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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

What's on your mind today?

Dillain from Florida writes: Hey Adam, I love the blog I read daily. I am a Die Hard Iowa Hawkeyes Fan. My family is from Iowa. I am graduating from high school this year and got accepted into and am going to Penn State. What am I going to do. Can I still show pride for Iowa or am I going to have to just root for Penn State?

Adam Rittenberg: Congrats on your acceptance to Penn State, Dillain, but I don't envy you one bit, my friend. Michigan-Ohio State will always be the Big Ten's top rivalry, but Iowa-Penn State certainly has been gaining steam the past few years. Among Big Ten blog readers, there's no bigger rivalry than Iowa-Penn State. You certainly can show pride for Iowa, but you should expect some backlash from your new classmates in State College. Then again, abandoning a team you've always rooted for isn't easy. Rooting for both teams doesn't seem to be a realistic option. I would say pick one now and try to stick to it. Good luck.


Doug from Sweet Home, Ore., writes: Adam, how do you think Tressel will adapt to Pryor's solid performance in Rose Bowl? Will he go back to Troy Smith days of more pass, or will he stay with his more conservative approach of running and using Pryor's running as a threat?

Adam Rittenberg: First off, Doug, I had to check if Sweet Home is a real place, and it is! Looks beautiful out there, too. I can't imagine Jim Tressel would want to take a step back with Terrelle Pryor after the Rose Bowl. Tressel called the game a turning point in Pryor's career, and the approach should be to build off of it. Pryor will never be the perfect quarterback, but his combination of elite athleticism and good-enough passing should make him one of the nation's biggest threats. Pryor might hit a few speed bumps along the way, but Tressel needs to see how much he can push Pryor to be a more balanced QB.


Scott from Philadelphia writes: I realize that Penn State has a lot of rebuilding to do, mainly LB and QB. I'm assuming the LBs will be replaced, maybe not as good as last year, but they'll at least be solid. If one of the young QBs comes in and has a season like Tim Tebow or even Pryor had their first years do you think Royster and the D can carry them enough for another Big Ten Championship?

Adam Rittenberg: It'll be a tall order, Scott. Penn State's offensive line would need to play at an extremely high level, freeing up Evan Royster and allowing the young quarterback time to get comfortable. I have little doubt the Lions will be strong in the defensive front seven, but the secondary still concerns me and, like you said, the linebacker play likely won't be as strong as last year's. Can Penn State be a top-25 team? Sure. Can the Lions return to a New Year's Day bowl? It's possible. But three teams (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa) look stronger, at least on paper, so Penn State would really need to surprise some people.


John from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, As a Gopher Alum, the last few years have been frustrating as a Minnesota fan. I was nervous last spring when I heard that MN was switching to a pro style offense and I think we can all agree that my worries were justified. It became clear early on that Adam Weber is best suited in a spread style offense and I think the same can be said, if not even more so, for MarQueis Gray. I know that they've hired new QB coach Jeff Horton from the Detroit Lions (as someone who lives in MI. this doesn't give me much confidence) but how much of a difference do you expect Coach Horton to make working with Weber and Gray?

Adam Rittenberg: The one thing everyone raves about regarding Horton is his ability to form good relationships with his quarterbacks. I don't think Weber and Gray will have a tough time getting comfortable around Horton. But as you point out, the jury is out on Minnesota's switch to the pro-style offense, and 2010 will be a make-or-break type season for the system. I'm still not convinced that Weber and Gray are suited to anything but the spread. On the other hand, Horton understands the need to simplify things for the QBs, who were in over their heads last year with Jedd Fisch.


Lucas from Pittsburgh writes: Adam,I know you're probably rockin a Yard-a-Rita right now in New Orleans...but I want to know more about Iowa's spring ball. I'd love to read an actual interview with Kirk Ferentz or even Norm Parker (that guy gives some great quotes). Also, can you wear Mardi Gras beads in your next blog video?Thanks

Adam Rittenberg: Missed the Yard-a-Rita on this trip, though I did enjoy a Hand Grenade. And darn it, I left my beads in the Big Easy. My bad. ... Iowa kicked off spring practice last week, and the Hawkeyes are pretty closed off as far as information during spring drills. I'll be making a trip to Iowa City during the second week of April, and I'll be able to find out a little more while I'm there. The big issue is clearly the offensive line, as Iowa must replace four players who started chunks of last season. The competitions at cornerback, linebacker and running back also should be interesting to watch this spring.


J.T. from Weston, Conn., writes: i recently went on the penn state message board and mentioned that i thought it was time for the staff to get their first verbal for 2011. i was excoriated and called every name in the book for being "ridiculously" nervous so early in the process (notwithstanding kids in whom we are supposedly interested are verballing to other schools such as louis-jean to miami). i explained that the nature of recruiting has changed and schools now start to pile up the pledges early and then baby-sit the youngsters as opposed to kids not verbaling until the fall or winter. can you list the number of 2011 pledges currently held by 2010's top 20 or 25 teams? thanks a lot!

Adam Rittenberg: J.T., I have mixed feelings about early commits. While I don't think it's time to panic if your favorite team doesn't have a commit or two right now, you're absolutely right in saying that the recruiting calendar has moved earlier and earlier. Penn State signed the Big Ten's top recruiting class in February, and Joe Paterno's staff has done an excellent job of bolstering the team's recruiting the last two years.

Here are the team totals for 2011 verbal commits ...

Illinois: 1
Indiana: 1
Iowa: 0
Michigan: 3
Michigan State: 3
Minnesota: 2
Northwestern: 1
Ohio State: 7
Penn State: 0
Purdue: 0
Wisconsin: 1