Chat with Brian Bennett
Bennett joined ESPN.com in August 2008 after nine years at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where he covered college sports and the University of Louisville beat. He lives in Louisville.
Send your questions now and join Bennett in The Show at 2 p.m. ET Tuesday!
Brian Bennett (2:01 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Let's talk some Big East football and whatever else is on your mind.
One disappointing season shouldn't discourage you on USF. They've had one kind of bad season in the past 4 years, and you're saying they're 5th? Rutgers, Pitt, and UCONN lost their entire offenses, WVU comes close, and Cincy lost their entire defense. USF will have the athletes on defense (much better recruiting in the past 3 years) to make an immediate impact, the defensive line will be one on the best in the nation, and the guys coming in on the offensive line will likely be better than the guys they replaced. From an objective standpoint, I don't see how they aren't the favorite. Grothe obviously has the ability. If he's consistent, USF wins. It's a big if, however. That all said, what is the highest possible rank a Big East team can reach this year? If no team starts over #20, and the collapse of the last two top 10 teams (WVU and USF) still fresh, can anyone, even an undefeated team, crack the top 10? For strength of schedule, USF has Miami and FSU this year (though neither team is what they used to be).
Brian Bennett (2:03 PM)
I'm not looking at just last season. The Bulls have yet to put up a consistent year in the Big East or even finish as high as third. They also lose almost their entire offensive line, their best LB and their best safety off a defense that didn't perform that well in 2008. They certainly have the talent to finish higher than fifth, but I don't think they deserve high praise until they prove something
Brian Bennett (2:03 PM)
Oh, and it won't be a problem for a team to get in the Top 10 if it goes undefeated. Remember that last year Cincinnati was unranked to start but wound up 12th with two losses.
Chris: Tampa, Florida
The lack of respect in preseasonranking this year is jsut what the Bulls need to motivate them. We all know they pour it on when expectations are low.
Brian Bennett (2:04 PM)
It certainly hasn't worked the other way around, so maybe you're right.
Do you think Matt Grote will be in the Heisman talks next year?
Brian Bennett (2:05 PM)
Nope. There are some guys named Tebow, McCoy and Bradford who will dominate that discussion
Jimmy (Morgantown, WV)
With the recent news of Jock Sanders getting a DUI, and his previous arrest do you think they will give him a harsh punishment? If so, with him being one of the most explosive offensive players on the Mountaineers do you think one of the 3 top 50 freshmen receivers we picked up could make a splash?
Brian Bennett (2:06 PM)
I'm wary of commenting too much on the arrest since we don't know all the details, but it looks bad. If Sanders is convicted, that would be two convictions in a year, and DUI is serious stuff. Bill Stewart would have a hard time explaining why he deserves to be on the team if that occurs. I do think a couple of those signees, especially Heastie and even Austin at running back, will have an impact. But Sanders is an important player in both the passing and running games.
Kyle, New Jersey
Brian, in your preseason rankings you have West Virginia as number one. Even with most of the D returning shouldn't their huge question with O line drop them to maybe second or third? We saw how Rutgers struggled with this question going into this past season.
Brian Bennett (2:08 PM)
I'll be the first to admit that it's mostly guesswork at this point. These teams are very hard to distinguish right now because so many have major question marks. You're right about WVU's line being a concern. However, if Capers gets another year, they'll have three experienced guys with him, Jobe and to a lesser extent, Jenkins. It's not ideal, but I like WVU's defense and their skill players
Billy (Jersey City, NJ)
How quickly do you think highly touted Tom Savage will step in and grab the starting QB job at Rutgers?
Brian Bennett (2:10 PM)
I think we will see Savage on the field at some point this season, if for nothing else than to gain experience for 2010. I have a hard time believing that a true freshman will start at QB right away, but if he's good enough in camp then maybe Schiano will roll the dice. I believe we'll see Natale or Jefferson start with Savage seeing time in a backup role at first.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
Hey Brian, so now Tresey is out at UC as Defensive Coordinator and rumor has it that BK wants to go to a 3-4 style of defense. Does this pave the way for Kerry Coombs to be promoted to Defensive Coordinator? He did run a 3-4 quite successfully at Colerain HS when he was head coach there. If not Coombs, who else would be likely candidates? Thanks!
