Big Ten mailblog

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Drew from D.C. writes: Hey Adam,I think teams that have both a featured speed back as well as a power back (Stanford, Wisconsin) have done very well. In my opinion, defenses can't shut down someone like John Clay on a 4th and 1. Do you think more teams should start recruiting larger backs like Clay in the future to go along with their speed backs?

Adam Rittenberg: Totally agree, Drew. Everyone talks about speed these days, but I believe the ability to change speeds sets a team apart. It's like a pitcher who only throws a fastball. Eventually, he'll be hit hard. But a guy who has two or three great pitches can win a bunch of games. Wisconsin RBs coach John Settle said having James White in the mix as a speed back took the Badgers' rushing attack to another level this fall. That's true, but you also needed the foundation of power supplied by Clay. I think teams always want a guy with size to run the ball, but there seem to be more smaller backs available.

Mike from Denver writes: Adam--In response to your comment in last week's chat regarding location and the population shift affecting PSU recruiting, I completely disagree. If PSU consistently hauled in the best high school talent from PA, NJ, NY, and MD, they would have a top 5 class every year. Again, I think joining the Big Ten hurt PSU in this respect, because as an independent PSU used to beat up on Syracuse, Rutgers, and Maryland, and beat Pitt 2/3 of the time, helping with recruiting these regions. I realize we can't turn back time, but I wish PSU had more exposure in the Northeast. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: More exposure? Really? Penn State has its share of issues, but exposure doesn't appear to be one of them. Big Ten teams get far more exposure nationally than teams in, say, the Big East. I know a lot of folks living in the Northeast who have little trouble catching Big Ten games on TV. Penn State never had an exposure problem as an independent, and I don't think things have changed since it joined the Big Ten. I also don't know if beating out so-so teams from the Big East and the ACC on the recruiting trail is the key to boosting your overall recruiting. Penn State can sustain itself with recruits from places like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, but it wouldn't hurt to dip into the Sun Belt region a little more.

Greg from Clyde, Ohio, writes: How would a season have to transpire for Jim Tressel to win Big Ten Coach of the Year? When I looks at individual seasons, I can sort of see why somebody else won it. Nevertheless, in a decade at Ohio State Tressel has seven conference titles and five BCS wins, more than any other 3 Big Ten coaches put together!

Adam Rittenberg: Greg, although Tressel undoubtedly wishes the circumstances were different, the 2011 season sets up perfectly for him to finally win Big Ten Coach of the Year. The reason: the five-game suspensions for Terrelle Pryor and four others to begin the season. Tressel already has won points by getting the players to pass up the draft and return to serve their punishments at Ohio State. If the Buckeyes can survive their absence for the first half of the season -- not to mention the loss of a sizable and decorated senior class -- and go on to win the Big Ten for the seventh consecutive season, Tressel would have to be the pick for Coach of the Year.

Ryan from Oskaloosa, Iowa, writes: In response to "I just wish we could move on to more relevant things like who is in the divisions." And that's the thing with the division names, I can name the teams in each of the divisions but I still can't remember which group is the "Legends" and which is the "Leaders". Both names project a strong image but together they are like oil and water--they just don't mix, or aren't complimentary to each other. While those of us who follow the Big Ten and are fans of one team in particular we might come to remember that our team is in the Legends/Leaders division and get it correct. But what about the rest of the country, more importantly the media outlets who are going to give the 30 second highlight and in all probability reverse the division names, not care that they screwed up and the rest of the country won't notice either. It doesn't seem to me that is a good way to brand your image.

Adam Rittenberg: Great points here, Ryan. It won't be easy for a lot of folks to keep the names straight with Legends and Leaders. I know the Big Ten wanted to avoid geography when naming the divisions because of the way it assigned the teams, but would East/West have been so bad? The league already has been dealing with creative math (11 teams, now 12) for years. Although Wisconsin clearly isn't in the eastern half of the league, an East/West designation likely would help casual observers understand who goes where. These are just division names, after all, and their primary function should be providing clarity. The Big Ten instead used them to broadcast its message as a conference and did so on a huge platform, which was clearly the wrong move.

Evan from Tuscaloosa, Ala., writes: Adam, love the blog. I read it on a daily basis. Have you heard any new on Keith Smith? I saw that Case Keenum was granted a 6th year of eligibility and he played 4 games this year. Would this signal that Smith should get his 6th year of eligibility?

Adam Rittenberg: Evan, we should hear something soon on Keith Smith, by the end of February at the latest. I'd be stunned if he doesn't receive a sixth year of eligibility. The Keenum case is a good one, and there's precedent at Purdue the last two seasons with linebacker Jason Werner and safety Torri Williams, both of whom received sixth years in February. Smith deserves a sixth year, and he should get one soon.

Hunter from Saint Johns, Mich., writes: Dear Adam, I was wondering if you have any word on who is or could be considered for the offensive coordinator position for Michigan State? I have yet to hear anything about that from any your blogs or in the local newspapers for Lansing, MI.

Adam Rittenberg: Hunter, I've heard very little about the vacancy at Michigan State and have seen next to nothing in the media about it. Mark Dantonio could promote from within his staff. Dave Warner coaches quarterbacks, a position often held by an offensive coordinator, while Dan Roushar (line), Mark Staten (tight ends) and Brad Salem (running backs) all boast a lot of experience. Whether he looks within or to the outside, I'd expect Dantonio to stick with a coordinator who runs a pro-style offense, which has produced good success in East Lansing. I'll see what I can find out.