Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Big East blogger Brian Bennett will stop by to talk some football.
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 Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. It's only two weeks to signing day, so there's plenty to talk about. Bring it on.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
My picks for the Big East next year:1. Pitt2. West Virgina (only because Devine and Sanders came back)3. UConn4. Cincy5. Rutgers6. South Florida7. UofL8. SyracuseI can't believe i picked my own team 7th! Argh! What do you think?
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
That sounds about right. I might flip UConn and Cincinnati, and I might even flip Louisville and Syracuse (or at least have them tied). But it's perfectly reasonable.
As usual the sky is falling on the WVU message boards...any truth to the rumors that part of WVU's recruiting class is having second thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:03 PM)
Isn't the sky always falling on message boards? The Mountaineers have lost all three of their Florida recruits to Doc Holliday and Marshall, and now Barry Brunetti may be going to Mississippi State. I'm not one to hyperventilate about recruiting comings and goings. We've still got two more weeks to go, and years to evaluate these players.
You said in your blog earlier this week that Jonathan Baldwin would probably leave for the NFL Draft after next season. Since Romeous came back for his senior year, why not assume Baldwin will to until he says otherwise?
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
I usually assume most top juniors will go. The difference between Baldwin and Romeus is that Romeus was a latecomer to football who's still pretty raw. Baldwin should be very polished by the end of next season, and his physical skills should make him a surefire first-rounder.
Mike (West Hartford, CT)
How do you think UConn's much-maligned defense will fare next year? I am a homer, but I think that with the newly added blitzing philosophy, UConn's D will be among the best in the conference
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
I think it should be a lot better. The Huskies were playing two freshmen corners at times. They'll have all three linebackers back and three-fourths of their defensive line. And don't forget how well the defense played against South Carolina.
Kainan McCloud (Breeden, WV)
Brian,do you still have the Mountaineers the number 3 team in the Big East next season after the news of Noel Devine and Jock Sanders?Because I do recall earlier this off-season you did say that you looked for UCONN,PITT,and Cincy to finish ahead of WVU.But you also said that you looked for Noel Devine and Jock to leave.
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
I might rank West Virginia second right now. The Mountaineers bring so much back. The concern would be how quickly Geno Smith develops.
James (Garwood, NJ)
Cincy falls to 6 or 7 next year. They were brilliantly coached and they'll take a significant step backwards next year. Similar to Louisville's fall after Petrino left.
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
It does seem inevitable that Cincinnati would take a small step back, at least at first. But I don't see that drastic of a falloff. The Bearcats still have Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, Armon Binns and Vidal Hazelton, among others, on a very talented offense. And Butch Jones can coach.
Bob (Big East Country)
I admire you for your pursuit of dates with hot chicks. Too bad reality gets in the way. For a date with Zooey Deschanel, which current Big East school will be the next one to play in the national championship game?
Brian Bennett (4:13 PM)
That's a tough question. I'll take a wild stab and say West Virginia. But I don't see it in the near future. If I'm right, how exactly are you going to set this up, Bob?
Francisco (New york, ny)
Hey Brian! So I'm a huge Rutgers fan but what's more troubling to me than the "disappointing" season and overall record since the '06 season is the utter lack of coaching. I see all around the league teams are making big name hires (Strong, Holtz, Snyder) who are not only excellent recruiters but great X's and O's guys. Then I see Rutgers use co-coordinators on both sides of the ball (all no-names except for Ciarroca) and hire a WR coach from Northern Illinois....should I be worried?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
Well, of the three coaches you mentioned, two are head coaches, not assistants. Schiano's defenses are usually strong, they just sometimes take a while to come along. The offense could use some improvement, but remember how potent it was in the second half of last season? Just because a guy ha a big name doesn't mean he's necessarily the best fit for a program.
Rich Rod have to win 7+ to keep his job next year? Do you see him doing it?
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
He absolutely has to make a bowl game to survive. I think he'll do it, as Forcier gains experience.
Andrew (Storrs, CT)
Brian, UConn fans have become completely numb to people like Bill Conley trashing our recruiting classes. How many more players does Edsall have to put into the NFL before some of these recruiting "experts" start to eat some crow?
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
Well, understand that the recruiting guys work to assign stars to players, so they naturally judge classes based on how many three-, four- and five-star players a team signs. But Edsall has made it clear he doesn't care about the star system and likes to find underappreciated gems. So any class rankings involving UConn are pretty much meaningless.
What are your thoughts on Jarret Brown switching all-star games and being put up against the big boys like Tebow and McCoy?
Brian Bennett (4:22 PM)
I'm happy that Jarrett is getting that chance. He's a big-time talent, and I think his size and arm strength are going to impress NFL scouts.
TheGreatOne (nippert stadium)
Player of the YearDion Lewis, Noel Devine or Zach Collaros?
