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, happy Leap Day. Let's get started.
Tevor (Salem )
Where does Rob Henry line up for the Boilers this fall? Under center, as a wide receiver, or as a running back? All three as a "Slash" type player?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Interesting question, Tevor. A lot depends on the spring and how Henry performs as a quarterback, along with how Marve and TerBush develop. If Marve or TerBush separates himself, I could see Henry being used in more of a "slash" role. But keep in mind Henry was the team's clear-cut starting QB before tearing his ACL in preseason practice. He was the team's most improved player, according to Danny Hope, in the 2011 offseason. So if he's anywhere near that form, I think he's a QB.
Tony (Denver, CO)
Read the article about Molk, kind of reminds me about Eli Manning last year when he was asked if he was as good as or better than Tom Brady. His response he said he knew he was and then went out and proved he did belong with the elite QBs. So for Molk, Brewster, and Konz....go out and prove who is better.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Tony, all three men will get a chance in the NFL. Molk is a fiery guy. I always appreciated this quality about him, even when he told me I had an ugly tie on after Michigan's Sugar Bowl win. While he probably didn't need to make these comments after the combine, he's probably a bit frustrated he's not being projected higher. I actually think Konz will be the first center drafted, but all three will have chances to prove themselves at the next level.
Dan (Springfield OH)
Adam, Who do you see making the biggest splash as a freshman in the B1G this coming year? Also who do you think will be named preseason Offensive and Defensive POY?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Dan, I think Noah Spence has a chance to help Ohio State immediately. Spence and Adolphus Washington should get playing time right away as freshmen. Montee Ball is a lock for preseason Offensive Player of the Year. The preseason Defensive POY will be more interesting because of all the player departures around the conference. Ohio State's John Simon would be a candidate. So would Penn State's Gerald Hodges. And I think Michigan State's Will Gholston deserves consideration.
Jon (Norwalk, CT)
Hi Adam! This question is probably better suited for Kiper or McShay, but wanted to get your thoughts. The knocks on Tebow entering the 2010 Draft was he was inaccurate and had a very slow throwing motion. In case you forgot, he was a 1st round pick. The knock on R. Wilson entering this year's draft is he is too short. Despite setting a record for QB efficiency, running a 4.55 at the combine and proving he could play behind an NFL sized O-Line, he will likely be a mid round pick. Yeah, Tebow's a great leader and guy, I know. Am I missing anything else here?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Jon, remember how many people were shocked when Denver drafted Tebow in the first round? The NFL community seemed floored by that pick. So it was a bit of an outlier. Wilson's size clearly will hurt him a bit on draft day, but it doesn't mean he won't be a heck of a pro quarterback. I'd draft him in a heartbeat after watching what he did at Wisconsin.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Adam, I had some thoughts regarding your article on minority hires in for Big 10 head coaching jobs. I feel like the reason that someone like Ron English didn't get a look for a head coaching job in the Big 10 (and Michigan specifically in 2007) was due to a lack of experience. Do you think this is true of a lot of assistants? The Big 4 (Michigan, OSU, PSU and Nebraska) aren't as likely to take a chance on an up and comer, so are you surprised some of the second tier teams haven't taken that chance on a younger guy like NU did with Fitzgerald rather than taking more established guys from places like the MAC?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
GBK, first off, thanks for an intelligent response about that article, rather than just calling me a racist and a disgrace to journalism like others. ... Experience certainly plays a role in any coaching hire, especially at bigger programs like Michigan, OSU, PSU and Nebraska. The point of the story, which many folks missed, is that there are more qualified African-American coaches now than ever, which is reflected in the hiring numbers. There are African-American coaches who would be good fits at Big Ten programs, where we've seen some poor coaching choices made. So yes, I'm a bit surprised we haven't seen more Big Ten programs hire African-American coaches, although most have considered them.
do you see the big 1G expanding anymore? I know you can never tell with these things, but I just can't seem to think that its over for anyone...
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
It's definitely not over nationally, Marc, and you can never count out another expansion push from the Big Ten. That said, the league's presidents are happy with the current setup of 12. The Big Ten hasn't expanded very often in its history, and I don't think the league wants to entertain the possibility every year or so. But the Big Ten also can't ignore what happens elsewhere and how that changes things. The statements made from the Big Ten and Pac-12 when announcing their scheduling partnership, however, indicate both leagues are happy at 12.
