Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago.
Send your questions now and join Rittenberg in The Show at 3:30 p.m. ET on Monday!
Adam Rittenberg (3:35 PM)
Hey guys, sorry I'm a bit late. Let's get started. Fire away!
Who do you think will get the start next year for the Spartans Nicol or Cousins?
Adam Rittenberg (3:36 PM)
I'd say Cousins has the edge right now because of how he performed as the backup last year. But I haven't seen a lot of Nichol, who seemed to do well on scout team last year. I really think that could be the most interesting QB competition in the Big Ten, now that Threet is out at Michigan.
Nick: (Long Beach, Calif)
I would like to make a comment about Ferentz's system and propose a question. Everyone in the country including some Big Ten schools have now adopted the Spread Offense. But like many trendy offenses in the past(the wishbone, the option, etc.), Kirk seems to find a way to stick to a more traditional pro style offensive/defensive package. Why do you suppose he has a lot of success against these teams that stick with the Spread? Why has he not jumped on board?
Adam Rittenberg (3:37 PM)
Coaches stick to what they know, and Ferentz spent most of his career either at Iowa as an assistant or in the NFL, where the spread isn't so chic. His systems are more similar to what is run in the NFL -- it's a reason he has sent so many linemen to the pros. I'm sure there's some temptation in incorporate more of the spread, and I know Ken O'Keefe has taken heat for not doing so. But Ferentz has done fairly well running these so-called vanilla systems.
Ben (Waynesboro, PA)
With so much attention brought to the loss of Penn State's talented wide receiving corps, How do you expect Penn State to re-align itself in the secondary, following the debacle in the Rose Bowl and departure of Anthony Scirotto?
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Good question, Ben, because the secondary will be a more critical area for Penn State in 2009. I think they'll find two or three solid receivers, but the secondary really was a major weakness last fall that was masked by a league with poor QB play. Penn State needs more speed in the back half, particularly at the safety spots. The Lions also lose their fastest corner in Sargeant.
Any ideas on who will end up filling the WR spots at Northwestern? Or is it too wide open at this point?
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
I'd pencil Jeremy Ebert and Andrew Brewer in there. Brewer has been plagued by injuries and needs to get a bit tougher over the middle, but heading into the 2007 season some were touting him as a potential All-Big Ten player. Also, I would keep an eye on Sidney Stewart, Carl Fisher and Charles Brown.
When does the blame start to go to Rich Rodriguez? It is impossible to pin this on the players. They must see something in him that they just don't like at all..
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
Dave, if you don't see some substantial improvement this season -- and I'm not just talking wins and losses -- Rodriguez will deserve more blame. Michigan might not win eight or nine games with so many young players still at key positions, but there should be tangible progress on the field for the fans to see.
Duncan (Iowa City)
Hey Adam, even though you consistently have good articles that could compete with any other conference blogger, do the other bloggers laugh at you and say you aren't flashy enough? Maybe you should ditch the articles that provide good solid information and switch to articles based on rumors and players' girlfriends. That's what people want to see - thus, better journalism. Then maybe the Big Ten football teams will also ditch a solid running game and good defense and score in the 50s every game - thus, a better conference.
Adam Rittenberg (3:43 PM)
Ha, I think that's a compliment, so thanks, Duncan. I'll see what I can find in the rumor mill. But don't expect many 60-56 scores this fall. The Big Ten only has those in basketball.
Matt (Madison WI)
Everyone loves to speculate on QBs way before spring practice. What do you think about Wisconsin: Sherer, Tolzein, Phillips, or Budmayr? Did you get any input on how Phillips looked on the scout team last year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
I'm very interested to see how Phillips progresses this spring. He comes in with the most hype of any of the four. Sherer had his moments last year but made too many mistakes. Tolzien is a heady player but a bit limited, skill wise. A good spring by Phillips or Budmayr could put them in the driver's seat entering the summer. I know offensive coordinator Paul Chryst wants to see more separation than what occurred last spring during the QB competition.
Will the Big 12 teams be ranked lower this year? Their gimmick offenses were exposed in the bowls.
Adam Rittenberg (3:46 PM)
The preseason rankings largely stem from returning starters at key positions, so I highly doubt teams like Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State will be penalized for less-than stellar bowl performances (Texas still got the W). The quarterback play in that league remains very strong despite losing Harrell and Daniel, so I'd expect the Big 12 to get high marks going in.
Tom (Athens, OH)
Adam, are you on board with Notre Dame? Ever since they beat Hawai'i everyone thinks they are good again. I don't get it.