Brian Bennett (4:24 PM)
Interesting question. I think Lewis may suffer from repeat syndrome -- anything less than 1,700 yards may seem like a disappointment to voters. Devine may get the ball more with a young quarterback, but defenses may gear up more to stop him. I kind of like Collaros, especially considering what Jones did with LeFevour at Central Michigan.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
I'm new this year to the BEast blog. Do you cover another sport in CFB's off-season? Or take time off to pursue other interests (see Portman, Natalie and/or Pinto, Frieda)?
Brian Bennett (4:25 PM)
Terry, you should know this: there is no offseason in college football.
I am very excited about the future of the Big East with the recent coaching hires I think the league is going to slowly build itself into a very good title contender. Now that is of corse until we lose another good coach to anyoher school. How can the BE keep them. Money doesnt seem to be the only factor. How can the BE become a destination job instead of a stepping stone.
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
Money and resources are the main factors. Just look at the size of Big East stadiums compared to those in the SEC and Big Ten. And access to talent it another big factor. Most coaches want to move up to a place where they feel like they can win a national title, and Big East teams need to get to a place where they're consistently in that mix.
Austin (South Bend)
I thought Kelly was good hire for Notre Dame, but i was wondering....is he going to be a hit with HS kids? basically the question is, how good of a recruiter is he?
Brian Bennett (4:29 PM)
Kelly has been known as a developer of talent more than an ace recruiter, though the players he brought in at Cincinnati are better than most people realized. The question is can he recruit on a national basis after being a regional recruiter at Central Michigan and Cincy. There's no doubt he'll be a hit in homes just because of his personality. His assistants will have to prove themselves as national recruiters, too.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
Pitt's biggest Q-mark is QB. Dave Wannstedt's first tie-breaker is always experience over youth & flash suggests Pat Bostick wins (presuming Cignetti has fixed his hitched delivery). Bostick offers too many plusses: older, MUCH taller ? very important for drop-back QBs ? with proven meaningful experience (versus Tino Sunseri's mop-up only duty); plus PB has rep/potential as an assistant coach-on-field. Agree?
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
The problem is Bostick, though he's won big games, has never really played all that well. Sunseri seems to have the knack for making plays, and he brings mobility that Bostick doesn't have. I still think Sunseri will win the job, but it will be a heated battle. And Pitt will probably need both at some point.
How do you think South Florida will fare now with new head coach Skip Holtz, especially with almost all of Jim Leavitt's assistants leaving when he left?
Brian Bennett (4:33 PM)
I really liked the hiring of Holtz, and I think he will make the Bulls more consistent. He can motivate and South Florida shouldn't have those swoons we became accustomed to seeing under Leavitt. I think he'll have South Florida in serious Big East title contention within two years.
John (Morgantown, WV)
Why do you think Bill Stewart is saying WVU will compete for a national championship in 2011?
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
The way I read it is that Stewart is saying the next two years, not just '11. But in '11, LSU comes to Morgantown, and Geno Smith will be a junior. So that might be the year to strike.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
If you're Charlie Strong, do you play a senior QB (Justin Burke or Adam Froman) with moderate experience, or do you throw a freshman QB into the fire and hope he develops enough to be able to lead the team effectively next year?
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
You play the best player. That's the only way to have credibility with your team. Whether it's Burke or Froman or one of the two incoming freshmen, I can't say right now. But I wouldn't be surprised to see a rookie in there.
where does mardy gilyard go in this year's draft?
Brian Bennett (4:37 PM)
I'm no Mel Kiper -- my hair is nowhere near as good. But based on production and his ability to return kicks, I've got to think Gilyard goes in the first three rounds.
Jason (New york)
In your Players of the decade series you listed Mardy Gilyard... Really? Do you need a re-do on that one, or did you not watch alot of Big East football in the beginning of this decade?
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
Speaking of Mardy ... the guy is the second-leading receiver in Big East history with over 3,000 yards. He's a two-time Special Teams player of the year. What more do you want?
Scott Nonnemaker (Florida)
As a USF fan, I am disappointed to see Carlton Mitchell leaving early for the pros...more for his sake than ours. I personally think that we have enough young receiving talent coming up the ranks right now to overcome this. But I think that Mitchell shot his career in the foot by leaving a year early. Do you agree? Where do you think an NFL team will draft him, or do you think that he is currently undraftable?
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
I was surprised to see Mitchell go. He had a really nice year but didn't strike me as a guy scouts were drooling all over. He'll need to do well in workouts, but I'd be surprised if he's a first-day pick.
Pete (Tupelo, Ms)
B.B.-should ND fans be worried about ND's defense with the new cordinator coming in. He came from Cincy w/ BK, but Cincy's defense finished like 66th in the country.
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
ND fans should be worried about the defense if Monte Kiffin was coaching it. It's a talent issue as much as anything.
Jason (New york)
You just stated he could go in the 3rd round.... There were a ton of Big East players who were better, just close your eyes and point to anyone on the 2001 Miami roster
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
Yes, but NFL production doesn't matter. It's a list of best Big East players. And Gilyard did it over a three-year period for a two-time BE champ.
do you think ther was a cear numbr one in fotball this season
Brian Bennett (4:42 PM)
Yes. I believe Alabama was clearly the best team and that the BCS worked, as much as I don't like to admit that.
