Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Big East blogger Brian Bennett will stop by to preview the Big East spring season.
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 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Hey, everybody. Today is spring preview day for the Big East. (How I desperately wish I had some spring weather around me). Let's talk some football.
Chase (Harrisonburg, Va)
Who do you like more at the qb position for West Virginia, Geno Smith or Coley White?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Geno Smith is the No. 1 guy, no question. Not sure what will happen with Coley, but wouldn't be surprised to see a position switch at some point
Coach Jones has hit the ground running in the Queen City by prepping for recruiting classes two years from now. He just hosted an event on campus for high school juniors who are highly recruited nationally and we had quite a turnout. Is this a traditional weapon in a coach's arsenal or is Butch really on the ball here? Think this will help UC's program get a necessary boost in its recruiting class rankings?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Junior days are standard practice everywhere. In fact, Brian Kelly had a lot of success with them during his tenure with the Bearcats.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
Who do you see as having the best chance at winning the starting quarterback job at UofL this spring? Going with a spread offense and more mobile quarterback, you'd think Adam Froman has an advantage over the other guys, at least until Dominique gets in town.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I would give Froman the upper hand for now. He's clearly the most mobile of the three. But I wouldn't be shocked if a newcomer like Dominique Brown isn't the starter by the fall.
Tyler (Bristol, CT)
Could you see a team like UConn, who might I mention were about 15 points away from an undefeated season last year and return most of their key starters, make an appearance in a BCS game in 2010-11?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
I really think UConn is in position to make a run this year with so many starters back. I've got the Huskies in my group of four contenders right now. They've got to get over their West Virginia hump, but they can play with anybody in this league.
A possible solution to the Big East conference. They go after Boston College and Maryland, and offer Villanova a chance to upgrade to 1A. Then look to add one or two others from Ohio, Cent. Mich., UCF, E. Carolina. The eight Catholic (non Football) schools, including Notre Dame, separate and go after 2-4 more Catholic schools from the Atlantic 10 (Xavier, Dayton, Duquesne, St. Joe's, LaSalle, etc) to form a powerful basketball conference. Both leagues can retain some sort of affiliation for cross-over games if they want.
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
If the Big East could add Maryland, BC, Villanova and Central Florida, it would be nearly perfect. That's a lot of ifs, though, starting with the major question of why Maryland and BC would leave the ACC. As far as the Catholic school split, it would be hard to see teams like Georgetown, St. John's and Providence leave the league, since they are such a part of the fabric and history of the league.
Do you think coaching is the reason USF never fulfilled their potential? (horrible big east record) And do you think Skip Holtz is the guy to get them to a conference championship?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Let's not underestimate the job Jim Leavitt did in building that program from nothing. Still, clearly something was not working with the way that team kept suffering midseason slumps. I loved the Holtz hire, and I think he can get them to the next level. He's a great salesman for the program and should prove to be a dynamic recruiter.
Brian, the Big East recently has seen a few coaches rise in prominance, and then bolt for bigger jobs (see: RichRod and Brian Kelly). If this trend continues, who is the next coach to get hot and leave, and where does he go?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I think the obvious candidates are the three new hires. Wannstedt, Stewart and Marrone seem like perfect matches for their schools who aren't going anywhere. Edsall and Schiano are known quantities. Holtz and Charlie Strong in particular would be candidates to jump when/if they get their new programs to the top.
hey brian, any big east school to break the top 25 and mabey give credibility to the conference? thanks
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Pitt and Cincinnati will almost definitely be ranked to start the year. I think West Virginia and UConn should be in the preseason Top 25 as well. I'm not sure the league needs to build credibility at this point.
Jim G. (Indianapolis)
Is there any hope for the Syracuse Orange? Each year we hope for high expectations but then don't even finish at 500.
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Sure. Remember that the Orange were 4-8 last year but easily could have won two more (Minnesota and Louisville). So 6-6 and a bowl game is a possibility, especially in Marrone's second year. Much more than that would seem to be overly optimistic to me
Pitt every year are right there for the big east, what do they need to get over the hump? Also, any chance the mobil QB from Ohio has a chance at playing next year or will he just be another Greg Cross?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Getting rid of Brian Kelly might help. Pitt would have won the league the last two years if it could have beaten Cincinnati. Gonzalez almost certainly won't play this year. I can't see Wannstedt playing a true frosh at QB, especially when he has veterans in Sunseri and Bostick.
