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Friday, March 15, 2013
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Wishing you a great St. Patrick's Day weekend ...

Adam from Austin, Texas, writes: Adam,Looking over Michigan's 2010 recruiting class, of the original Rich Rodriguez-recruited 27 members, only six recruits remain on the Wolverine squad, including Will Hagerup, whose days with the team may be numbered. That's nearly 80% of the 2010 class gone. How do these attrition numbers compare with other B1G programs? Will there be a senior leadership-void for the 2013 squad? And with a few stable, higher-quality recruiting classes under Hoke's belt, should Wolverine Nation's expectations be tempered at conference championships, or beyond?

Adam Rittenberg: Our calculations (thanks to colleague Mike Rothstein) have 11 players from the 2010 class remaining with Michigan, but there has been a good deal of attrition. You see some with every coaching change, but not usually to this degree. Minnesota had some turnover between Tim Brewster and Jerry Kill. The senior-leadership question is a fair one, but Michigan got a big lift in that department when Taylor Lewan decided to return for his final season. Lewan will provide excellent leadership, and he really embodies the Michigan Man ideal Brady Hoke preaches. It will be interesting to see who joins Lewan in that capacity, but I'd expect Devin Gardner to claim a larger leadership role as the starting quarterback. He's more established now. I'm interested to see who replaces Jordan Kovacs as the leader on defense. Linebacker Jake Ryan seems like a good choice. End Jibreel Black also could step up there.




AJ from Madison, Wis., writes: Hi Adam! Two similar questions: 1. Why isn't Rob Havenstein being talked about at all for the left tackle consideration? I keep hearing about all these other possible candidates, but he seems ideal after a very solid year last year. 2. Do you think T.J. Woods has the ability to maintain the elite legacy of Wisconsin o-linemen? He has BIG shoes to fill.

Adam Rittenberg: AJ, sometimes it makes sense to move an experienced right tackle to the more glamorous left side when there's a vacancy. But Havenstein might be more suited to the right tackle spot, where he has had some success. Perhaps more important, he could be more comfortable there. You don't want to disrupt two positions. I'll try to get some answers for you when I'm in Madison next week. I agree T.J. Woods has big shoes to fill -- Bob Bostad's more than Bart Miller's, although Miller did a nice job -- and I think he'll continue the tradition Wisconsin has had with its line. Woods did a good job with Utah State's line and reportedly is a lot like Miller/Bostad. The adjustment for the linemen this year doesn't seem to be nearly as dramatic as it was last spring with Mike Markuson.




Jed from West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Adam, I just got done reading your post about the most interesting QB race in the B1G this spring and was stunned to not see Purdue in that category. You have Indiana ahead of Purdue which seems slightly odd considering Kevin Wilson has said publicly that Tre Roberson is their QB as long as he is healthy. Purdue has 3 different QB's (4 if you count Bilal Marshall) in Henry, Etling, and Appleby and with a new coaching staff and what has gone on in the past (the carnival ride QB position last year and Purdue as the Cradle of QB's) that it would be ahead of IU in that Roberson is already an established QB with the full support from his HC?In all honesty, I agree with all of your other picks but in all honesty Purdue or even NU will have more interesting QB battles than IU.

Adam Rittenberg: Jed, I went back after the post published and realized I should have subbed out Penn State for Purdue. I agree Purdue has a very intriguing quarterback race because we know so little about what these candidates can do. There's a lot of buzz about Austin Appleby and Danny Etling, and I'm excited to see what both can do on the practice field this spring. That said, I think you're wrong about Indiana. Although Tre Roberson claimed the starting job last year, he's coming off of a pretty major injury and has to re-establish himself as the top option when two others -- Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld -- played a lot last season. If you read my spring Q&A with Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, he didn't sound like a guy who had settled on a starter. "Guys are pushing guys to be on the field," he said. "We've got a lot of guys back who have been second-teamers and the first-teamer [ahead of them] is back. Now how do you push that first-teamer and beat him him out? A great example is at quarterback." So both quarterback races should be interesting, and in hindsight, I should have included both in the poll.




Brian from Atlanta writes: Adam, why should the B10 agree to travel 2000+ miles for another lower tier bowl when there plenty of equivalent bowls east of the Rockies? We already play in Pasadena and Tempe. How about the P12 treks east to play the B10 for once instead?

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, the Pac-12 would never go for it because its fans don't travel. It's a huge difference between the two leagues. Big Ten fans are famous for being willing to escape the deep freeze for warm-weather destinations in late December or early January, whether they're in the East, West or South. Pac-12 fans, meanwhile, have a tough time leaving their states for games. Texas is probably their limit as far as bowl distance. But it's bad business for Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott to tie into bowl games on the East Coast. It's risky business for him to tie into games outside the Pac-12 footprint.




Austin from Ames, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam,Long time reader of the blog. I am a Buckeye here in Cyclone Nation and I am a little confused. Why hasn't there been any talk about adding Iowa State? It makes sense geographically, culturally, and academically as ISU has been a member of the AAU since 1958. Not to mention they are a program on the rise with Paul Rhodes trying to turn things around. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Austin, it actually doesn't make sense geographically. Follow my logic here, but the Big Ten is trying to expand its footprint, not solidify areas it already has. Look at the recent expansions around college sports. Every league is looking to bring in new markets and literally expand its reach. The Big Ten already has a strong presence in Iowa with the University of Iowa and Nebraska just to the West. Iowa State does absolutely nothing for the Big Ten in terms of demographics, the word league commissioner Jim Delany used repeatedly when discussing the last expansions. Iowa State has many of the right components for a Big Ten expansion candidate, but its location is a killer.




Jack from Omaha writes: Hey Adam, big fan of the B1G blog and for whatever reason I have never sent in a question to my favorite part of the blog, the mailbag. Anyways I was hoping you could do something a little different and right an article about a video game, the game that Denard Robinson will be on the cover of. I realize the blog has announced this news but my buddy brought up some good points that I was hoping you could answer/discus. My buddy said that being on the cover not only helps Denard/Michigan but also allows the rest of the B1G to receive important spotlight, I disagree and was wondering if you see the cover benefiting the rest of the B1G? He also says the cover will help Michigan in future recruiting, although they may gain a few more fans I seriously doubt this help them land a top prospect. What are your thoughts on these ideas?

Adam Rittenberg: Jack, I won't do another video game story, but I'm happy to respond to your question. I think it's a much bigger deal for Denard than it is for Michigan or the Big Ten, but it certainly can't hurt the Maize and Blue to have one of its players on the cover. High school football players, like college players and pro players, love video games and will see Denard every time they play "NCAA Football." Will it make a difference with elite recruits? Probably not. But it's definitely not a negative. It's a big positive for Denard, though, as it helps him build his brand as he enters the great unknown of the NFL. He's one of the most recognizable Big Ten players in recent memory, but his future brand is a big question mark because no one knows where he fits into the NFL. So I would say it doesn't really impact the Big Ten one way or the other. It helps Michigan a little and Denard a lot.