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Friday, January 20, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Mail time.

Jason from Dallas writes: Saw your RB and WR video blogs. So are you saying Purdue had no running backs or receivers last year, or have none that will be any good this year? Can't help but notice you mentionied the entire conference, except Purdue.

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, thanks for pointing this out, but I didn't mean to slight Purdue at all. The Boilers lose a very good receiver in Justin Siller and return two strong running backs in Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers. Bolden's recurring knee problems are a major concern, but Shavers looked pretty capable of doing damage in the bowl game. Akeem Hunt is another guy who could bolster Purdue's rushing attack. Sometimes it's hard to hit on every team in a short video, but I like what Purdue brings back at the skill positions in 2012.

John from AuGres, Mich., writes: The reports on Andrew Maxwell were pretty positive the past two years at Michigan State. He is a bit more athletic than Kirk Cousins, and it appears he can "sling it" pretty well. With an experienced offensive line and 3 talented running backs (Bell, Caper, Hill), expect "Air Max" to provide the balance the Spartans will need to compliment a strong defense.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm really excited to see Maxwell this spring and then in game action during the fall. He definitely has had time to prepare for this role, and the reviews on his skills are encouraging. The lack of game experience is the big question mark with Maxwell, and I'm sure there will be some bumps along the way, especially against good competition early in the 2012 season. I also agree that Michigan State can really help out Maxwell by regenerating the rushing attack with Le'Veon Bell. Michigan State won't win many more division titles with the type of rushing attack we saw in 2011. I fully expect it to be a stronger area for the Spartans this coming fall.

Jim from Odebolt, Iowa, writes: Adam, I am going insane here. I have searched the entire web and even made a few phone calls to insiders on the Iowa program. Who is the next defensive coordinator at Iowa? By now, I would have to believe that if was someone inside the program Kirk would have already announced, yet there has been no seeing of Tom Bradly or Ron Aiken or any other possible candidates seen coming or going form the Iowa football offices. What kind of effect does this have on our current recruits or possible recruits, especially on the Dline where we have a few promising young men coming in.

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, you're not the only Hawkeye fan getting antsy about the prolonged defensive coordinator search. I really thought Iowa would have Norm Parker's successor in place by now. I don't think the delay has too much of a negative effect on recruiting, as Iowa will almost certainly keep a similar structure on defense. Kirk Ferentz doesn't like to overhaul things, and Iowa has been successful on defense for a long time with the current structure. There will be some tweaks I'm sure, but I think Iowa is selling defensive recruits on its track record.

Ronald from Lake Zurich, Ill., writes: You had Gerald Hodges of Penn St. at the top of your most improved players of 2011 in the B1G Leaders div. Wouldn't Jonathan Brown of Illinois be more deserving? Brown had 108 tackles to 106 for HodgesBrown had 19.5 tackles for loss to 10 for HodgesBrown had 6 sacks to 4.5 for HodgesBrown was a sophomore in 2011 playing little in 2010

Adam Rittenberg: Ronald, I wasn't trying to slight Brown by not including him, and if we expanded the list, he certainly would have made it. Brown put up some exceptional numbers and has a bright future in Tim Banks' aggressive defense. Both players put up some terrific statistics. I felt Hodges impacted games more consistently than Brown did, although Brown had some huge performances like the one against Arizona State in Week 3. With Ian Thomas departing, Brown will move into a bigger leadership role with the linebackers in 2012. He certainly made a huge jump, as did Hodges.

Tim from Naperville, Ill., writes: I noticed on the list of players from the B1G to participate in the combine, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz were not included. Can you give any incite as to why certain players are not on the list?

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, as I pointed out in the post, it was an initial list, not a final list. The initial list doesn't include underclassmen who have declared for the draft. Peter Konz obviously will be at the combine along with other Big Ten underclassmen like Illinois' Whitney Mercilus. I was a bit surprised not to see Zeitler on the initial list, but I'd be extremely surprised if he's not in Indy next month. I will post the final combine invite list as soon as it becomes available.

Charlie from Chicago writes: Hey Adam,Can you fill us in a little bit on the situation with Kyle Prater? It sounds like he is leaning towards Northwestern, so my question is how excited should Wildcat fans be about him? I'm just curious about the reasons why he's transferring and how much his past injuries are going to be a problem. Basically would Northwestern be getting the same 5-star WR that USC got a couple years ago? Also he would have to be benched for a year after transferring, right? Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Charlie, you're correct that Prater is leaning toward Northwestern, as colleague Scott Powers reported Thursday. His injury history at USC is a bit of a concern for whichever team lands him, but it sounds like he really wanted to play closer to home (Chicago area). While the glitz of L.A. and USC is appealing to top recruits, some players ultimately are homesick and want to be closer to their families. Would Northwestern be gaining an elite receiver? Tough to tell without seeing Prater play significant time at the college level. He'd have to re-prove himself to a certain degree. But the potential certainly is there. I understand a lot of Northwestern fans are excited about Prater because Northwestern rarely lands recruits like him. But he also plays a position where Northwestern is already very strong and should be strong going forward. I think the hubbub would be a bit more justified if Prater played defensive back, a position where Northwestern has struggled for more than a decade.

Kasey from California writes: Really Adam? You write about the B1G possibly looking into coaching behavior because of something IOWA's basketball coach did, but turn it around on Pelini by using the A&M game of all examples? Normally I don't mind what you guys write, but come on. This whole topic started because of McCarffey. Why not put a picture of him and focus your article on him instead of turning it around on Pelini? You media types just always have to go fishing for ways to stir the pot.

Adam Rittenberg: Kasey, since this is a Big Ten football blog, I was pointing out an incident involving a Big Ten basketball coach that will have ramifications for the league's football coaches. Our college basketball blog is there to focus on McCaffery, but I was putting the Fran Slam in a Big Ten football context. All the Big Ten football coaches need to know their sideline conduct is being watched. Pelini isn't the only coach who needs to be aware, as Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and others also have been very animated during games. Husker fan Mike from Lincoln did some extensive research and found demonstrative pictures of every Big Ten coach to show Pelini isn't the only one. Check out Bret Bielema, Kirk Ferentz, Brady Hoke and Mark Dantonio.

Matt from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, Meyer's spread offense might be a turn off to some elite quarterbacks with their eyes set on the pros. If you remember, Tressel's pro-style offense (unfortunately) led Pryor to choose Ohio State. However, do you think the influx of Tebow-Mania and the surprising rise of Alex Smith in the NFL somewhat debunk the non-spread stereotype for elite QB recruits that OSU might go after?

Adam Rittenberg: Good point, Matt. Alex Smith's emergence certainly shows that an Urban Meyer-coached QB can make in the NFL, although Jim Harbaugh has a lot to do with Smith's rise. Tim Tebow still has a long way to go to be a long-term pro quarterback, but I think we've seen that quarterback who play in spread offenses can transition well to the NFL game. Cam Newton's 2011 season is more proof.