Who will start the most games for UConn at QB? Also, will Todman be the lone feature back or will the bring in a bruiser-type (a la Dixon last year) to change the pace and use what is the best o-line in the big east?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
I like Todman, but he's small and not as powerful as Donald Brown. So I don't see him as a lone back, 30-carry type of guy. Maybe Meme Wylie or Robbie Frey can help split carries with him.
Dan (Walkersville, MD)
Do you think it's an open competition in the spring for the starting QB job at WVU? I know Geno is #1 now but can BB or Johnson put there hat in the ring?? Also any word/news on Latwaan Anderson?
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Well, Brunetti and Johnson won't be there until the summer. Once they get there, they'll have a chance to compete, but I think it will be more for the No. 2 job than to beat out Geno, at least initially.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
And as far as I know, Anderson still hasn't made a choice.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
FYI, Renato was asking about Meyers as the Pitt QB from Ohio, a big pro-style / rising in Scout's stars. Gonzales is a 4-star QB from PA, mobile guy. I'd say both are less than doubtful to ever see the field as freshmen. Bostick (I hope) or Sunseri will start, the other will back-up.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Sorry, Terry, got my Pitt QB recruits mixed up. But you're right; neither will play much this year unless something weird happens
G (Morgantown, WV)
Brian, enjoy your work. Explain to me why WV isn't sitting as the favorite to win the league next year. They lost their QB, but so did Pitt and Cincy. WVU returns more starters than almost anyone in the league. Noel is back and so is 4/5 OL starters and all 3 DL starters.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
I think West Virginia is right there with Pitt as the top two preseason favorites, with Cincinnati and UConn up there as well. The offensive line needs to get better, Smith has to learn quickly and the team needs overall more consistency.
Every year Renato??? I think you need to come on up out of Brazil every once in a while. Before the last two years Pitt had been in the cellar pretty consistently.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
All I'll say is, why would you want to leave Brazil?
Do you think that the change back from 3-4 to 4-3 will be beneficial for the Bearcats defense this year? Also, do you think it is a good move considering the players that are already there?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
I think the actual scheme is not nearly as important as the personnel. Cincinnati needs to get better up front defensively, and losing Alex Daniels and Ricardo Matthews, plus Curtis Young, doesn't help
Rex (South Carolina)
Why doesn't Randy Edsel over at UConn get more pub? I saw his team dismantle my Gamecocks, and he kept the team together after the stabbing tragedy.
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
I thought Edsall got a lot of attention this past year for the way he handled the Howard situation. Those who really know football know all about him; he's one of the most respected coaches among his peers.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
Maybe Pitt can play an OCC game at a neutral field: Rio ha some nice places, stadiums. Might help increase the team's road following. I'd like to know how he follows our games. 360.com?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
If I were living in Rio, with the beaches and some of the other, uh, scenery, I doubt I'd be spending much time in front of a computer screen.
Jason (Elmira, NY)
Do you think WVU has a legit shot at winning at LSU, thus propelling them up in the polls, and possibly a sleeper National Championship contender?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
A win there is going to put West Virginia on the map immediately. But it's going to be awfully tough, especially early in the season as Geno Smith is still learning the ropes. Even a close loss there wouldn't necessarily be damaging. In 2011, LSU comes to Morgantown and may present an even better opportunity for the Mountaineers to make a run.
Will (Washington, DC)
Brian, acknowledging the fact that if certain programs come calling, they all leave, which of the three new coaches do you think has the best chance of sticking at their new school for a good amount of time (6-8 years or so)?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I think you could see Skip Holtz sticking around for a while. If he gets that thing going, he'll have fertile recruiting ground and will be living close to his family. South Florida can become a destination type job.
you clearly don't give rutgers any credit now because you picked them to win the big east and it made you look stupid. what say you?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I can say that's absolutely absurd. I make predictions all the time that don't come true; that's the nature of doing such things. I have no problems whatsoever with Rutgers. They got a proper amount of credit last year for winning nine games against a terrible schedule.
Marc (Pensacola, fl)
how many wins do you predict for coach strong and UofL this upcoming season?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
This seems like a 4-8, 5-7 kind of team to me. The talent is just not great right now. If Strong gets this team to a bowl this year, it would be a whale of a coaching performance.
