Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg will stop by to talk college football.
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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (2:00 PM)
Hey guys, checking in from Evanston, Ill., where I'm spending some time with Northwestern today. I always have time to chat, though, so let's get started.
Jon P (Belleville)
which Big Ten team will be the surprise team this season?
Adam Rittenberg (2:01 PM)
Jon, I'd keep an eye on Purdue. I like what the Boilers have coming back on offense. If they can fill some holes in the secondary and along the O-line, they should be really good. Purdue more than held its own in Big Ten play last year and was a few plays away from an 8-win season.
Joel (State College)
Rich Rod has had success with previous teams after two years of recruiting the right players and placing his system. Do you see Michigan having a successful season? Big 10 contenders?
Adam Rittenberg (2:02 PM)
I see Michigan being more successful this fall. Big Ten title contenders? Unlikely, given the league's strength at the top. But the Wolverines will have more experience on both sides. The defense still really worries me, and that is where the focus must be.
How big a deal is having a night game at Michigan Stadium? I compare it to the first night game at Wrigley Field.
Adam Rittenberg (2:03 PM)
I wouldn't go that far, although for Michigan fans, it's certainly a big deal. Night games in college football are a huge hit, and the Big Ten/Michigan are bit behind. So it's a nice move by new AD David Brandon.
david (canton, ohio)
spring is in the air my friend! with that in mind -- which position battle do you think is bigger -- penn state's qb battle or michigan's... entire back 7... battle?
Adam Rittenberg (2:04 PM)
A quarterback battle always takes precedence, David, although I'm not dismissing Michigan's competition in the secondary one bit. But if Penn State can't find a capable signal caller, it could really struggle this fall. It's imperative for Jay Paterno and Galen Hall to find a good option or two among the pool of four candidates.
There's clearly a multitude of injuries plaguing Wisconsin this Spring. With John Clay, Gabe Carimi, Mike Taylor, and Curt Phillips needing surgery and not playing, is this a problem within the Badgers system? Obviously, it should hurt the team, as productive players won't be on the field. But does this mean that Wisconsin's training program is not very good? Or are these just typical, run of the mill injuries that always occur in football?
Adam Rittenberg (2:06 PM)
Interesting question, Evan, as injuries certainly are a big story this spring in Madison. Wisconsin made some changes in its weight program last year that seemed to really pay off, especially for the defensive linemen. John Clay's ankles have been a problem pretty much his whole life, so it's hard to lay that one one the staff. Taylor and Phillips both had ACLs, so I wouldn't say it's a problem relating to how the Badgers train and condition.
Chad (Chicago, IL)
Since you're in Evanston, who is surprising you at practice? Who are the coaches impressed with? And do we finally have a RB?
Adam Rittenberg (2:07 PM)
Chad, I was impressed with quarterback Dan Persa today. Showed a strong arm, and he clearly has command of the huddle and the locker room. Jeremy Ebert will be the No. 1 wide receiver after battling injuries last fall. He looked great today. Also was impressed with some of the cornerbacks, particularly Mike Bolden. As for the running backs, Arby Fields took all the reps with the first-team offense. Scott Concannon and Stephen Simmons are in the mix, too, and Tyris Jones got a lot of work with the second and third team today.
How do you feel the wisconsin defense will fair in replacing Obrien schofeild?
Adam Rittenberg (2:08 PM)
OB is a big loss, Brian, but I have very high hopes for J.J. Watt at defensive end. He's a guy with All-Big Ten potential. The key for Wisconsin will be building around him. The Badgers need to identify a good rotation at defensive tackle. I like the competition between Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert at the other end spot.
devin (whitmore lake mi )
adam how duse craig roh do his 2nd year
Adam Rittenberg (2:10 PM)
Craig Roh is a huge part of Michigan's plan to turn things around on defense. He did some nice things as a true freshman, but he can take his game to another level this fall. Very interested to see how Roh progresses during the spring and summer months.
Obviosly a long way away, but who do you think will be the number one back in Black and Gold this year? And how do they get Hampton, Robinson, and Wegher enough touches?
