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Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Big Ten mailblog

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

This will be the last mailblog for a little while -- vacation coming -- but keep sending in those questions. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

Let's get going.

John from Las Vegas writes: Was Roy Helu's performance at the combine expected? Look at the numbers, he seemed to put together some very solid times. How much weight do the times actually carry?

Adam Rittenberg: John, you never fully know what to expect from prospects at the combine, but Helu certainly helped himself with his performance. His 40-yard dash times (4.43 and 4.42) exceeded some folks' expectations, and he also did very well in the two shuttles and the three-cone drill. It also helps that Helu boasts good size for a pro back. The thing to remember is some teams value combine tests more than others, and Helu has to fit a team's needs and its system. But the Huskers' star opened eyes in Indy, which is a very good thing.


Ryan from West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Adam, explain to me how in the world Keith Smith does not get another year of eligibility? He played in one game this year and got hurt in the second. I've seen countless players over the years who've played two or three full games and got hurt and the NCAA granted them a medical redshirt. The boilers could have really used him this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Ryan, one thing to remember is Smith applied for a sixth year, not a medical hardship waiver, so it's slightly different. The NCAA doesn't provide much of an explanation for its ruling, and Smith as of earlier today hadn't received one. I think the issue with Smith has more to do with the 2007 season than the 2010 campaign. He redshirted in 2007 for more reasons than just injury. He left school in the spring because of a family situation and fell behind academically. He also had an ankle injury that limited him during in-season practices. My guess is that if serious injury had been the sole reason Smith took the redshirt in 2007, he would have received the sixth year. In the cases of Purdue players Jason Werner and Torri Williams, injuries fully wiped out two seasons for both men, and both received sixth years from the NCAA.


Jerry from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam:Great job on the season grades. But somehow I missed a few. Is there a way to find the links to the full list of team grade videos?

Adam Rittenberg: No problem, Jerry. You can find each of the team grade videos below:
Nick from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: My friend and I have been arguing about who made a bigger impact on the kirk ferentz hawkeye football era so far, Ricky Stanzi or Brad Banks? I agree Banks was the better COLLEGE qb, but overall stanzi won three bowls including a bcs and is going off to the NFL, proving that Iowa can produce Nfl caliber qbs. what do you think about these two qbs?

Adam Rittenberg: Good debate, Nick! Banks undoubtedly had the best individual season of the two in 2002, when he won Big Ten Player of the Year honors and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. But in terms of overall impact on the program, I would go with Stanzi as well. The quarterback position looked bleak in 2008 until he emerged as the guy and led the comeback against Penn State. Three bowl wins also can't be overlooked. Banks only had two seasons in Iowa City and played behind Kyle McCann in 2001. But his 2002 season certainly stands out in Iowa history, and it seems like the '02 team is celebrated more than any of Stanzi's squads. You can make good cases on both sides. I like this discussion.


Tony from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: All of this talk about MSU being a football or basketball school has got me wondering, where do other schools see themselves? Is Illinois football or basketball? Wisconsin? Iowa (maybe for wrestling)? With not a whole lot going on in this month before spring practices hit full swing, this might be a fun topic to dive into with each school in the B10.

Adam Rittenberg: Tony, this is always a fun topic to discuss. I explored it in March 2009 in this post, which identified the flagship program (football or men's basketball) for each Big Ten school.
I'd make a few adjustments to this list after a few more years on the job. Michigan State, after our recent debate, could be labeled a football school or at least a push. Minnesota might be labeled a hockey school. The others likely remain the same.