Brian Bennett (2:11 PM)
I doubt Coombs would be promoted simply because he has very little experience at the college level. That's a major step up, especially on a team that just went to the BCS. I'd look for a more experienced guy. Haven't heard a lot of names at this point.
How will Connecticut fill the loss of Donald Brown?
Brian Bennett (2:12 PM)
You're not going to totally replace everything Brown did, But with Jordan Todman and potentially Andre Dixon back, the Huskies should be OK at running back, and their goal will be to improve significantly in the passing game.
Big East favorite for 2009?
Brian Bennett (2:14 PM)
If you find one, please let me know.
do you believe that adam froman the junior college player of the year might make louisville better than people suspect
Brian Bennett (2:16 PM)
I haven't seen him play yet, other than on film. I've heard from some who like him a lot and others who have major doubts. I'm anxious to see him in the spring.
Do you think that the Orange have a chance to turn things around this season? and what is your take on this seasons recruiting class?
Brian Bennett (2:17 PM)
It's a tough schedule, with Northwestern, Minnesota and Penn State, so there might not be a lot of wins in the nonconference. But I could see this team winning four, possibly five games if things went really well. The recruiting class was small but pretty solid. I like that Marrone was aggressive and got players to switch off commitments to other places.
Chris: Tampa, Fl
There is no doubt that USf's running back Mike Ford has A LOT of talent. His freshamn year was great and last year he was projected to be one of college football's top break out stars. Unfortuantely high suffered from a high ankle sprain almost the entire season. If Ford stays healthy what kind of impact do you see him making for USF's offense?
Brian Bennett (2:19 PM)
Ford clearly wasn't himself last year. He showed promise as a freshman but didn't post huge numbers by any means. With him, Jamar Taylor and some of the signees, USF should have a decent running game. It absolutely needs to improve there instead of just having Grothe in the empty set/spread formation all day.
Tom (tidewater , VA)
It appears more and more players from VA are looking at Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Louisville than before. Should be good for all of them.
Brian Bennett (2:20 PM)
Agreed.That's a big-time area for speed, and it's within easy driving distance of a lot of Big East schools.
Who will be pitts O-Coordinator next year? Will they bring back Walt Harris
Brian Bennett (2:21 PM)
For purely dramatic purposes, I would love to see it. But I doubt it will happen. The Harris era didn't end too well, and his philosophy seems at odds with what Wannstedt likes to do. I think we'll see someone Wannstedt has worked with in the past with a pro-style mindset.
You said that UConn is "continually and criminally underrated," and then you put them 6th in your Big East pre-spring power ranking. Other teams in the Big East have lost as much, or more, than the Huskies. What gives with the low ranking?
Brian Bennett (2:23 PM)
True, and I hesitated putting them that low. But if you were to ask me last year who UConn's four best players were, I'm pretty sure the two Browns, Will Beatty and Darius Butler would have been my answer. So that's a lot to lose on a team that went 3-5 in the Big East with those guys. I might feel differently after seeing them in the spring and fall
Vick (Fair Lawn, NJ)
Brian Which side do you think is stronger on the RU front - defense or offense for the upcoming season? thx
Brian Bennett (2:24 PM)
I like the O-line because it brings everybody back and they were playing well at the end of the year. The D-line loses two awfully good players in Tverdov and Westeman. However, if Holmes and Lowery can produce right away, then it may change.
Jimmy (Morgantown, WV)
With Reed Williams being a medical redshirt last season if he is to stay healthy do you think he has a good shot a Big East defensive player of the year?
Brian Bennett (2:25 PM)
That's a good question. If he plays like he did in the Fiesta Bowl, then sure. I also think Selvie will be on a mission this year, the Pitt defensive ends will be impressive D'Imperio at Rutgers has a claim.
