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. Let's chat!
Warren W (Old forge , PA )
Who's the toughest player to stop in the Big 10 in your opinion? And why?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Warren, this is almost always a defensive lineman -- Devon Still in 2011, JJ Watt and Ryan Kerrigan in 2010 -- and I think it will be again this season. Michigan State's William Gholston could fit into this category, as could Ohio State's John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, and Purdue's Kawann Short. Simon will be awfully difficult to contain with a better supporting cast around him.
Ben (West Lafayette)
What is the percent chance Akeem Shavers rushes for over 1000 yards this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
I'd put it at 40 percent, Ben, only because Purdue has other running backs in the mix, and Gary Nord likes to mix personnel more than most OCs. A lot depends on Ralph Bolden's health, but if he can contribute, Purdue will use him, along with Shavers, Hunt and the others. I expect Shavers to be the featured guy, but will he get 1,000 yards? Tough to tell.
Adam..Is my math correct on this... if the PSU Class of 2013 (Hack & Bren and Company) is redshirted wouldn't they be eligible for a bowl their Junior year.... when they are reaching their "college prime"?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Travis, that is correct. Penn State will be eligible for postseason play beginnning in the 2016 season. So the incoming freshmen conceivably could play in two bowl games.
Is Beckman for real or is he just getting a lot of okay-mediocre players?? He seems energetic and a tremendous coach.... Honestly where do you see Illinois finishing this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Jacob, Beckman is a very good recruiter and has assembled a young staff that should do well on the trail. I expect Illinois' talent level to go up. The 2013 class looks pretty good -- not among the Big Ten's elite, but not as pedestrian as the 2012 class. As for this season, I see Illinois winning six or seven games. There are a lot of concerns on offense, but the Illini defense is strong, and the team plays in the weaker division.
Adam, bigger news out of Buckeye camp: Urban Meyer "praising" Evan Spencer & Devin Smith for the offseason it looks like they had, or hearing that the frosh DE's are already challenging for playing time?
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Ben, definitely the praise for the receivers. The defensive line should be very good whether or not the freshmen contribute. If they do, that's a good sign, but Ohio State isn't exactly lacking good defensive linemen. The receiver position, conversely, is incredibly thin and unproven. If Smith and Spencer have made strides, that's a good sign.
Levi (East Lansing )
Due to the questions at receiver for MSU, there has been talk of Johnny Adams playing receiver. Am I part of the minority that doesn't want to see this? I think risking a star corner and definite NFL prospect to play both sides of the ball to be quite risky.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Levi, I understand your concern and wonder if you feel similarly about Le'Veon Bell possibly returning kicks. Ideally, Michigan State doesn't neeed Adams to play receiver. But if the group is really struggling, you need to give Andrew Maxwell some options. I think it's riskier, actually, to put a player on returns, where injuries seem to crop up more often. I don't expect Adams to be a regular at receiver, but putting him there for a series or two might not be a bad idea.
Do you interview pro athletes differently than college ones? Especially with regards to style, content, what is or is not off limits? Is that standard operating procedure for media?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Interesting question, Steve, and I need to go back to my newspaper days to answer it. I actually enjoy talking with college athletes more than pros. I covered a lot of Major League Baseball in my previous job and didn't find the players overly compelling. Regarding college players, I think it depends on the guy, whether he's a senior or a freshman, how much he's played, etc. There are college players who deal with the media enough to know how to handle themselves. You can ask them tough questions and get good answers. I do generally try to avoid completely ripping college players in print, while pro guys are fair game there.
Adam, I'm a little worried about all the hype for Michigan. Is it too much pressure? I loved last year and Hoke but I feel like the team played over its head. I'd be happy with 8 or 9 wins but everyone is setting that up to be a disappointment.
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Joe, I think you have some good perspective here. While it's natural to get excited about an 11-win season, a dynamic senior quarterback in Denard and certainly better days on the horizon, it's important to be realistic. Michigan's schedule is flat-out brutal, and last year's team overachieved a bit. The Wolverines easily could be a better team in 2012 that has a worse record (9-3, 10-2, etc). It's hard to temper fan excitement, but Brady Hoke does a good job of preventing his players from getting carried away with the hype.