Waffles (Southern California)
Probably saw a lot on this topic, but regarding color coordinating our coaches, do you think the criticisms come from big ten fans, or from folks who couldn't care less about the conference?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Almost all the criticism I've received is from Big Ten fans, both white and black. They see the article is asserting their beloved league is racist. That wasn't the intent at all. The facts are what they are, but the story shows that many Big Ten programs are considering African-American coaches and participating in events like the minority coaches forum. Still, the argument that isn't getting through to Big Ten fans who say it should be about merit, not color, is that there are enough African-American candidates now who have the merit to be hired at Big Ten schools. That's why they're being hired in the SEC, Pac-12, etc. It's just notable the trend hasn't spread to the Big Ten, although I think it soon will.
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Waffles, there are some topics where you just can't win with the public. Pretty clear this is one of them.
After saying he wasn't leaving, Nebraska secondary coach Corey Raymond goes to LSU which leaves Bo Pelini with a huge hole to fill. How will coach Raymond's departure affect Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Frank, the timing is unfortunate, and there could be an impact in recruiting, but the long-term effects should be minimal. Bo Pelini knows how to coach defensive backs, and he'll find a good replacement for Raymond. Pelini's track record of producing NFL-quality DBs should be enough of a selling point for Nebraska to overcome Raymond's departure rather easily.
Everyone, even outside of the Ohio State fan pool seem to have blind faith in Urban Meyer, namely in a recruiting sense. As an OSU student, I am certainly in the middle of this, and am surrounded by people who have no doubt that Meyer will finish with the best class in the Big Ten, despite Michigan's strong start. What do you predict for the rest of the 2013 signing season, and is Urban worth the hype?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Drew, I'd expect Ohio State to have the No. 1 or No. 2 recruiting class in the Big Ten in 2013. But Ohio State fans shouldn't focus so much on Urban Meyer's recruiting. He recruited well at Florida and things fell apart there in 2009 and 2010. Look at Will Muschamp's comments about the problems in Gainesville. Urban didn't leave him in a good situation at all. So it's not all about recruiting. It's much more important how Meyer and his staff coach and develop the players at Ohio State in 2012 and beyond.
James Vandenberg (Iowa)
IS my new coordinator a good news for my development?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Think so, James. Greg Davis has coached some very good quarterbacks during his career, and he should be able to help you in your development. The bigger issue is the play-calling and what type of system Davis will run. Remember, his most recent success -- with players like Vince Young and Colt McCoy -- came in a system that differs from what Iowa traditionally has run. But as a QBs coach, he's got little to prove.
Adam, am I the only one who see Braxton Miller as simply Terrelle Pryor Part II? A guy who cannot throw to save his life, scrambles after a half-second in the pocket, and who will not be a QB at the next level.
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Brian, I think it's too early to make that determination on Miller. And to be fair to Pryor, he did improve as a passer during his time at Columbus. Miller will show more patience in the pocket as he gets older, and more important, he'll be working in a more dynamic offensive system under Tom Herman and Urban Meyer.
ackc (las vegas)
AR - interesting article about the lack of diversity in the B1G ranks. Two questions - do you find it disingenuous of Gene Smith to make that comment given that he had total control over the hiring of Urban Meyer? And 2 - has anyone looked into the diversity of the B1G bloggers? Were there any minorities interviewed for those positions?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Gene's point was that in Ohio State's case, the choice was pretty clear. He even told me he didn't want to "waste anyone's time" with a more prolonged search. I do think it was a unique case, and if Gene makes Ohio State's next football hire, I'd be surprised if he doesn't consider an African-American coach like Charlie Strong. As to your second question, while it's not really relevant, the only Big Ten bloggers have been myself and Bennett (both white). In our blog network, we've had three African-American bloggers out of seven and three female bloggers out of seven in a network that isn't four years old. So while it really doesn't relate to college football coaching hires, the track record is a little different than the Big Ten's.
LOL "Look at Will Muschamps comments"??! come on Adam, what do you expect him to say "Urban left me with top tier talent and we coundt get it done"??
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
Wasn't that top-tier talent also present in 2010?
Drew (New York)
Stave as the next badgers QB?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Could happen, Drew. A lot depends on the health of Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips. I think if Budmayr gets close to 100 percent, he'll have a good shot to win the starting job. But if both men are limited, Stave certainly has a shot along with Brennan.
Dan (Springfield, OH)
The issue of over signing has gained more interest nationally. While I realize that the B1G has rules in place that prevent it, do you see the NCAA cracking down on it anytime soon? Seems to me that it creates an unfair advantage for schools that do Oversign.
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
You're seeing more leagues look at oversigning, including the SEC, and putting in policies to curb it. It's also good to see more leagues being open to offering multiyear scholarships to recruits.