Jason (Louisville, Ky)
Can we agree that Louisville will have to make a change after the "All-Kragthorpe All-the Time" Cardinals crash and burn this coming season? Or will we have to suffer through a Greg Robinsonesque death march in 2010 as well. The expanded stadium opening in 2010 makes me doubt that Jurich will want to fill those new loge boxes and the 14000 new seats with happy thoughts and well-wishes for a failed coach, but given his bizarre PR and attacks on the fanbase of the last two years, it really wouldn't surprise me at this point...
Brian Bennett (2:27 PM)
Here's the question I have: if everyone is assuming this year will be bad because of a lack of talent, can Kragthorpe be blamed for a bad record? I don't see how they win more than four games next year, and a lot will depend on how they look doing it, and whether they show signs of promise for 2010. I'll tell you this: Tom Jurich isn't going to cave in to the fan base. If he still feels as strongly about Kragthorpe as he does now, Kragthorpe will be back.
Jason, New Brunswick NJ
Brian, will you try to catch a game at Rutgers this year? The stadium expansion will be done in time for the start of the season. 55K seats strong!
Brian Bennett (2:28 PM)
I sure hope so. Still bummed that I never made it to Piscataway in '08.
Who is replacing Pat White and what do you expect of him?
Brian Bennett (2:29 PM)
Jarrett Brown will be the starter. He's a senior who's had some good moments in relief of White in the past. I think he'll be fine in WVU's new, more pass-oriented offense. Not as spectacular as White -- who is? -- but he should have more playmakers around him.
Chris: tampa, Fl
If USF doesnt recieve high praise utnil they prove something then why does PITT get it. They havnt proven anything in the last few years yet every year they are projeted to finish near the top.
Brian Bennett (2:30 PM)
Pitt as 5-2 in the Big East last year and beat South Florida, which was 2-5
Youngblood: Morgantown, WV
Great job on the blog, I read daily...The Big East really needs to add another member...Notre Dame is BE in most other sports and should join in the near future if NBC doesn't renew the TV contract...What are you thoughts on this and other possible schools to add?
Brian Bennett (2:31 PM)
Notre Dame will never join the Big East in football, so just forget about that. Right now, there just isn't an obvious school to add that would help the league in all facets. The league doesn't need a 17th basketball member.
If Notre Dame was in the Big East, would they be the 2009 favorite?
Brian Bennett (2:32 PM)
They'd probably have a tougher schedule than they do right now.
Good question for yah Brian..If Louisville loses to Syracuse at home again whose the first to go Jurich or Kragthorpe?
Brian Bennett (2:32 PM)
If Louisville loses or the fans force out Jurich, it would be a terrible moment for the school.
Nick (Tampa, FL)
Now that FIU has dropped USF from their schedule, who is the best bet to replace them? Possibly another game in the USF/UCF series?
Brian Bennett (2:33 PM)
The UCF series isn't coming back anytime soon -- too much bad blood. USF will try to add another Sun Belt type team if possible.
Jeff (Hartford, Ct)
How much do you think the addition of the new offesive coordinator, as well as two QB's who can both throw the long ball fighting for the starting position, and the addition of 5 wideout's in the incoming class will affect the UConn offense that was so ground oriented in recent years?
Brian Bennett (2:35 PM)
It sure can't hurt. I'm interested to see how quickly they can adjust after playing a different style for so long. They're going to need vastly improved play from the returning wideouts, who haven't been very impressive in the past. I think it's too much to rely on true freshmen, though one or two, like Difton, could make an impact.
Chris: Tampa, Fl
Do you ever see USF leaving for the ACC? USF is far away from all the other BE schools yet in prime area for ACC country.
Brian Bennett (2:36 PM)
USF needs to concentrate on winning -- or finishing in the top three -- of the Big East first.
James (Harrisonburg, VA)
If the Big East continues to play mediocre and the Mountain West continues to excel. Will that put more pressure on the Big East to reform and add new teams. Maybe East Carolina and Central Florida?
Brian Bennett (2:37 PM)
I'm not sure adding a team like ECU or UCF would do anything to strengthen the league's profile. And hey, last year was a down one for the league overall. But it was pretty good the previous couple of seasons. A 3-0 BCS mark from '05 to '07 speaks for itself.
