Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Big Ten mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
Let's get to it.
Chris from Chicago writes: Hey Adam — very interesting post about recruiting and player development.I think that fanbases are generally going to make the (probably too basic) assumption that more is better. Two main aspects in judging a program is how well they recruit and how well they develop players. So while the B1G has excelled at player development, fans are always going to want more ...Using Nebraska as an example, sending 16 players to the NFL combine is fantastic. Having none of those players be former ESPNU 150 recruits is always going to lead that fanbase to wonder 'How much better would we have been if we'd landed top recruits?' Not a question here — just trying to offer some explanation. I am guilty of this too — I think many fans (incorrectly) assume all things are equal and that player development is great, but it's dependent on where players begin (3*, 4*, 5*). I am a Michigan fan. I am very happy with the two classes Hoke has brought in and the one he's building now. Do I expect a roster full of All-Americans? Not necessarily. But I do have some hope in that — and having 18-22 recruits outside of the ESPNU 150 isn't going to garner that same hope.
Adam Rittenberg: Excellent perspective here, Chris. I agree that fans are always going to want more, and it's interesting to wonder what coaches like Bo Pelini, Kirk Ferentz and Bret Bielema could do with supposedly better recruits. Then again, it's hard to think Pelini could do much better than a player like cornerback Prince Amukamara, a first-round pick in the 2011 draft who came to Nebraska as a three-star running back. I just think it's important for fans to be realistic about star ratings, as there are so many NFL players that were lightly recruited or went to smaller colleges or were late bloomers. It's fine to get excited, don't get me wrong, but recruiting ratings are only one component. Michigan fans should not only be excited about the recruits but the coaches who are there to develop them. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
Derrick from Brooklyn, N.Y., writes: Any chance Mike Minter gets a shot to be the new DB coach at Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg: Minter's name came up immediately after the news about Corey Raymond's departure to LSU. The Lincoln Journal Star's Steve Sipple writes today that he hears Minter would be interested in the position if Nebraska approaches him. The former Huskers star is coaching on Turner Gill's staff at Liberty University (special teams coordinator) and has coached in Division II and at a North Carolina high school. Pelini has to act quickly as spring ball kicks off March 10. He could look internally, but if he looks outside, Minter would be an intriguing choice. He certainly knows his way around.
John from Portola Valley, Calif., writes: Dear Adam, I love Michigan State football, but don't understand why they are considered to be a great team in the 2012 season. Coach Dantonio is an amazing coach and I feel like he is giving them a lot of momentum, but the team is losing huge assets such as Kirk Cousins, Jerel Worthy and B.J. Cunningham. Also, their incoming recruiting class wasn't ranked in the top 25. Michigan State plays a tough schedule with top tier recruits such as Ohio State ranked 6th according to recruiting nation, Michigan ranked 7th and Notre Dame ranked 9th. Why are they still considered to be in the hunt for the 2012 Big Ten Championship?
Adam Rittenberg: John, those players are significant individual losses, and Michigan State will have its share of question marks entering the 2012 season. But I wouldn't base my list of Big Ten title contenders solely on their 2012 recruiting classes. Many of those players will be redshirting, and only a handful will have a significant impact on the 2012 campaign. If you want to be more accurate, look at the recruiting classes in from 2009-11, which were strong at Michigan State. These classes will have a greater impact on the 2012 season than the most recent one, which, by the way, wasn't too shabby, either.
Michigan State will be a deeper team on defense despite losing Worthy, and while the Spartans need a redshirt freshman or two to step up at defensive tackle, there's a lot to like at defensive end (William Gholston), linebacker (Denicos Allen, Max Bullough) and in the secondary. Cousins is a big loss, but Andrew Maxwell has been groomed to step in at QB. Cunningham will be very tough to replace, and receiver is a big question mark.
Eric from Chicago writes: "...Big Ten teams, while signing fewer of the nation's elite recruits, continue to develop players for the next level. "Isn't it far more likely that recruits are over-evaluated in the South and under-evaluated in the B1G footprint? Rivals, for example, didn't even have a midwest analyst until a few months ago. This doesn't require a conspiracy. The hype over NCAA football in the SEC means that fans there are more receptive consumers of recruiting information and these publications are serving the market.
