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Thursday, March 7, 2013
Big Ten Thursday mailbag

By Brian Bennett

Must-see e-mail Thursday:

Luke B. from Jesup, Iowa, writes: I found it ironic that Wisconsin's Gary Andersen made a fairly big deal about the timing of Jay Boulware's departure (albeit in a professional manner) just days before hiring Jeff Genyk from Nevada, a job Genyk took only 2 months ago. It's a great opportunity for Genyk, I don't fault him or Anderson. I guess my point is, there's obviously not a lot of loyalty in coaching these days. When opportunity (and money) knocks, you answer, and all of these coaches should be a lot less surprised when someone walks on them.

Brian Bennett: A fair point. Consider: Just in the last few days, we've seen Jim Bollman go from Purdue to Michigan State after only being with the Boilers for a few weeks, and Jim Bridge leave Illinois for Bollman's old post at Purdue right as the Illini were starting spring practice. It seems the coaching carousel never stops these days. I have a hard time blaming assistant coaches for jumping at better opportunities, especially when they have such little job security. But it's also hard to stomach coaches preaching loyalty and commitment to players and then abandoning those players during key times of the year, like before their bowl games or on the eve of spring practice. I don't know how you fix that in a free market economy. I just hope that players go into their careers with open eyes and realize this is a business. And it would be nice if those players had the same freedom of movement as their coaches did.




Matt from Midway, N.C., writes: Brian, maybe I am way off base, but do you think there is any correlation between the success of Indiana basketball and the positive recent football recruiting by Indiana? It seems like the basketball team has given off positive vibes to play football at Indiana.

Brian Bennett: Indiana coach Kevin Wilson definitely uses the success of the basketball team to his advantage and likes to schedule recruiting weekends to coincide with home games in Assembly Hall. The electric atmosphere has to have some effect on those prospects, especially the in-state ones. I don't think basketball success is the biggest factor in any football player's decision by any means, or else Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina would be much better at football. But it can't hurt.




Mike S. from Covington, Ky., writes: As an MSU grad, and long-time follower of the program, count me as one not excited by the shuffling of personnel, and hiring of Jim Bollman. It is highly doubtful, in my mind, that he is still connected enough in Ohio to recruit against Urban Meyer. The harsh recruiting facts are that State was outrecruited by Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame, and to me the fault for that lies with Mark Dantonio...his personality pales compared to Meyer, Hoke and Kelly. And he said he was satisfied with his 38th ranked class?! State needs some kids from Florida who have speed. Can we really expect new recruiting coordinator Brad Salem with a South Dakota background to make that happen??

Brian Bennett: If your measuring stick is outrecruiting Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame, well, good luck with that. The Spartans can win their share of high-profile recruiting battles, but you just named three of the most powerful programs in the country. What Dantonio and his staff have excelled at of late is finding players who fit their system and really develop over their careers. The biggest concern is the resurgence of Michigan, because there's no doubt Michigan State made some hay on the recruiting trail while the Wolverines were stumbling around with Rich Rodriguez. Bollman was always known as a very good recruiter of offensive line talent, and I think he was brought in more to be a veteran voice on the staff than one of Dantonio's ace recruiters. Salem deserves a shot to show what he can do. But if you're judging him by whether he can beat out Meyer in Ohio or pull in higher-rated classes than Notre Dame, I'm not sure you'll ever be happy with a Michigan State recruiting coordinator.




Andy from Anaheim, Calif., writes: Brian! Long time reader, first time mailer. With the NFL Draft coming up it got me thinking ... well, thinking a year into the future. What should we make of Taylor Martinez's draft prospects? He obviously has the athleticism to play at the next level, but where do you see him going at this point? Even with the emergence of dual-threat QBs at the next level (Wilson, Griffin, Kaepernick, etc), I think it's safe to say he's got too far to go as a passer to make it at quarterback. So would he be a wideout, like D-Rob? Or a DB, like one of his NU predecessors (Scott Frost)?

Brian Bennett: Good first mailbag question, Andy. I think we could see the leadup to next year's draft go a lot like Denard Robinson's path for Martinez (hopefully minus the injury, and most likely minus the late-career collegiate position change). Like you, I can't see Martinez being an NFL quarterback. Martinez will need to be as willing to change positions as Robinson was, and not as stubborn as Eric Crouch was. Martinez is slightly bigger than Robinson; he's listed at 6-1 and 210 pounds, while Robinson measured 5-10 and 199 pounds at the NFL combine. There's no question that Martinez has the speed to play at the next level somewhere, whether that's at receiver or defensive back. If I were him, I'd be following Robinson's trajectory very closely.




The Like Ninja from Unknown writes: The Monday Mailbag questions regarding PSU's sanctions got me thinking. Theoretically, if PSU only had 65 players on scholarship in 2013, would the NCAA nullify the 2017 scholarship reduction by claiming "time already served" (aka, what Miami is hoping to do by voluntarily skipping their bowl games the last 2 years)? Or would 2013 just be an unofficial 5th year of reductions?

Brian Bennett: There is no such provision in Penn State's consent decree with the NCAA. The only scholarship relief mentioned in the document is the following:
"In the event the number of total grants-in-aid drops below 65, the University may award grants-in-aid to non-scholarship student athletes who have been members of the football program ..."

In other words, Bill O'Brien could put some walk-ons (or "run-ons," as he calls them) on scholarship if the Nittany Lions fall below 65 scholarship players between 2014 and 2017. But that would mean some recruited scholarship players did not work out, and Penn State cannot afford many of those going forward.




Alex from Las Vegas writes: So you write that the BIG has to have a sense of urgency given their lack of success as a conference yet the one thing that they could do to instantly improve the league, adding quality schools, was completely botched this year. Does the BIG even care about competitiveness or are they only concerned with a big TV footprint and nothing else?

Brian Bennett: Saying that adding Rutgers and Maryland will water down the Big Ten product is a valid criticism. You could also make the case that adding teams from those areas will open up some new recruiting ground which could prove important in attracting talent to the league. Either way, expansion really isn't the issue. When you have programs of the stature of Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska (and Penn State when it's back to normal) and others with major potential in Wisconsin and Michigan State, that should equal better performance than what we saw in 2012, or in recent years on the national stage. Besides, what other teams were realistically available for the Big Ten to add that would have strengthened the on-the-field product? I say not many.




Steve from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Why is the Big Ten not pursuing Boston College? You get the Boston market, plus a great hockey team. Is it because BC is not a AAU member, we already have the Boston market, not enough people, recruiting?

Brian Bennett: Would sportswriters also get the Boston Market? Because I could really go for some rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes. Mmmm... But jokes about food aside, Boston College only nominally delivers that area because the Eagles are all but ignored in their own city. Yes, you could make the same argument about Rutgers and New York City and, to a lesser extent, Maryland football and Washington D.C. But there are also many more recruits in the mid-Atlantic region than there are in New England. And we've written over and over, AAU membership is a very big deal to the Big Ten presidents, which is why Rutgers and Maryland were more attractive to BC. If Jim Delany ever decides to basically annex the ACC and go to 20 members, then Boston College becomes a much more realistic potential candidate. But for now, I don't think the league would do much more than drive through the Boston Market (sorry, couldn't resist one more).