pair
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Did the Wolverines receive any answers to the questions about the interior of their lines after spring ball?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Jibreel Black played pretty well, and Will Campbell had his moments. Consistency is going to be big for them, and the backups at DT need to get better in a hurry. On offense, Barnum looked decent and should be able to handle C, though he likely won't be as good as Molk. The rest of the starting O-line should be fine. Depth is a serious issue behind the starters, though. Any injuries, and look out.
Addison (East Lansing)
You said after visiting both UM and MSU you would have a better chance at seeing who will win the Legends Division. What is your take?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Glad you asked. I was more impressed overall with Michigan State. Just a lot more depth, especially in the trenches, and the defense is a lot stronger overall. The Spartans' physicality is a tough matchup for Michigan. Of course the Wolverines still have Denard and get the Spartans at home, so it should be a fun race.
Matthew (Lincoln, NE)
How likely is it that Rex will rush for 1500 yards and T-magic a 1000yards and also 1000yards plus passing? If we accomplish this do you agree we are a definate Big Ten Title contender?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I was wondering where all the Big Red fans were. Thought maybe they were still bummed from the spring game cancellation. Anyway, I'd take the under on both rushing numbers. Love Burkhead, but I believe Nebraska will try to keep him fresh by using the younger backs more in '12 (and remember he went under 1,400 yards last year). Don't think Martinez will run enough for 1,000 (he had underr 850 last year). But I think an improved passing game means will make this offense very potent; I picked Nebraska to lead the league in scoring.
Johnny (East Lansing, MI)
It's safe to say that Urban Meyer is the most offensively-minded head coach in the B1G, but if you had to chose 1, and only 1, who would be your pick for the most defensively-minded head coach?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
It would have to be between Dantonio and Pelini. I'd take Dantonio.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
To Jon's question, as a Penn Stater, I can say most of the positivity around O'Brien is specifically related to his public relations triumphs (and the solid recruiting has helped). He's saying the right things, and is doing a fantastic job of building on the "JoePa Ideals" but creating his own coaching persona. I'm excited to see how it shakes out.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Who do you see as the 'toe stubbers' this year? By toe stubber, I mean the team that likely wont win their division, but could cause one or more teams some fits in the final standings. My guess is on Northwestern, as for some reason Fitz always has his boys ready to play big games.
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Northwestern always seems to pull off one big upset. I'd also keep an eye on Purdue. Think a lot of things would have to go right for the Boilers to win the division, but they're talented enough to beat some people. And they get PSU, Wisconsin and Michigan at home.
Much is made of the shortcomings of the current OSU WR corps, but is there any upside since they are a relatively young bunch? Or - are we looking at some tomato cans and a major recruiting overhaul?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
They are young, but most of the guys played a lot last year by necessity and still haven't impressed this spring. Corey Brown was supposed to be the next big thing but hasn't taken that step yet. Looks to me like there are a lot of No. 3 type receivers but no real No. 1. I'd expect WR to be a major emphasis in recruiting for this next class.
in your opinion who is the most overrated big ten team. my vote goes to the michigan wolverines.
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
Hard to say who's underrated or overrated in the spring because which ratings are you talking about? As for Michigan, I do think some of the early polls putting them in the Top 10 are a bit lofty. The Wolverines lost some great players and have a much tougher schedule this year. They could be just as good as last year and still lose two more games.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Any feeling yet on the impact of the Tinsley loss on the season for the U of M?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
It's difficult to measure a tragedy like that. Remember that Tinsley's eligibility was up, so he wouldn't have been a member of this team. How will it emotionally affect the players? They could use it as a source of inspiration. But it's very hard to put yourself in their shoes right now.
The Like Ninja (Unknown)
Does your fiancee ever pull the "You get to talk about football everyday, while I have to go to my real job" card on you?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
No. She thinks football is silly.
Robert (The BIG HOUSE)
I see Michigan losing the following:Alabama, Massachusetts, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Nebraska. Mainly because of the other teams, being where they need to be and Michigan, truly being tested especially without their best defense from last year
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
UMass? Really? I'd be more worried about Air Force, coming a week after a potential emotionally and physically draining game against Alabama, and with that unique option attack. I feel better about Michigan's chances of beating MSU at home than I do of the Wolverines winning at Ohio State
The Husker players have shown a lot of enthusiams this spring about the potential to be great next fall, including several players saying they expect to be in the running for the National Championship Game. I tend to agree with them, that they bring a lot back on offense, and Bo will have the boys fired up on D to be better as a unit(and not rely on the big 3). What are your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I like the optimism. I would not be that surprised if they won the Big Ten, and the home schedule is favorable. I still have my doubts about whether the defense will be that much better, especially without David and Dennard.
Jon (Norwalk, CT)
I asked Kiper if Russell Wilson grew 5 inches, where would he be drafted. He said if he grew 2-3 inches, he would be a top 15 pick. I know what he says isn't the be all and end all, but I have a feeling many share a similar view. But I still can't understand why height would make that big of a difference. Where would you draft him? It's not like he is 150 pounds. The dude is well built.
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
It is more difficult to find throwing lanes in the NFL when you're a shorter quarterback. But mostly, NFL scouts have a predetermined view of what players should look like and have a hard time adjusting. Wilson will be a good backup QB at the very least, in my opinion.
Curt (Cedar Rapids, IA)
What does Iowa need to do to become a Rose Bowl contender? I has been a long time since this has happened
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
The Hawkeyes need to get their defense back to the level it was at during their BCS years, shore up their rotating running back situations and become a little more dynamic on offense. I think they're a little too young on the lines for all that to happen this year.
Are you guys going to do a run down on the B1G ten players who are projected to get drafted and when they could get drafted? (PS this really isn't God)
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Well, then what's that burning bush I see? Yeah, we'll definitely have some more Big Ten draft stuff as it gets closer, but most of that stuff you can get from our NFL draft gurus.
Brian, is it just me or does it look like OSU is losing the recruiting battle in Ohio to Michigan? Michigan is getting some top recruites from Ohio and these recruites also hold offers from Meyer and OSU.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
Meyer is recruiting pretty darn well, but it is interesting that he is expanding his scope outside of Ohio and into places like California (where the Buckeyes just got a TE commitment). I understand the desire to recruit nationally, and Meyer can do that because of his reputation. But he'll have to make sure to not neglect Ohio, where there are so many players, and not damage relationships with the HS coaches. Because Hoke and his staff have strong roots in Ohio already.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your week.