French Taco (Claremont Hotel, Berkeley)
Adam, is it wrong for former coaches, players, and the BoT members to challenge the NCAA is they believe they got it wrong? I feel for the victims, but if the challengers did nothing when they feel there is a wrong, wouldn't that be the course of action Joe Pa was accused and criticized for? Are they damned if they do and damned if they don't?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Claremont Hotel? Nice! Grandparents got married there, and I spent a good chunk of high school at the pool. ... Anyway, it's a free country and people can appeal whatever they want. I understand the pain the former Penn State players feel about the vacated wins, etc., but at some point, don't you have to ask yourself whether this is all a distraction for Bill O'Brien and the current team? I'd rather the attention be on supporting Penn State's current team than appealing sanctions that really can't or won't be overturned.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
How long until Fickell leaves OSU for his own ship? I am guessing Hope will be done this year at Purdue. Any chance he could wind up there? Or do you think him making a mid-major stop first as a head coach. I think OSU hired a lot of hype (with an arachnoid cyst on his brain), and gave up on a guy in the middle of winning his Big Ten division. Sad.
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Wow, rough chatter about Urban. As for Fickell, I've thought about this subject a lot -- when he leaves, will go go to a mid-major or a major program? I think he's good enough to make the jump immediately to a major-conference team. While he doesn't have any obvious ties to Purdue, he has Midwest/Big Ten roots, which always helps. I'd be surprised if Fickell stays at Ohio State more than two seasons. He'll be in demand for head-coaching vacancies every year. Also, I think Urban brought in Everett Withers with the assumption Fickell will move on soon.
Terrance (Iowa City)
Iowa has had teams that start off inexperienced and struggle in beginning of season, but gel together as season goes on and are much improved. Do you see Iowa struggling against Northern Illinois and Iowa State, then finish with 1 or 2 upsets to a Michigan school or Nebraska? Possibly getting 9+ wins?
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Terrance, I think that would be a tough path for Iowa to follow this season. In fact, I think the Hawkeyes have to get off to a strong start and capitalize on the favorable early season schedule to have a successful year. A couple of early losses will make it tough for Iowa to get past the 6- or 7-win mark. The key is to build confidence early and then be a better team in November that can record one of those upsets to finish 8-4 or maybe even 9-3.
Loved your poll today about dirty players. I was disappointed that you couldnt squeeze more responses out of players though... Who do YOU think is the dirtiest player in the B1G, and do you think that having a "dirty defense" is a bad thing, seeing as Michigan State's entire defense got nominated and they are the class of the league?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Yeah, it would have been nice to get more responses. One thing I noticed about the players named is that many of them are among the Big Ten's best -- Gholston, Borland, Worthy, Molk, etc. So I guess they're doing something right. Michigan State certainly has a bit of a reputation after some of the things that happened in 2011 (personal fouls vs. Michigan, all the "injuries" vs. Iowa). But the Spartans still have a heck of a defense, and if the edge helps them, why not have it? As far as dirtiest player, no one really comes to mind. I think I understand certain players' names came up in the poll.
Can Monte Ball be as good as last year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
From a pure numbers perspective, I don't think so, although I could be wrong. I do think he can be a more complete running back and help his cause for the NFL draft. He has got to become a better blocker, and he needs to continue to show he can catch passes out of the backfield. I think he can address some of the questions the NFL folks had about him without rushing for 2,000 yards and 39 touchdowns again.
Ben (Omaha) [via mobile]
Hey Adam, I could see Nebraskas season going either way, if they play like they did against msu last year I can see them going 12-0 or 11-1 but if we struggle on the stretch of UM Ohio state msu and northwestern I could also see us struggling to stay above .500. Which outcome do you think is more likely to happen?