What's your stance on the lack of diversity among athletes on the playing field, Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
It's a different argument. One is based largely on natural talent and the other is a professional hiring process, where someone is hired based on a variety of factors. While some coaches are more natural than others, they also must have experience, education, charisma, etc. Players are evaluated on other qualities than natural ability, but it largely comes down to their physical skills.
I recently read that Pac-12 Commish Larry Scott basically came out in favor of home field semi-final games in a playoff structure. The two conferences have historically been aligned because of the Rose Bowl and will now be more so because of their new partnership. Doesn't his support for that part of the plan significantly increase the likelihood home field semi-final games will happen?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
I'm still not sure, Matt, because leagues like the SEC likely will oppose having semifinal games on campus. While the Pac-12 and Big Ten are two power conferences, there are other votes at the table. And the Pac-12 and Big Ten could be seen as isolationists, as they were for a long time because of their link to the Rose Bowl.
Adam, do you think that Junior Hemmingway can make an impact in the NFL? I personally thought that he carried the team on his shoulders when they needed him the most (look at the Sugar Bowl). He has the ability to make catches in traffic, even when he is well defended. Does this counteract the 0.2 or whatever, that he is behind some other good receivers in the 40 yard dash?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Randy, I absolutely think Hemingway can be a good pro receiver. Look at how he produced when healthy at Michigan. Look at how he finished his career at the Sugar Bowl. And look at how he performed at the combine. The guy has momentum right now, and he's showing just how effective he can be. While he likely won't be picked that high, I think a team can get a great value in Hemingway.
Dan (Springfield, OH)
Who do you see replacing Bill Sheridan at tOSU after his departure to the Tampa Bay Bucs? Heard rumors that Ron Zook may be in the mix as a new DBs coach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
That would be interesting, wouldn't it? I know Zook's name had been mentioned for some NFL openings, and it seems like he'd be better off moving back to the pro ranks. But he has Ohio roots (Loudon native) and would add to Ohio State's recruiting prowess.
With Spring Games becoming bigger and bigger each year, are there any teams left that do not charge admission to the Spring Game? Which teams from the B1G have the largest turnout for their spring games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Jerome, I don't have the full list in front of me, but I believe Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin are the only Big Ten schools that charge admission for the spring game. The largest turnouts typically are Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State.
Steve (Burlington, VT)
Where will Kirk Cousins go, in the draft?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Steve, I think Kirk will go in the second, third or fourth rounds, and I'm leaning toward late second/early third. He has put himself in position top be at the top of that next batch of QBs behind Luck and Griffin. Kirk was terrific, as always, during the interview session at the combine, and his predraft performances have been strong.
So how's the race card pot-stirring going today? I still want to know which coaches you think should have been hired, and which white coaches should have not been hired based on race?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
It's going great, thanks. Robert, the point of the story was to show whether Big Ten teams are considering top African-American assistants, even if they aren't hiring them. And for the most part, the answer is yes. But the argument from some Big Ten fans that every Big Ten school has hired the best fit in the past 10 years is an absolute joke. There have been some very bad hires in this league, guys who absolutely were not the best fits. Would a different coach, perhaps an African-American coach been better? In my mind, yes. Charlie Strong, for example would have been a better hire at Minnesota. So just to sit there and have blind faith in your school's AD makes you look silly.
To follow up: Obviously you are dead right about the SEC being the biggest obstacle because of their proximity to the bowl sites but I just don?t see how any school?s fan base, unless a blue blood like UT, OU, UM, OSU, USC, PSU, could travel to neutral sites two times in a couple of weeks. What conference would agree to let their team in a four team playoff play at neutral sites where the breakdown is 70-30 against them in the first semi?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Good points here, Matt. The hard part is that the regional sites would have to be assigned well in advance because of planning purposes. It would be impossible to decide to play a neutral site game in Indianapolis or Atlanta or Detroit two weeks before the game. The commissioners could assign these sites in advance and then have the higher-seeded teams play closer to home, but like you say, it would still be tough for fans.
Adam, what can we expect from Lawrence Thomas this year? Hybrid OLB/DE or most of the time with his hand down opposite Gholston?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Good question, Jim. It'll be interesting to watch Thomas' development leading up to the season. Marcus Rush has established himself as the starting DE opposite Gholston, and Rush had a terrific freshman season. But Thomas could work his way into the mix as a bigger linebacker or a rush end. But there's a bit of a logjam there.