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
I have mixed feelings about the Irish. Solid bowl performance against a mediocre Hawaii team. The passing game should be excellent in 2009, and the schedule is a joke. But I'm leery of a team that hasn't been able to run the football in two seasons. I'm not sold yet.
Tyler (Kalamazoo, MI)
I was wondering who you think is the best to take over the spot at RB for Michigan State? I'm not that confident in any of the returning backs, however I am very excited about incoming freshmen Edwin Baker and Larry Caper though. I had the opportunity to watch Caper in action this season as he played my school, but I keep hearing Baker is even better. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
Tyler, I'm with you. I wouldn't be surprised at all if either Baker or Caper emerged as the top back. Michigan State really failed to develop anyone behind Ringer last fall. You pay a bit of a price when you give the ball to one back 370 times. I've heard good things about Andre Anderson, so I'm excited to see him in spring practice. But the freshmen should shake up the competition this summer.
Adam, do you see any of the incoming Freshman at OSU making a big impact on the team this season and how do you see the Buckeyes chances this year for a run for a NC?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
So much depends on that USC game, John, but a win against the Trojans will give a young team a ton of confidence. As far as freshmen playing right away, the two running backs Berry and Hyde will get a look. Corey Brown and Dorian Bell also could see the field early on. This will be a very young team at a lot of positions in '09, but it could be a more talented one.
Adam, any insight on how the bad economy is going to impact college football?
Adam Rittenberg (3:52 PM)
Well, you're already seeing a team like Michigan State raise season ticket prices for the first time in four years. Michigan State also moved a neutral-site game to Spartan Stadium to add more revenue. You'll see more of this as long as the economy struggles. What will really be interesting is whether coaching salaries begin to go down a bit, which would be good for the game.
Bruce (Columbus, GA)
Which team now in the doldrums will return to national prominence first? Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Texas A&M, UCLA, or some other?
Adam Rittenberg (3:53 PM)
Good question, Bruce. I would say Nebraska and UCLA aren't too far away, then Miami and Michigan. I'm not sold on A&M at all right now.
Any chance of a Big Ten/ACC challenge in football? No offense to teams like Youngstown State but nobody wants to pay good money to see that...
Adam Rittenberg (3:54 PM)
The idea has been brought up, but mainly just among media members and fans. It would be a fun and interesting series. The Big Ten probably would fare a lot better than in hoops. I'd love to see more Big Ten-SEC matchups, but those simply aren't realistic because of the reluctance to give up home games on both sides.
Whats your take on how the Miami Hurricanes will do this season?
Adam Rittenberg (3:56 PM)
I'm extremely interested in Miami this fall. The Canes seemed to come together nicely behind Jacory Harris in the bowl game, but they've had a lot of coaching change during the offseason. I'm not sure I know what to make of Randy Shannon, but he can recruit. This could be the season to take a step forward, but I think it's more likely 2010.
Mike (Stevens Point, Wi)
What happened to Brandon Saine? He's not mentioned as one of the running backs to contribute for Ohio State?
Adam Rittenberg (3:57 PM)
He was banged up for much of last year, but we shoudn't forget about Saine. He had more hype than Boom Herron before 2008. If healthy, he'll be a factor in the running back competition this spring.
Adam, give me your take on Hope's approach on Purdue. To me it seems like it will either be wildly successful or flop. Over/Under an average of 7 wins per year over the next 5 years.
Adam Rittenberg (3:58 PM)
I completely agree, Phil. Hope's approach could either be very successful or very bad. Though I wouldn't expect him to have 14 Florida recruits and none from Indiana every year, he clearly looks for a different type of player than his predecessor. I'd imagine there will be some struggles at first. After that, it could go either way.
Adam Rittenberg (3:59 PM)
I'd pick the under right now, especially since Purdue schedules fairly aggressively.
Nick (Dubuque, IA)
What is your take on the new field turf that is going in at Historic Kinnick Stadium? I am not sold on turf as it still has draw backs like traditional grass.
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Most of the players I've talked to don't mind the stuff. There is definitely a difference between FieldTurf and the old AstroTurf that used to be out there. It will save Iowa money down the line in terms of drainage and maintenance. I think it's a good move.
How do you see the Michigan quarterback race shaking down with Threet gone? Is Forcier basically the starter now?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
Right now, I really think it's Forcier's job to lose. Nothing against Nick Sheridan, but I don't see him beating out two freshmen who fit the system better. I'm hearing a lot of good things about Denard Robinson, but a strong spring will put Forcier in position to be the guy.