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Ben, I really think we'll find out a lot about the Huskers on Oct. 6 in Columbus. They simply weren't a very impressive team away from Lincoln in 2011. By going into The Shoe and beating an improved Ohio State team, Nebraska can build confidence and possibly make itself the team to beat in the Legends division. While the Wisconsin game is important, too, the Ohio State game is more important after Nebraska's road struggles. ... Overall, Nebraska has to stay healthy on defense and get more consistent play from the QB position.
Is Ohio State banned from the Coaches Poll?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Yes. Same for Penn State from 2012-15.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will C.J. Fierdowicz have a breakout year for Kirk Ferentz in 2012 and challenge for All Big Ten honors?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
He has a great opportunity, Tony. While I expect Erik Campbell to produce some capable receivers this season, Iowa is lacking a bit at that position and will need Fiedorowicz to take a step forward. New OC Greg Davis likes Fiedorowicz's potential, and I think he'll have chances to become a Tony Moeaki-like player for the Hawkeyes this year. Whether he can deliver like Moeaki remains to be seen.
Adam, what's your bold prediction for the year? I'm going to go with Purdue winning the Leaders.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
I wouldn't go that far, Kevin, but it also wouldn't be a total shock to see Purdue rise up this season. Ultimately, the Boilers have to show they can get through games without the major mistakes that have cripped them too often in Danny Hope's tenure. They return most of their key pieces, and they get Wisconsin in West Lafayette this year. It'll be an interesting season for Purdue.
When are you and Brian going to start making your rounds at fall practice and start to provide some insight into how each of our teams are looking? While I understand there is plenty of local coverage, you guys aren't around the team every day and might provide a little more balanced insight as to what things actually look like, as opposed to the talk we get out of the local guys pumping up the fan base.
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Hate to disappoint you, Bucky, but we really don't get out to many fall camps. It's a budget thing and we can't do much about it. We'll still have plenty of coverage, though, as we're talking to players and coaches throughout the month. I'll try to get to a few places locally, but this is just the way it has to be for now.
Craig (Braintree MA)
It's been reported that Kill's teams have done well in year 2. Do you see that happening in the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Craig, I expect improvement from the Gophers in Year 2. There are some obvious question marks -- wide receiver, running back, secondary -- but the comfort factor with the coaching staff and what they want to do is much better. Reading reports from Gophers camp, it seems like there have been promising signs with the receivers, defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman and others. That said, Minnesota plays in a tough division and has a lot of issues to fix.
Herky (Sitting in the nest)
Do you think Iowa will have a starting RB graduate as a Hawkeye in the next 5 years? It's been 5 years since Iowa had a starting running back graduate from Iowa (Albert Young 2007).
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
I certainly hope so, Herky. How long can this trend possibly go on? At some point, Iowa needs to address the types of young men it has recruited at RB and the types of messages those men are receiving in the program. Although running backs typically depart programs more often than most positions -- transfers, turning pro early, etc. -- Iowa should be able to hold onto one eventually.
Nice Guy Eddie (Akron)
Adam, some interesting non-conference games against mid-major programs (Western Michigan vs. Illinois, Ohio Vs. Penn State). Which B1G team is most likely to be upset this season, by a MAC team or the like?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
I'd throw Northern Illinois-Iowa into that mix as well, Eddie. Western Michigan is a dangerous team because of its offense, and while Penn State will be geared up for its opener, Ohio has a lot of talent. I think Western Michigan has the best chance to upset a Big Ten team, as it visits both Illinois and Minnnesota.
Braxton Miller (Columbus)
Do I live up to expectations this year or are all the doubters right by saying I will never be able to throw?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
A lot depends on your supporting cast, Braxton. If some receivers emerge and the run game can be stabilized during Jordan Hall's absence, you'll have a chance to make major strides. One thing is clear: you'll actually get the chance to throw the ball this year as opposed to last year. I definitely think you're a better fit for this offense, but you can't do it alone.
Adam, will you or Brian get a vote in this year's AP poll? Just wondering how the AP decides who gets to do that.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Nope, neither of us are AP voters. I think Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbsteit both have them for ESPN, and they're certainly more qualified. We both will be voting in the ESPN.com power rankings, and we both vote for national awards. I have a Heisman vote.
