Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Big Ten mailbag


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A week's worth of mail to sift through today ...

Vincent from Westerville, Ohio, writes: Hi Adam, do you think that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney is unfairly criticized or attacked? It seems like every time there's a topic, it's his comments that get pointed out (already realizing he may be the most powerful commissioner in the NCAA). And why is it always the Big Ten that has to expand? No one is asking the Pac-10, Big 12 or SEC to expand, and the Pac-10 doesn't have a championship game either.

Adam Rittenberg: I think to a certain extent, you're right. Delany is often the target for criticism, and it's because to many folks, he represents the old guard in college football, the traditionalists who are resistant to change the game. But you hit on a great point about Delany being powerful. Whether fans want to acknowledge it or not, Delany holds tremendous power with the NCAA and throughout college sports. If his opinion didn't hold so much weight, there wouldn't be as much criticism toward him. As for expansion in other leagues, the Big 12 and SEC already satisfy the championship-game crowd, and the Pac-10 plays a true round robin and extends its regular season until the first weekend of December, unlike the Big Ten. There's less to criticize with those leagues.


Charles from Linden, Mich., writes: How does Norm Parker continue to put top defenses on the field, no matter how many guys he loses each year, no matter where he is (Michigan State, Vanderbilt or Iowa) his success doesn't waiver, Is this a question of system over talent and how come more DC's can't be as consistant.

Adam Rittenberg: Parker's success stems from an unwavering belief in his system. Many defensive coordinators are tempted to shake things up these days, especially with the rise of the spread offense, but Parker sticks to what he has run over the years. Opponents know exactly what they're getting from Iowa's defense, and they still have a tough time moving the ball. Iowa also is always very technically sound on defense, and polished techniques and fundamentals always make the scheme less essential.


Jason from Illinois writes: Adam, I happened to see the Big East blogger did its conference workout warriors are we going to see anything like that from you for the Big Ten? How was Martez Wilson, Matt Mayberry and Brandon Graham not on the original list by the way?

Adam Rittenberg: The Workout Warriors stems from a piece my colleague Bruce Feldman does every year at this time. This year's story did not include any players from the Big Ten, although Feldman did include Martez Wilson and Brandon Graham in the "just missed the cut" section. Since the Big Ten didn't make the rundown, I wrote instead about Wisconsin's strength program under new coach Ben Herbert. There certainly are some exceptional weight-room guys in the Big Ten, and I'd certainly include the three names you mention.


Chad from Parts Unknown writes: My question revolves around the depth Michigan State has at QB, with Cousins and Nichol going head to head for the starting job and Andrew Maxwell coming in the fall, how do you see this position working out over the mext few years and will the you see Maxwell or Cousins transfer if Nichol is named the starter.

Adam Rittenberg: It's a very interesting question, Chad. Kirk Cousins doesn't seem like the type of guy who would transfer if he didn't win the job. He's got other plans academically, and I'm sure he would still get some playing time even if Keith Nichol was the starter. As for Maxwell, he'll almost certainly redshirt this season, so I don't think you need to worry about a transfer scenario with him until a few years down the line.


Mike from Evanston, Ill., writes: Adam, Thanks for keeping Northwestern so well represented in your blog. One Wildcat who you have given a lot of hype has been sophomore Jeravin Matthews, the converted WR/special teams player who is now in the Cats' system as a RB. Im excited about Matthews potential out of the backfield, but I really question his ability to carry the load in the conference season due to his size (5'11'', 170). Simmons, who has seemed to assume the role of #1 back heading into the summer, is also a undersized at 5'8', 175. What do you think about the possibility of Alex Daniel or Mike Trumpy, the incoming freshman, assuming the role of featured back in '09? Daniel was a pleasant surprise in the spring game, and Trumpy seems to have gotten significant praise coming out of high school. Do you think Matthews could be better used as a secondary back who could also line up at receiver in the Cats no-huddle spread?

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up some excellent points, Mike, and size is a concern with both Simmons and Matthews. You would think that after seeing bigger backs like Jason Wright and Noah Herron perform well in this offense, Northwestern would be signing more big backs. I haven't seen enough of Daniel or Trumpy to brand them a serious candidate to start, but expect to see a larger rotation than normal at running back. Northwestern's best between-the-tackles runner might actually be quarterback Mike Kafka, so it's more important to have a guy who can pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield. To me, Matthews is the perfect fit.