Not to beat the ND thing to death, but what exactly do they add to the conference? They take a spot in the big east bowl alliances and make rediculous demands when it comes to scheduling. The big east has enough prominent basketball programs without ND. Why not tell them to join in football or find another conference for all other sports?
Brian Bennett (2:38 PM)
They add exposure in all sports. The Notre Dame name is special, whether you like it or not. And without the Irish in the bowl mix, the Big East's bowl lineup today would be absolutely terrible. Notre Dame helped the league salvage decent games after the 2004 exodus.
Chris Monti (Toronto, Ontario)
I am a bit Rutgers fan. However, if Rutgers doesn't win the Big East by the end of the 2010 season, could Schiano be in trouble? In an 8 team league (6 if you think that Syracuse and Louisville are a few years away from competing), Schiano will need to start delivering more than a tier 3 bowl game and a 7-5 regular season record year in year out. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (2:39 PM)
Wow, people turn pretty quickly. Schiano is the guy who made Rutgers a worthwhile program. He's in no danger that I can see.
Will J (Portland, OR)
Brian, so the only reason you believe ND will never join the Big East is because they want to remain independent? Or would they be more apt to join the Big Ten in football rather than the Big East?
Brian Bennett (2:40 PM)
They'll remain independent as long as they get to keep cashing those huge checks from NBC and the BCS. If that ever changed then, yes, they would join the Big Ten over the Big East.
Do you think that the coaches and assistants revolving door is finally at a stop for now at louisville?
Brian Bennett (2:41 PM)
It's hard to blame English for taking a head coaching job or Alford for going to Notre Dame. You hire good people, and other teams will want them. But, yes, there has been too much turnover and not nearly enough stability under Kragthorpe. Petrino kept his staffs mostly intact while at Louisville.
Brian Bennett (2:42 PM)
Just got word from WVU: Jock Sanders has been suspended indefinitely, pending the outcome of his DUI case.
Brian, I worry with TCU, BYU, and Utah staying strong in the MWC that eventually the BCS will have to let the MWC into the BCS. Do you think this will happen? How will it affect the existing conferencers?
Brian Bennett (2:43 PM)
There is room for that to happen, but I don't think the power brokers from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 10 want to give up a spot when they've regularly been getting two teams into the BCS (and that extra money). I still think the MWC has more work to do overall as a league, but the political pressure seems to be mounting.
Will J (Portland, OR)
Brian, what took so long for Cincinnati to become a relevant D-1 team? Ohio has always had talent, and Cincy is the 2nd largest program in Ohio.
Brian Bennett (2:44 PM)
Well, for one they weren't in a major conference until 2005. They have a small stadium and didn't have much of a fan base in a town with two pro sports. It took an energetic, personable coach with an exciting style who could win a lot to get the city fired up.
Mike (Old Bridge NJ)
Read your blog daily. Love it!!! We must add at least a ninth team in football. You would get additional media and fan support for the BIG EAST from the new member and leass bashing. I don't get it. Bring back Temple or anyone else please!!!
Brian Bennett (2:45 PM)
Rocky (Tampa, Fl)
Who do you think is the best option to be USF's new Offensive Coordinator.
Brian Bennett (2:46 PM)
I think Mike Canales, who's on staff and has done the job there before, is still the favorite. The longer this goes, the better chance he has of getting it.
How long can the league survive and maintain an autobid with only 8 teams? Half the teams have minimal history (at best) and one of the teams with the most 'history' has been a doormat for over a century. The party line has been that they are only going to add teams if it definitely makes the league better, but really, are there any teams out there that could make it any worse? I count more than a dozen teams east of L'ville that would have the potential to become solid programs with access to a BCS bowl (some are already better than teams in the league). Are they just shortsighted or still holding their breath for Notre Dame, which will clearly never happen.
Brian Bennett (2:48 PM)
I don't think the size is that big of a deal. People really only care about the teams at the top. Does having Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky make the SEC that much better? It's really about making sure the programs are all well-supported and well-coached and keep getting better. I think all eight programs have very solid foundations right now, and the recruiting this season showed that.