Adam Rittenberg ( )
(Thinking) What B1G opener will I be going too...?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
I wish you (I) knew! Can you get those editors moving in Bristol to give us game assignments? It's already Aug. 8!
Adam, this is (as far as I know) Bielema's first major off-the-field issue in a while. Do you think he'll be able to lock it down, or will this bar fight stuff continue to be an issue going into September?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Interesting question, A.J. It should be easier for Bielema to get a handle on things during training camp and the season, when players are more occupied with team activities. The fight took place during the summer, when not much is going on. Bielema addressed it at the start of camp, and it'll be interesting to see what transpires as far as the police investigation. Like you said, Wisconsin hasn't had a lot of major off-field incidents in recent years, but this one is a concern if it's not properly addressed.
Brian Skillman (bloomington, in)
Does IU have any hope in the next few season of fielding a formidable defense? We haven't been able to stop anyone in decades!
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Brian, I think the hope is that some of the junior college players can make immediate contributions. Jacarri Alexander already is someone being mentioned as a leader for the unit. The other key is getting more from some of the younger defenders thrown into the fire last year. Indiana can't rely on senior leadership because it doesn't have many seniors. So it needs the jucos to step up, and the younger guys to grow from last season.
Rich (Madison, WI)
Adam, how are you spending your final couple of weekends before you have to work your butt off?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
"Before" I work my butt off? That process started right around the time the Freeh Report came up. But to answer your question, you won't see or hear much from me next week (taking a bit of time off that I'd postponed b/c of Penn State stuff). After that, it's grind time. Fired up for the season.
David (New Orleans)
Hoe many more 2013 Penn State recruits will decommit? Who do you think they will be?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
David, that's a tough question, and probably a better one for Jared Shanker from RecruitingNation. I don't expect Hackenberg, Brenneman or the other key guys who reaffirmed their pledges to decommit any time soon. The key is whether other programs come calling and the recruits listen or shoo them away. I still expect Penn State to sign a decent class in February, but signing day is a long way off.
Who wins: MSU or Boise?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Tough game, but I think MSU. Better defense and will be at home. Spartans win a low-scoring game.
Mr. T (Columbus)
Is Taylor Martinez really going to be that improved with his "new" throwing mechanics or has he just been watching the Olympics to get tips from the shot putters?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Mr. T, talked with Taylor about this subject last week. He said his ankle injury suffered midway through the 2010 season really affected his throwing motion last year. His footwork was a mess, and he's drop his left shoulder and not throw across his body. The ankle is finally healed, and Martinez has a better idea of what he needs to do mechanically. We'll see how it pans out, but I don't think his passsing motion will look nearly as bad as it did in 2011.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Who do you see emerging as the top receiving threat for Penn State with Justin Brown's departure? Shawney Kersey? Alex Kenney? Gary Gilliam?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Brett, I think Gilliam and the other tight ends will have much bigger roles in the passing game under O'Brien, who certainly featured the tight end spot in New England (GRONK!). Kenney is a guy I think could take a step this season, and keep an eye on incoming freshman Eugene Lewis. Heard good things about him.
Robert (Chicago, IL)
Why do B1G schools schedule FCS schools compared to lower tier FBS schools for their patsy non-conference games? We see from the schedules that schools from the Sun Belt and CUSA are willing to do a one off at a B1G stadium, why even bother with an FCS school?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
The FCS schools will come for less money, for the most part. It's just a financial decision. Since there's no penalty for scheduling 1 FCS opponent -- as opposed to 2 -- the teams just do it.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Hank (Washington DC)
Who are your impact true freshmen this year in the Big 10?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Joe Bolden at Michigan; Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington at Ohio State; Barkley Hill and Greg Garmon at Iowa; Akeel Lynch at Penn State. Those are a few who come to mind.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, time's up. Thanks for participating. Remember, beginning Aug. 22, the Big Ten chat switches to 3 pm ET. See you then!