Big Ten mailblog

March, 20, 2012
3/20/12
2:30
PM ET
Been a while. Great questions today. As always, thanks for the responses.

Ed from Minneapolis writes: What do you think of Jerry Kill's first full recruiting class? Most rate it at the bottom of the B1G, but if Kill is to follow the Alvarez model of building a program, isn't his unprecedented success with in-state recruiting noteworthy? If not, perhaps this question is wishful thinking

Adam Rittenberg: Ed, I definitely agree with you about the significance of Kill doing well within the state. It's vital Minnesota brings in the state's top recruits, even if they're not nationally elite prospects. Programs like Notre Dame and USC have raided Minnesota for national top prospects in recent years (Michael Floyd and Seantrel Henderson, to name two), and Minnesota needs to put itself in position to compete for the best players in every recruiting cycle. Although the overall class didn't receive high marks nationally, I know our recruiting guys liked some of the additions, such as wide receivers Andre McDonald and Jamel Harbison and quarterback Philip Nelson. McDonald and Nelson hail from the state.


Some guy from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: There have been rumors that Al Borges may be giving Deving Gardner some reps as a wide receiver. With our lack of depth at the position and DG's athleticism, would that be a good option?

Adam Rittenberg: I'm in favor of getting your best players on the field, and Gardner is a guy who can help Michigan even if he's not taking snaps. There's some risk involved as an injury would leave the Wolverines thin at quarterback and with a starter (Denard Robinson) who has been banged up for much of his career. A lot depends on how the other wide receivers develop this spring and in the start of fall camp. If Roy Roundtree recaptures his 2010 form, Jeremy Gallon builds off a solid 2011 season and some young players emerge, Michigan might not need to experiment with Gardner. But at this point, the receiver position looks thin.


Ryan from Chicago writes: If Danny O'Brien picks PSU and becomes the starter for the next 2 seasons, what is likely to happen (redshirt or transfer wise) with McGloin, Bolden, Jones, Bench and Hackenberg?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Ryan. I was thinking about the same thing earlier today, and also in relation to Wisconsin's quarterbacks, especially heralded incoming freshman Bart Houston. I don't think McGloin is going anywhere. He loves Penn State and would compete like heck with O'Brien. It would be a surprise to see Bolden and/or Jones transfer if O'Brien came in and won the starting job. Bench would almost certainly redshirt this season if O'Brien came in -- quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher loves Bench, by the way -- and Hackenburg doesn't arrive until next fall, so they wouldn't be overly impacted if O'Brien starts the next two seasons.


Matthew from Dallas writes: Guys,Being a Husker fan I could care less about Mich St, but after reading your blog about the best week 1 game this week, don't you think Mich St is in a no win situation by playing Boise St?I mean if Mich St wins, everyone will just say its not the same Boise St team as the past few years so it doesn't matter. If they lose then they will look bad for getting beat by a Boise St team that is having to rebuild. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Interesting points, Matthew. Some folks will spin it that way if Michigan State wins, but I would hope that after seeing so many Boise State teams beat major-conference programs on the road, especially in the season opener, people would give Michigan State credit for beating the Broncos. Boise State went 50-3 during the Kellen Moore era, but the Broncos also won 10 games or more seven times between 1999-2007. Bottom line: Boise State doesn't lose many games. Any win against the Broncos should resonate nationally, especially for a Michigan State team that loses its own starting quarterback (Kirk Cousins) and several other key players.


Drew from Milwaukee writes: Hey Adam - Hope you enjoyed Istanbul. Absolutely one of my favorite cities in the world. You've said repeatedly that the key for the Big 10 to return to the elite in football is depth. The Big 10 is unquestionably the deepest conference in men's basketball this year. Wondering if there is anything Big 10 football programs can learn from the success of their basketball counterparts, especially in the areas of recruiting or coaching. Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: Drew, it's a fabulous city, a unique mix of East and West. Also a fun sports town -- they love their hoops and futbol. As to your question, football depth and basketball depth are a little different because of the roster sizes. A recruiting class of three top-level prospects can get you over the hump in basketball, while football teams need more top-level prospects to compete at the national level.