Any predictions as to whether Michigan improves more on offense or defense in 2012-13?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
I think the offense will improve a bit more than the defense, which would be pleased to perform at the same level it did in 2011, given the personnel losses. Another year in the system should help Denard Robinson at QB, and Fitz Toussaint could be a superstar after coming on strong late in Big Ten play. The bigger questions are are receiver and along the offensive line. Can Roy Roundtree regain his form from 2010? Who replaces David Molk at center?
What do you think of Wisconsin's secondary this year? They lose their best corner and safety, but return Smith, who is solid, but a little slow of foot. The safety position should be very atheltic with Johnson and Southward, but a bit raw. Hopefully Cromartie finally puts it together to go with his athleticism. To me it's an area of concern, but what do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Jon, I agree it's an area of concern because both Henry and Fenelus depart. Devin Smith will be a big factor as a guy with a lot of experience but coming off of a major injury. I think Shelton Johnson can become a really good Big Ten safety, but as you say, he needs to polish up a few things. Cromartie is another key to the unit. Chris Ash has done a nice job with the DBs so far, but he has a lot of work ahead this season.
Last year the BIG was the 3rd or 4th best conference in football. Do you think we can see an improvement on that this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Rick, I think it depends on whether a truly elite team emerges -- Michigan State or Michigan being the most likely candidates -- and whether there's more depth at the top and middle of the conference. Ohio State will be an improved team. Will Nebraska be improved? Will Purdue? Penn State is a bit of a mystery. Same with Iowa, Northwestern and Illinois. It's all about depth. The Big 12 was the nation's deepest league in 2011 even though the SEC had the nation's top two teams.
Are we looking at the last year or two of the Ferentz era? Nowhere else to lay the blame after the coordinator changes...
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Jason, that thought has crossed my mind a few times in recent weeks, but I still think Kirk goes when Kirk wants to go. He's the most powerful person at that university by far, and he has the administration under his thumb despite some weaker seasons. Maybe things change if Iowa struggles the next two seasons, but I really don't think Kirk will face any internal pressure at Iowa.
Eddie (Hoboken, NJ)
Not wanting to harp on the topic or assume anything but in the case of the Penn State coaching hire, don't you think that race had absolutely nothing to do with it and that a live warm body considering the circumstances was a bit more important? Would Charlie Strong want to come to PSU to follow JoePa and the scandal?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Eddie, I don't know the answer to your last question, but according to BCA executive director Floyd Keith, Penn State did consider African-American coaches for the position. Mike London's name came up early in the process, although he re-upped with Virginia. I think Penn State did its due diligence during the hiring process in relation to diversity candidates -- heck, the search took long enough, didn't it? -- so I don't think there's anything wrong.
Bobby (Arlington, TX)
How much power does a conference commissioner have over scheduling? As Notre Dame claims to value the rivalries, could Delaney use the threat of never playing UM, MSU, and Purdue as leverage to try to pull ND into the conference if the expansion craze heats up again?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
I think in this case, you're overestimating Jim Delany's influence within the league. He would certainly face resistance from Purdue AD Morgan Burke, who has said on record that he wants to play Notre Dame every year for as long as he's in his position. Michigan State also benefits from the Notre Dame game, which puts the Spartans on the national stage when they're normally not. While Delany has a lot of influence, he's also mindful of the schools' best interest. This is a power play I think he'd avoid.
Have you had a chance to visit all of the B1G schools yet? If so, can you give your opinion on who has some of the nicer practice facilities and other amenities for the student athletes (outside of the actual stadiums)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Mike, I have visited all the schools. The nicest facilities for football student-athletes can be found at Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. I'd also put Michigan State near that top group as the Skandalris building is fabulous. Nebraska's facilities truly blew me away when I toured them last spring. It's a terrific setup in Lincoln. Michigan's indoor facility is the best I've ever seen, while Penn State and Ohio State both have independent football buildings that offer athletes a lot.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids, Ia)
I asked Bennett this the other day. For all of the Iowa fans who think were so vanilla, which I believe we are, we seem to take more shots down field than any of our opponents ever do. I might be wrong, but I was wondering if you had a stat for that?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Ryan, I don't have a staff off hand, but Iowa took a ton of shots in 2009 with QB Ricky Stanzi and WRs Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt. Ken O'Keefe really stretched the field that year, and also in 2010 and 2011. I think the complaint is more with the run-heavy scheme, and some fairly predictable, conservative play calls. But like most pro-style offenses, Iowa does go vertical with its passing game.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Time's up, guys. I'm heading on vacation soon but will be chatting with you in the near future. Thanks for your participation today!