Adam Rittenberg: Eric, you're not the only one with this view. Let me just say this: there are also a ton of fans in Midwest, and the Big Ten blog traffic numbers confirm this (even in relation to the SEC blog). I can assure you fans in the Midwest are just as passionate about recruiting as those in the south and southeast. The population demographics are what they are, and I do believe there's more talent in the south and southeast than there is in the Midwest. Is there some overvaluing and undervaluing? Without a doubt. Are there elite players in the Big Ten's backyard? Without a doubt. But I don't think it's a grand conspiracy when multiple recruiting analysts from multiple media organizations rate more elite prospects from the south and southeast than any other region.
Bill from South Korea writes: Adam, I believe that the B1G made a mistake by overlooking Missouri as an expansion candidate. I would love to see an 8 Super-Conference FBS with a definitive championship format. The B1G could have led the way by taking Missouri, Maryland, Rutgers, and West Virginia when they accepted Nebraska. Please take a pass on the Notre Dame worship. That's yesterday's news. Nebraska was a great addition but more was on the table for the taking. I think it is highly unlikely that Missouri would ever move to the B1G from the SEC. My concern is that other conferences are making moves now to add quality programs which may leave the B1G picking up scraps later. I know that the schools I chose are debatable but I concentrated on location, current facilities, and fan base. These factors all equate to income and costs. Kansas would be good but I believe they are linked in an undesirable marriage (KU/KSU). Do you think the B1G will enter the second round of conference expansion anytime soon?
Adam Rittenberg: Bill, it's funny, I started thinking about the Big Ten and Missouri while watching the epic Missouri-Kansas basketball game on Saturday afternoon. The Big Ten did consider Missouri during the expansion process, but some of the public statements by the Missouri governor and others about wanting to be in the Big Ten so badly turned off some of the folks around the league.
It comes down to whether you think the Big Ten should expand beyond 12. The Big Ten presidents have made it clear they're happy at 12, and I still believe Nebraska is a stronger addition than Missouri because of its football brand. In a multi-team expansion, Missouri would have made sense, as would programs like Maryland and Rutgers. West Virginia isn't a cultural fit at all in the Big Ten and would never be admitted, so you can forget that one. Will the Big Ten look at another expansion? It's certainly possible, especially if the SEC continues to get stronger at 14. But for now, the presidents are comfortable at 12.
Phillip from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam. You said Purdue and Nebraska would be the most impacted by the new kickoff rules, but impact goes both ways. It seems this rule change helps mitigate one of Wisconsin's most glaring issues. If the new kickoff rules were implemented last season, does Wisconsin finish the regular season undefeated?
Adam Rittenberg: You never know, Phillip, but I think Wisconsin would have benefited more from a new rule limiting the number of players who can try and block a punt (except in the Big Ten title game, of course, where it worked out in the Badgers' favor). Kick coverage has been a weak spot for Wisconsin in recent years, as the Badgers ranked 83rd in 2011, 103rd in 2010 and 119th in 2009.
Nate from Mankato, Minn., writes: Adam, repeatedly you guys talk about how the Iowa defense was disappointing. Yes Prater struggled, and they did have some injuries, but what more was expected of that group? At their losses at Minnesota, Nebraska, and Penn State, as well as their loss in Tempe to Oklahoma, it was definitely not on the defense. Yes, their numbers weren't very good, but who expected them to have good numbers? It was a rebuilding year, and the defense, in my mind, played well for what was expected.
Adam Rittenberg: Nate, you make some good points, but I felt Iowa had achieved a certain level of consistency on defense and could survive some key personnel losses. No doubt it's very tough to replace three starting defensive linemen selected in the NFL draft. And losing two multiyear starters at safety (Tyler Sash, Brett Greenwood) hurt the Hawkeyes. I just felt the defense would be average rather than below average. Iowa had only 10 interceptions, and opponents completed 62 percent of their passes against the Hawks. You look at games like Michigan State, Iowa State and even Northwestern and Pitt. Iowa gave up more than 420 yards in each of those games. Maybe I've been a bit unfair, but I thought Iowa had reached a certain standard on defense and would be able to maintain it despite some personnel turnover.