Your questions, my answers.
Jack from Arlington, Va., writes: Adam, you rightfully have Gerald Hodges as a top contender for B1G DPOY in 2012 after a standout performance in 2011, and Jordan Hill as an "other player to watch" after a solid, under the radar year in 2011. Sound analysis on both counts. However, I think Mauti deserves the "other player to watch" tag. He was a monster early in 2011 before his ACL tear, and should be 100% in the fall. Just look at Posluszny in 2006 and Sean Lee in 2009. Both came back strong from ACL tears, and both deserved consideration for DPOY in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
Adam Rittenberg: Jack, while I considered Mauti for that second category, I need to see how he responds from his latest injury setback. He looked great early last season, but this is his second ACL tear at Penn State. He has worked extremely hard during his rehab, but whether he'll ever perform like he could have without the injuries remains very much in question. I definitely wish Michael the best because he's one of the best people I deal with in the league. And if he has a breakout senior season, like Paul Posluszny in 2006, I wouldn't be shocked. But right now, he doesn't quite belong in that second tier of DPOY candidates.
Patrick Ward from Chicago writes: Please get Jonathan Brown off of your DPOY list. Did you see me mauling him all game? He couldn't take it anymore so he resulted in a low blox. He's a cheap shot artist and a punk.Please talk to Denard about Gholston, as well... Please start taking into consideration how a player plays the game as well as the stats.
Adam Rittenberg: First of all, this isn't really Northwestern tackle Patrick Ward. Second of all, this award goes to the best defensive player in the Big Ten, not the defensive player who never makes a mistake or draws a personal foul. Third of all, neither Jonathan Brown nor William Gholston should be judged solely based on a few mistakes made last season. Both are exceptional athletes who have the ability to win this award, and that's why they're on this list. Did both deserve their suspensions? Absolutely. But it doesn't mean they're bad guys. And besides, these awards aren't solely based on sportsmanship. It's about performance.
Shareef from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, in your post on Tuesday about DPOY candidates, you left Michigan's Craig Roh off the list of potential, or even dark horse, candidates. Any specific reason why? He's a player with a lot of talent and he'll get some top-notch coaching for the second-straight season. He's filling in for Ryan van Bergen's role, and apparently had a great spring there.
Adam Rittenberg: Shareef, I simply need to see more from Roh. There's no doubt about his talent, but he hasn't really built on a strong freshman year in 2009. Part of that has been Michigan's scheme changes and where he fits in (or doesn't fit in). Roh has moved around a bit in his career and faces another position shift in 2012 as he bulks up to play strongside defensive end. He was slowed early last season by a bout of mono, but he came on strong late and could be poised for a nice senior year this fall. I could include dozens of players in the "dark horse" category, but that's not really the idea. Roh isn't far away from that group and certainly could make a push this year, but I'm looking for more from him.
Beau from Davenport, Iowa, writes: Hello darkness my old friend... You seem to be sleeping on my Hawks. Iowa's whole season comes down to two things. DL play and RB. I think we have good RBs now plus Hill ( hello a bigger better Adam Robinson) and Garmon ( hello Sedrick Shaw starter kit). so it comes down to DL. We have a Easy start to the Season (NIU and ISU is no give me. but Minny and UNI will be). Question is Can Kirk be mister November again like in his hay day?
Adam Rittenberg: I'd add James Vandenberg's play on the road and secondary play to your list of key elements, but yes, the running backs and defensive linemen will be huge this fall for Iowa. Given the recent track record, it's fair to be optimistic that Iowa will identify a capable running back or two. Both incoming recruits look promising, especially Greg Garmon. The defensive line scares me, and Iowa will need its linebackers to really step up, especially early in the season. But the key question for Iowa, as always, is how the team fares in close games. The Hawkeyes were terrific from late 2008 through most of 2009, but they've struggled since. If they can recapture their crunch-time mojo, they'll make some noise.
Bret from Las Vegas writes: I'm confused with the reason given to why home stadiums can't be used for semi-final games in a playoff system. The reason given was that some stadiums are too small and some towns aren't big enough to handle fans. Obviously everything works for home games which is what this would be. The only thing I can think of is that the game isn't supposed to be a "home" game - in other words, the visiting team would be given a much larger share of seats than they typically get with an away game. Is this right? Otherwise, this feels like a lame excuse to push the conversation in a different direction.
Adam Rittenberg: Bret, there's more to it than just accommodating visiting fans. This would be more of a national event than a home game for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. The TV production would be different, and some of the venues don't provide the same amenities you see at the bowl sites or in places like Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, which is why the marquee national events are held at those venues. You also have to accommodate the corporate sponsors, a larger media contingent and events that would surround the game. Despite all this, such events could go off without a hitch at most Big Ten venues, most SEC venues, most Big 12 venues, most Pac-12 venues and most ACC venues. Yes, having a game at a stadium like TCU's could provide some challenges, but how often realistically will that happen? Most of these games, in my view, will be played at places like Alabama, LSU, USC, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Sparty from East Lansing writes: Adam, I am shocked that there has been no mention of the rollover accident on May 3rd involving William Gholston and Lawrence Thomas. While they only suffered minor injuries, it could have been a lot worse.
Adam Rittenberg: Mentioned it last week. And you're right. Both Gholston and Thomas are very lucky to walk away from it.
Jeff from Phoenix writes: Adam, I enjoy your articles but had to respond after reading this..."How Waugh had such close access to players and recruits raises some questions. Then again, it's difficult for schools to account for everyone in a very public setting like the spring game."Am I wrong to assume that recruits sit in the stands with every other ticket holder there? This was a man that obviously was on a mission. I am a huge Buckeye fan and follow recruiting, but I wouldnt know if I was sitting next to one of them. The statement you made seems to indicate that OSU was at fault in some way. Unless a recruit is sitting in club seats and not allowed to interact with the public, how can ANY university be to blame. Its not like he was friends with the head coach, was a former coach and was given access to the Universitys facilities!
Adam Rittenberg: Jeff, I think a lot of folks misunderstood that statement, and for that I apologize. My point is that Ohio State, as a massive program with a massive fan following in a major city, has, in my view, more challenges in protecting its players from shady individuals than do other Big Ten programs. We saw last year with the NCAA violations situation that there were individuals around the Ohio State program (Bobby DiGeronimo, Dennis Talbott) who caused problems because of their ties to players. This case seems unique, and I don't think Ohio State could have done anything to prevent Waugh from contacting players and recruits other than sending out the warning after the fact. As Alex Anzalone's father told colleague Mitch Sherman, he doesn't blame Ohio State or the coaching staff for the situation. Still, it's important for Ohio State to monitor who is interacting with players and recruits as best it can.