Will Jordan Todman benefit from being "the" guy now in the backfield or will having to log more miles without Dixon hurt him?
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
You'll probably see Todman get some more carries, but UConn has other backs it likes as well, including Wylie and Frey. I would look for the Huskies to continue to use two backs.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
My friend at work and I are having a disagreement. I think Louisville is in line for another fight with Syracuse for 7th place in the BIG EAST this year. He thinks they're going to have a winning season (or at least go 6-6). What do you think? Is Charlie Strong bringing in enough talent this year, combined with all the red shirts from last year, going to be enough to see significant improvement right away, or am I correct in thinking its going to be another painful year to watch Louisville football?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
A lot of things are going to have to break right for the Cardinals to go 6-6. They just don't have a lot of talent. You could argue that a little better coaching and more discipline would have helped them win two more games in 2009. But this year's team may be less talented overall -- and younger -- than that one.
Justin (Johnstown PA)
If Pitt goes into Utah and gets a big win 10+ does this help shut up the BE haters from the MWC. I know the Miami and ND games are huge but i feel a loss to Utah would hurt more than losses to either of them. Whats your opinion on Pitts Schedule this upcoming season?
Brian Bennett (4:47 PM)
It would help the Big East to get a win out there. The Mountain West, though, still has a lot to brag about the way its league has performed the past two years. I think the MWC should be angling for a seventh BCS auto bid, not trying to swipe the Big East's seat.
so you dont think texas could have beat alabama with a healthy quaterbakor boise st could have won
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
Texas certainly would have had a chance to win that game with McCoy. But you have to give some credit to Alabama for hitting him and knocking him out. From what I saw in the Fiesta Bowl, I don't think Boise could have beaten Alabama.
Brian, with all of the expansion rumors, is there any worry that there'll be another rain on the Big East for teams?
Brian Bennett (4:49 PM)
It's a concern and it's going to remain a concern for the next year or so as the Big Ten studies the issue. I can't think of a Big East team that wouldn't jump at an invitation.
if boise st goes undefeated next year should they get a shot
Brian Bennett (4:50 PM)
The Broncos will start the season in the top five and will play Oregon State and Va Tech. If they go undefeated, they have to get a shot at the title.
Mathew (Louisville, Ky)
Brian, how will Louisville look on the ground this season under coach Charlie Strong? Coach Strong said he wanted to be a physical team by running the ball, but didn't really specify how we would accomplish that.
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
The ground game should be the offense's strength, with Anderson, Powell and Ashley all back. The offensive line needs to get better, though.
I know that WVU recruiting is going to take a hit with the loss of Doc Holiday but do you think that Marshall is that attractive of a destination for recruits to want to play? I mean have you ever been to Hunington not exactly the nicest of towns.
Brian Bennett (4:53 PM)
Is Morgantown that much more attractive? Just asking.
Brian Kelly (South Bend, IN)
Do I have any chance at all to build a successful program, and bring back a National Championship to South Bend?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
The days of Notre Dame being a perennial national title contender may be over, but there's no reason why the Irish can't contend for BCS games most years and make the occasional run at No. 1. I believe in Kelly's ability and think he'll do much better than the last three coaches there.
If you have to say that you don't "think" one team would have had a shot at beating another team, did the BCS really "work?"
Brian Bennett (4:56 PM)
That's the ultimate flaw, that we'll never know for sure without a playoff. All I'm saying is that there was no real controversy at the end of this year. Most people agreed that Alabama was the best team in the land.
If Boise State gets a shot at a National Title.... Why should Big East teams schedule tough out-of-conference? They're already playing more AQ schools then Boise St will have played and they got a shot....
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
Boise will get the benefit of the doubt because it has won BCS games. The Big East needs to get back to doing that.
Vick (Fair Lawn, NJ)
Lots of rumbling about Schiano from NJ folks. I think he has done an amazing job turning the program around, but some say he has reached his "pinnacle" since he promised a BCS title 10 years ago to date with no success. Your thoughts, on if we need another head guy to take RU to the next level?
Brian Bennett (4:58 PM)
I'm nowhere near ready to say Schiano needs to go. He brought this program up from nothing. However, I will say that within the next two to four years, the Scarlet Knights need to win a Big East title. Or else the questions become louder.
David (Rutherford, NJ)
Is Marrone using the Randy Edsall model of building a football team? UCONN never had high-rated recruits, but from hard work and development has an uper level program. From looking at the players that Marrone is bringing in, I feel he is trying to accomplish the same thing. I think they are going to be 4-8, 5-7 again next year, with a bowl game in 2011... what do you think?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
Well, let's be honest. Five-star players aren't clamoring to come to Syracuse right now. Step one for Marrone is to get bodies, which is why he has 27 commitments. As the program grows, he can hopefully attract better talent.
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
That's all the time I have this week, folks. Thanks for all the great questions.