Blake (Abilene, TX)
Brian, with all the talks about reconfrencing could you see a school like Villanova becoming D1A in footbal and making a push to join the Big East if some teams were to leave?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I think the Big East would love to see Villanova move up, but it's not as easy as it seems. It's a giant financial commitment to do so, 'Nova has no place to play and even while winning the FCS title the team only attracted about 7,000 fans per game. So it's not exactly Big East shovel-ready.
Rocco (Pittsburgh PA)
Hey Brian, love the blog. Dion Lewis was absolutely ridiculous this year. I realize it's a long way from now, but do you see him a) gaining more yards/scoring more TD's this upcoming season then last season, and b) do you think if he sticks around he could eclipse Tony Dorsett's school rushing records?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
That may be a tall order. Remember that he had a real veteran line last year, plus a veteran quarterback who played at a high level. The line should still be good, but maybe not quite as strong. And there will be a new starting quarterback. And does Ray Graham get more carries this season?
Brian, do you think Dan Mason is going to be able to perform at LB well? In particular will he be able to perform at the level that Pitt has grown fairly used too?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I thought he played better down the stretch after looking a little lost at NC State. It's a big spring for him and a key question for Pitt.
Jesse (Olympia, WA)
How do you see Cincy fairing next year with their huge losses on Offense and at Head Coach?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I don't really see huge losses on offense. Sure, Pike is gone, but Collaros can be just as good. Gilyard was amazing, but with Binns and Hazelton, the receivers should be OK. Questions are (again) on defense and whether the coaching transition means the Bearcats take a small step back in Year One under Butch Jones. Hard to improve on 12-0 anyway.
Tony (Plum Pa)
Hey Brian. Great comments. Do you think a successful season at Pitt moves them to the top of the list for Big 10 recruitment? I think a Big 10 move is a win-win situation for Pittsburgh and Big 10 conference.
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I don't think a single season will affect the Big Ten's decision-making process. Things like TV markets and overall athletic program strength will. And the Big Ten could well decide what to do before the 2010 season is over.
Tony (Addyston, OH )
A week ago - I saw a suggestion to merge BE football & MWC football. I know that seems absolutly crazy, but I really think that is the kind of progressive plans that will fortify both leagues from being raided...Any thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
All options need to be on the table. If superconferences are the wave of the future, a Big East/MWC merger may be the way to go. But, what if Utah and TCU bolt to other leagues? All of a sudden, the MWC isn't nearly as attractive.
I'm guessing Rutgers isn't in your top 4 contenders? Even after your post about the lack of QB experience this year in the BE?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I just think Rutgers is going to be awfully young at a lot of key spots. Right now they're outside my top four. But I think they could be ready to really make a run at the league title in '11 in Savage's junior year.
Any other thoughts on Elijah Fields? What can be done to prevent this kind of behavior in the future?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
I just think it's sad that he wasted his potential. Some guys just never figure it out -- or have to hit rock bottom first.
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Brian, w/all the expansion talk do you think that Army/Navy have any chance of being asked to join the Big East? Would Army be better suited as the 14th team in the MAC?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
That was looked at a while back, with the two academies considered as football-only members. But it just didn't make sense for a variety of reasons. Navy, in particular, likes its current setup where it can play a national schedule, get a few easy wins and have its own bowl tie-in.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
Which game do you think will be the first sellout crowd for Louisville this year in the new expanded stadium? Or will they even sellout the new expansion this year?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
With Kentucky and West Virginia coming to town this year, I expect at least a couple of sellouts. By the way, I was at the stadium earlier this week and the new deck looks almost complete. Makes the entire stadium look different.
Brian, what can you tell us about Hazelton, the USC transfer WR from Cincy? Rumor has it he'll be the strength of the impressive UC WRs...
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
He's big, physical and fast. Some said he was the most impressive receiver in practice last year. Think about that. I expect him to have a big year.
Hey Brian. I know there's been a lot of talk about pitt's situation at QB, but our secondary was quite bad at sometimes last year. Which one do you see causing more problems this year, our secondary or our QB?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
I'd be more concerned about cornerback than quarterback at this point. I think Cignetti will coach up at least one of the two QBs and things will be fine there.
Nathan (Santa Cruz CA)
Brian,I am an OU fan & I try my best to go to see OOC road games. Should I plan a Cincy trip for this season? Is that game going to be as competitive as it looked like it could have been last year? Should I just wait for the trip to FSU in 2 seasons?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Go to Cincinnati, enjoy Paul Brown Stadium, go get some Skyline chili and then hit some bars in Mt. Adams. Should be a good time.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all my time for today, folks. Thanks for all the great questions.