Chat with Chantel Jennings
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Big Ten reporter Chantel Jennings stops by to chat about college football offseason.
Jennings joined ESPN.com in 2011 after covering University of Michigan athletics for three years at The Michigan Daily. Jennings graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in English and Spanish and lives in Ann Arbor.
Send your questions now and join Jennings Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Chantel (3:03 PM)
Hey guys, Welcome to the chat! Get your questions in early and often. Let's do this.
William (Des Moines)
Your colleague Mark Schlabach has Iowa in his way-too-early Top 25 for next season. Agree or disagree and why? I personally think he's a little too optimistic about the Hawks, but the schedule does shape up nicely.
Chantel (3:08 PM)
I don't think it's too crazy. Rudock is coming back and I think he's going to show a ton of improvement this off season and as he grows so will the offense around him. Three starting O-linemen plus all the RBs are returning, which is a huge help. Defensively, they'll obviously need to replace the linebackers, which were so so good for the Hawkeyes this season. But I think they'll be a good team next season and that'll we'll see growth from them even though they're losing some contributors.
Curious (Parts Unknown)
Do you think that James Franklin at Penn state can Dominate the State/Region in recruiting as he promised in his press conference?
Chantel (3:10 PM)
Absolutely. At Vanderbilt, he recruited 22 four star players. At Penn State, during that same time, 16 four-star players enrolled. He has a recruiting prowess about him because he's so charismatic and he's a good coach. Offensively, recruits are going to see that they're going to be playing and growing with the same QB, which I think helps and Hackenberg is going to be a big recruiting tool as well for the Nittany Lions.
What have you heard about Jeff Jones' recruitment? Do the Wolverines have a chance to flip him or will he stay here with my beloved Gophers?
Chantel (3:11 PM)
He had a huge showing at the Under Armour All America game which boosted his recruiting stock and bigger names have been contacting Jones. I think there's a chance the Gophers could lose him, but if he stays, it would be possibly the biggest commitment during the Kill era.
Chantel (3:12 PM)
A local talent like that can urge other local talents to stay in state. I'm not saying it would be some huge trend, but even a coup here or there could make the difference for the Gophers over the next few seasons.
Frog (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Any good news coming out of Purdue?
Chantel (3:15 PM)
Well, they just added three big early enrollees -- QB David Blough, OL Kirk Barron and DL Langston Newton. Those are obviously places the Boilermakers needed to build depth so getting those guys into spring practices is definitely good news.
How do you think Michigan will do with the new Offensive Coordinator?
Chantel (3:20 PM)
Doug Nussmeier has a good record of helping offenses and QBs in his first year as coach. Obviously the Wolverines' problems this year were multiple and it's not like they're automatic fixes for next season. Nussmeier and Darrell Funk will need to figure out the offensive line which will probably have more youth on it next season. The run game needs work. They'll have to replace the production at wide receiver with underclassmen like Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and the like. And Devin Gardner is going to need to get healthy, work on decision making and work on accuracy. I think parts of the offense will improve next season, I don't know if we see every single issue fixed though. There are just too many.
Ryan (Lansing, MI)
Can the Spartans win the National Title next season in your opinion? This team is as complete of a team we have seen in the Big 10 for some time now. That defense is incredible and is the most physical defense in the country last season.
Chantel (3:22 PM)
It'll be interesting. They should they have grit in big games -- taking down OSU in the Big Ten title game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl. So I'm not sure if they're a team I'd bet against in a playoff. However, I think FSU and Oregon have more talent and would be, in my opinion, more at the front of the race for that title. But I wouldn't count out Dantonio and Narduzzi, especially if they can make the playoff.
Chantel, not long ago the ACC was considered a so-so football conference but wins by FSU and Clemson in the BSC have elevated them toward the top. Besides big bowl wins, or playoff results, what is keeping the B1G out of the national scene? The lack of elite quarterbacks? Speedy, dynamic offensive playmakers? Fast team defenses? Middle of the road coordinators? And do you see the arrow going up or down?
Chantel (3:27 PM)
Well I think you hit the nail on the head -- big bowl wins is what's keeping the Big Ten out of that discussion. And the flops from Big Ten teams in bowl opportunities doesn't help the reputation either. The conference had an opportunity to make statements against the SEC, Big 12, ACC etc. and they dropped the ball. And it's not just bowl games. It's the high-visibility games early in the season that the Big Ten teams need to make statements in.
Are the Badgers consistently overrated? I am a big WI fan but they always seem to be ranked in the top 15. Seems like they always just put up numbers against weaker B10 Teams but EVERY time they play a decent team way from Camp they lose.
Chantel (3:32 PM)
Road wins are hard for sure. And Wisconsin didn't exactly rock in that category this season (bowl against SC, @ Penn State, @ OSU) nor were the Badgers stellar in that category last season (Rose Bowl vs. Stanford, @ PSU, @ Nebraska, @ Oregon State). But for the most part, they're not getting completely run into the field in those games. They're competitive on the road which is a good sign. And I think next season, with a few major pieces returning, they'll have an experience factor that helps. And they'll have the opportunity to prove that. Look no further than the season opener.