Rob (York, PA)
Adam, Penn State has many DBs coming in as freshman. Do you see any of them starting? Givens assumes he will. Hodges sounds like a good prospect at Safety. I don't know about upperclassmen in those positions except for soph. Astorino.
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
I'm glad you brought up Astorino because I think he'll be a strong contender for a starting spot. But Penn State needs to look for immediate contributors, and several of those freshmen will play this fall.
With the loss of the all the starting receivers, you would think they would use Clark, Royster, and Greene to move the ball on the ground alot more this year, but with Devlin transferring do you think they will be more hesitant to use Clarke as a runner with noone to back him up but a walk-on and true freshman?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
I don't think Penn State can be hesitant with Clark, even though there's no proven depth behind him. The biggest key for the Lions will be rebuilding the offensive line to spark the run game. The losses up front outweigh the losses at wide receiver, in my view. If Penn State can replace guys like Shipley and Ohrnberger, it will be fine on offense. Not easy to do.
Randy (St. Paul)
I know the schedule is tough, but do you think the Gophers can make a big improvement in the Big Ten next year due to a combination of bringing back the power run game, and by playing outdoors?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
I think going back to the power run is a good move for the Gophers, but it might not work right away. I'm interested to see how Jedd Fisch and Tim Davis work together with the offense, whether it goes smoothly or not. My sense is the Gophers will be right around the same spot (7-8 wins) this year and make a strong improvement in 2010.
Nick St. Louis
Am I the only one who thinks that the Threet transfer really hurts UM? Now the only choices are 2 freshmen and a kid (Sheridan) who obviously doesn't have the talent to play in the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
It really could hurt, Nick. Though I wouldn't have predicted Threet to retain the starting job, he provided Rodriguez with some experience in case things went wrong again. Now it's really up to the freshmen and Sheridan, who struggled last fall.
You have a little too much to drink and start an argument in a bar. Which Big Ten coach do you want backing you up when a brawl breaks out?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Solid question, John. ... Sorry, Buckeye fans, but I don't know if a dude in a sweater vest would intimidate anyone. I would probably pick Bret Bielema, Pat Fitzgerald and Tim Brewster.
Do I improve significantly in the passing game this year? Does Tressel allow me to open it up?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
I think you make strides, especially since you'll be throwing passes to your best friend (DeVier Posey). Once you get consistent on the basic throws, Tressel will open it up for you. He did call quite a few deep passes last year.
Mark D. in East Lansing
I'd have your back, Adam.
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
Sorry, Mark, forgot about you. You're not big, but you look mean enough.
mike (omaha, ne)
With Brodell gone, do you see one of the receivers on campus stepping up or do you see a frosh. shep in and grab the #2 receiver spot.
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
That could be a spot for a young guy to emerge. Trey Stross had some moments last year, but the freshmen certainly will get a shot to play right away. I've heard good things about Keenan Davis.
How do you see the Big Ten Finishing?
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
I think it will be a better year for the Big Ten. Maybe not two BCS teams this year, but a more respectable bowl record. Every Big Ten team should be rooting hard for Ohio State on Sept. 12. That game will determine the league's perception more than any other, and the Big Ten really needs a win there.
Tad (Ann Arbor, MI)
What are your thoughts about Michigan's defense for next year with Robinson coming in? Will it be much more improved? How will the personal loss on the front line affect this and what are your thoughts on immediate impact of incoming freshmen like Campbell, Roh, and Lalota?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
The line is a major concern for Robinson and the Wolverines. Brandon Graham is terrific, but it's awfully hard to replace defensive tackles like Terrance Taylor and, to a lesser extent, Will Johnson. All three of those freshmen will be in the mix, and I like Campbell to play right away up front.
Dave (Ann Arbor, MI)
Bar fight backup?! If I can pick any Big 10 Coach (never specified head coach), I'm picking Barwis!
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
Yes, I thought he meant head coach. If Barwis counts, I'll pick Barwis. Scary dude.
Brad, Merrillville, IN
In your opinion, which Big Ten team will take the biggest step forward in '09? Which one will take the biggest step back?
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
Illinois certainly could take a step forward in '09. Then again, the Illini could also backslide a bit. Same goes for Wisconsin. Both of those teams fit in those categories.
What is the latest on Northwestern star defensive end Corey Wootton? Should he be ready by spring practices?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
Pat Fitzgerald told me at the Fiesta Bowl that he would, but there are some rumblings that Corey might not be responding as well after the knee surgery. There's a still a long way to go until training camp. I would expect him back at some point, but not for the spring.
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
OK guys, that's all the time I've got today. Enjoyed it.