Do you have a darkhorse team for 2009?
Brian Bennett (2:51 PM)
All the teams are so evenly matched on paper, it's tough to pick one. If anyone can truly surprise, I'd say Syracuse. And by surprise, I mean winning maybe three league games.
Eric (Tampa, FL)
Will USF beat FSU or Miami this year? Both?
Brian Bennett (2:52 PM)
Far more likely to beat Miami at home than FSU on the road. That will be a heck of a scene at RayJay. I hope I'm there for that one.
Hey Brian, Do you think that Louisville is now irrelevant..They have gotten rid of the last link of success the program had attached to it in Brohm..Can you believe it was 5 years ago when Brian Brohm was giving a top ranked Miami team all it could handle!
Brian Bennett (2:53 PM)
Nationally speaking, Louisville is pretty much irrelevant right now. Two straight years out of the bowls will do that for you. I'll be interested to see how many times they're on national TV this year. The Cards used to live on ESPN, but they're not nearly the draw they were even two years ago
Brian (New Brunswick, NJ)
First of all, nice name. I believe you're from Louisville and originally covered the Cards. RU fan here, but it's interesting to me watching the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry. What school has the better program right now, and what type of trend (downward vs upward) are they each in?
Brian Bennett (2:54 PM)
Kentucky has gained the upper hand of late, winning two straight in the series and winning three straight bowl games. But these things are always cyclical.
Why is there such a demand to add more teams to the league. It was an 8 team league when Miami/Tech/BC were in the league no one was harping then. Other than this year, the new formed league had been fine. It was a Pitt upset last year of BCS Championship game performance and may have been a Rutgers upset over Louisville of having one the year before that! Why do they need to add or get better? One down year! Let it go people!
Brian Bennett (2:55 PM)
I agree. Eight is fine. The main reason to add a ninth team is to help scheduling. With 12 games every year now, it's awfully hard to find five decent nonconference opponents.
I've always thought that West Virginia and Boston College should swap conferences. Any chance that can happen?
Brian Bennett (2:57 PM)
West Virginia is as solidly Big East as it gets. I've never understood, geographically, what BC is doing in the ACC. You want to make the Big East better? Remove DePaul and bring back BC.
Mike (Flemington, NJ)
So we all know the 3 football recruiting sites (espn, rivals, scout) all rated the big east classes differently. And we know your comparison article followed your employer's line (ESPN). But what do YOU personally think? Who's on top, who's on the bottom, who's mediocre? Try not to tip toe around it :) Great column, btw.
Brian Bennett (2:58 PM)
The last time I paid close attention to high school football players was when I was in high school (and even then, I was more interested in flirting with the girls in the stands). So my opinion is pretty meaningless, Ask me in two or three years, and I'll tell you who had the best class.
john (livingston nj)
hey brian! i am currently a student at syracuse and a life long cuse fan. i was just wondering if you think syracuse will ever get back to being one of the elite teams in america?
Brian Bennett (2:59 PM)
Elite? That's a long, long climb. Right now, the Orange has to just focus on getting back to being respectable. There's a lot of tradition there, but the landscape has changed
Eric (Tampa, FL)
Any chance BJ Daniels steals the job from Grothe this year? Besides the inconsistencies, all it would take is a slight injury for BJ to get a shot. That was, after all, how Grothe took over the job a few years back.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Nah, I don't see it. Grothe is still really good and will be the Big East's all-time yardage leader. His problem is that the offense depends so much on him that he tries to force things at times. Daniels might get some time as a backup this year, but this is still Grothe's team.
Mike (Flemington, NJ)
Ok, you're right about the recruiting class thing. We really can't know until everything pans out... but you can't blame a guy for getting excited about our best class ever (by any measure, however abstract they might be).
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
It' fine to have some fun with it. Just keep it all in perspective and have some patience with these young guys.
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
OK, that's all the time I have, folks. It was fun talking college football in the middle of February. Have a great week.