If the Badgers can beat LSU in the opener, considering they don't play Michigan State, tOSU or Michigan next year, do you think they can win the B1G despite the heavy losses regarding their receiving corps and front seven defensively?
Chantel (3:34 PM)
They definitely have one of the more favorable schedules in the Big Ten. However, I don't know how they'd do in a Big Ten title game against an Ohio State or Michigan State.
Victor (Genoa City)
I cannot live on Illinois basketball alone. Am I hopeful or foolish in thinking that Illinois football will be relevant again in my fleeting lifetime?
Chantel (3:38 PM)
The Illini could possibly make noise in their division during your lifetime. Iowa and Wisconsin definitely have momentum right now, but Illinois -- with some big recruits and wins could find some kind of momentum. However, looking at their schedules over the upcoming seasons, their chances for big years, looks a bit thin.
Who do you expect to start at tailback for OSU next year?
Chantel (3:42 PM)
I'm going to go with Ezekiel Elliott. He has good enough hands that Braxton Miller will be able to use him a bit there and I think he has the speed and size to start to fill in the shoes left by Carlos Hyde. Size-wise, he's a bit smaller than Hyde ( Elliott is 6-foot, 218 pounds, Hyde is 6-foot, 235 pounds), but I think he's probably a smart choice to start.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Hey Chantel - the B1G East is going to be brutal. Give us your early predictions for the top 3 next year? Thanks!
Chantel (3:46 PM)
So true, Brian. I'd say MSU and OSU are definitely there and the third spot is a toss up between Penn State and Michigan. I might give the edge to the Wolverines here because they have a few more offensive weapons returning than the Nittany Lions (assuming that those weapons play up to their potential). But Franklin comes in with a lot of confidence in this group and Hackenberg is such a talented QB. The Oct. 11 match up between those two teams will definitely be one to watch.
Chantel, what are some OOC matchups you're most looking forward to in 2014?
Chantel (3:56 PM)
Well there are a lot of good ones.
Chantel (3:57 PM)
Sorry, my computer is freezing a bit so I'm trying to get these in here. Aug 30: PSU/UCF (in Ireland), NU vs. Cal, Michigan vs. App State, Wisconsin vs. LSU
Chantel (3:58 PM)
Sept 6: MSU @ Oregon is one I'm definitely looking forward to. Sept 13 has Minnesota at TCU which will be an excellent road test. Sept 27 is Wisco vs. USF, another good one.
Lenny (Philadelphia PA)
Seems like Rutgers has a brutal schedule in its first year in the Big Ten. With PSU, Michigan, @OSU, @NEB, Wisconsin, Indiana, @MSU, and @MD on the slate, I think 2-6 or even 1-7 is the most realistic outcome. Thoughts?
Chantel (3:59 PM)
Yeah, that's quite the "Welcome to the Big Ten" party, isn't it?
Chances of Braxton Miller improving enough to be in the Heisman race?
Chantel (4:01 PM)
He made huge jumps from 2012 to 2013. His completion percentage went from 58 to 64. In 2012 he threw 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. In 2013 that improved to 24 TDs and seven interceptions. I don't see why he won't make major strides again in this off season. However, he'll have quite the competitor down in the state of Florida for that Heisman race.
Chantel (4:01 PM)
I'll take a few more questions since my computer froze...
Andrew Z. (Struthers, OH)
Is it realistic to say that Ohio State's OOC schedule is improved next year but there in-conference schedule could potentially be easier than this year's?
Chantel (4:04 PM)
Navy is always a tough opponent but I think OSU's defense will improve and be able to handle it, but that could be a high scoring game. SDSU and Cal were good names, but I think the 2014 non-con schedule will test OSU a bit with Navy, Cincinnati and VT. But their Big Ten season won't be a walk in the park. They have to play AT MSU and PSU which aren't easy places to play.
Of the incoming freshmen at Michigan which right now has the best chance for immediate playing time or to make an immediate impact other than Jabrill Peppers?Chanteling>Tebowing
Tim (Greenville SC)
In your opinion do you think it is realistic that Urban Meyer can get his defense turned around in one year to compete with the rest of the nation?
Chantel (4:08 PM)
They're returning some key players, which is always a step in the right direction for growth. Up front Noah Spence and Joey Bosa should be able to help their pressure up front and I think they'll build chemistry in the offseason (which will pay dividends next year). They'll obviously have to find someone to replace the production of Shazier, which isn't an easy task. If they want to be an elite team, their defense is going to have to make strides. Urban Meyer is a good coach and good recruiter. I think he has the pieces to make a great defense, we'll see what happens.
Chantel (4:08 PM)
All right, that's it for today. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Hope your new years are off to great starts!