One thing that sets Big Ten basketball apart from football is the number of programs that are either traditional powers, emerging powers and consistent winners. You have a traditional hoops power in Indiana that hasn't enjoyed much success in football. Illinois fits into this category as well, and in recent years, so does Purdue. You also have an Ohio State basketball program that has become nationally elite under Thad Matta. Tom Izzo has brought the type of consistent elite success to Michigan State basketball that we're only now seeing with the Spartans football program. You also have a consistent winner in Wisconsin under Bo Ryan. While the Badgers football program also has made strides in recent years, the hoops team has been a bit more consistent during the past decade. Big Ten football is no longer the Big Two and everyone else, but we haven't seen as many teams compete at the national level on the gridiron than on the hardcourt.

There are some factors that affect both football and basketball, such as Big Ten Network revenue and a school's investment in both programs (facilities, coaches' salaries, etc.). But I don't know if league-wide success in hoops can translate to football. Too many different variables.


Brandon P. from Lincoln, Neb., writes: I have always been more of a Cam Meredith fan over Crick and i was wondering if you think he will be more of a staple for the Blackshirts defense than Crick was supposed to be? If not him, then who?

Adam Rittenberg: They play different positions and Crick could have had a nice year in 2011 if not for the injury, but I think Meredith is a key player to watch this fall. From talking with him a few weeks ago, he's excited about new D-line coach Rick Kaczenski and new coordinator John Papuchis. He also realizes the need to be more of a leader for a unit that admittedly underperformed in 2011. He'll enter his third year as the starter and has some natural pass-rushing skills, as he showed in 2011 with five sacks and nine quarterback hurries. Nebraska didn't generate nearly enough pressure in 2011 -- the team ranked 84th nationally in sacks and 112th in tackles for loss -- so Meredith will need to trigger the rush this coming season.


Dave from Toledo, Ohio, writes: How hard will it be to implement a new offense at Ohio State? How well does the current personnel on the team fit? RichRod's new offense did terrible at michigan his first few years until he had the right players, though I feel like he didn't try to adapt his offense to the players he had, which I'm hoping Meyer and Herman don't make the same mistake. I'm most concerned about our offensive line adapting, as well as having some wide receivers emerge as play makers.Thanks

Adam Rittenberg: Dave, Rodriguez's offense had one bad year in 2008 and then got progressively better, setting some records in 2010. Offense wasn't the problem for Rodriguez at Michigan, and he did have some players recruited by the previous coaching staff who did well. One advantage Meyer has is he inherits a quarterback much more suited to his system (Braxton Miller) than the QBs Rodriguez inherited at Michigan (Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan). Miller likely will have an even higher ceiling under Meyer and Herman than he would have under the previous offensive staff, which drew a lot of criticism. How the offensive line develops will be an interesting subplot of the spring for sure, as Meyer has made some comments about the need for better conditioning, etc. Meyer also has been candid about the need for more difference-makers at wide receiver, a position that was a virtual nonfactor in 2011. I do think a more imaginative offensive game plan will help players blossom at several positions. It's not as if Ohio State lit it up on offense last year. While there could be some growing pains this fall, I think you'll like what you see from the Buckeyes offense.


Ahmet from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Adam, I saw you traveled to Turkey, that is very nice. I would like you to to write soemthing about Turkish soccer since you saw Turkish soccer match

Adam Rittenberg: It was pretty wild, Ahmet. I dragged my wife to the match, and let's just say she was one of the few females in the crowd. We had heard the fans of the home team, Kar_1yaka, were known for being pretty rowdy. There were a ton of police around the stadium, and we had to be patted down by security as we entered. There also were high fences surrounding the pitch so no one could enter from the stands. Everyone stood for the entire game, and there were some designated cheering sections surrounded by security. The chanting during the game was pretty cool even though I had no idea what they were saying. Fans were very demonstrative about bad calls, and some of them went a little too far, like the guy in our row who broke three stadium seats with his foot and almost got in a fight with a guy in the next section over. There were several near-fights among fans and the security didn't do much to step in. It was definitely an experience, and the match we went to was second division, not Süper Lig. I'd definitely go again, though.

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