Adam Rittenberg (2:11 PM)
Iowa would love to have all three of those backs healthy at the same time, which was a struggle in 2009. I think the top back will be Hampton or Robinson, though I can't count out Wegher after the Orange Bowl. Hampton still has a feature-back feel about him, and if he returns to form after the knee injury, he'll be tough to beat out.
Dan (Los Angeles)
Adam...heard a rumor on an NU blog that the Wrigley game is now looking more likely to be NU vs Iowa? You hear any news on that? What is the deadline for Phillips to get this done for 2010? Anyway, hope you're enjoying your time at our alma mater!
Adam Rittenberg (2:12 PM)
Yeah, I saw that blog post. Folks up here aren't giving it too much credence, though. I keep hearing that things are progressing toward an announcement, but time is really running out. They need to do something soon to play this fall. Otherwise, wait until 2011 or 2012.
If Jamaal Berry has a great spring, is there any chance of him moving ahead of Dan Herron or Brandon Saine on the Ohio Statecdepth chart come fall?
Adam Rittenberg (2:14 PM)
From talking with offensive coordinator Jim Bollman last night, Berry will be part of the mix as long as he stays healthy. Ohio State really liked what it got from Jordan Hall last year, and Brandon Saine and Boom Herron are at the top of the depth chart. Berry needs a strong spring to keep pace with the others. Bollman said this is the deepest Ohio State has been at RB in recent memory.
Ryan (EL, MI)
Can the Michigan State program really afford to welcome back Oren Wilson?
Adam Rittenberg (2:16 PM)
It's a tough decision for Mark Dantonio. Wilson doesn't have a history of problems, but the fact he didn't reveal his involvement at the residence hall for six weeks is very troubling. Football teams need to have trust, and Wilson broke it by not telling the coaches. It looked really bad when Wilson played in the bowl game and then was charged. I think Dantonio needs to be firm here and part ways, but it wouldn't shock me if Wilson is back.
As an Ohio State fan I hate to ask this question because I think I know the answer already... but here goes anyhow. Do you think having one school (OSU) constantly having success in all major sports is bad for the conference?
Adam Rittenberg (2:18 PM)
Jeremiah, I was thinking about this as the Ohio State men's basketball team looked primed for a Final Four run. It's obviously not ideal to have one school be so dominant, especially when that school has a huge athletics department and more resources than everyone else. I consider Michigan State the league's dominant basketball program, but Ohio State is certainly solid across the board. The Big Ten would like more balance.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
How fast can Minnesota build it's defense after losing so many starters? All three of their starting linebackers were invited to the combine. Will they have any size or quickness at defensive tackle?
Adam Rittenberg (2:21 PM)
It's never easy to replace so many starters, but Tim Brewster is pretty excited about the young guys he has on that side of the ball. This is Brewster's chance to see his own recruits in key roles. At linebacker, Gary Tinsley and Sam Maresh are competing in the middle. Up front, Brewster really likes Ra'Shede Hageman, and Brandon Kirksey and Jewhan Edwards also will see some time.
nagletastic (The 212)
Adam - Any work on where PSU is going to put Brackett this year? Does he really have a shot at QB? I know Big 10 football and I'm thinking big WR or TE even.
Adam Rittenberg (2:22 PM)
I doubt Brackett will be a factor at quarterback. His size and experience at wideout makes him a good potential fit at tight end, where Penn State clearly has a need after losing Quarless and Shuler.
On a similar topic, Adam, what do you make of the apparent disparity in talent/success between the Big Ten and SEC? Any signs of reversing that trend any time soon? I'm getting KILLED by all my buddies in the south!
Adam Rittenberg (2:24 PM)
I doubt you're the only one, Josh. If there's a chance to reverse the trend at the highest level, this would be a good year to do it. The Big Ten looks very strong at the top with Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin. The league showed it can compete with and beat conference champions (Georgia Tech, Oregon) in the bowl season. The next step is to do it at the highest level, against the SEC.
Brian (Iowa City)
Who do You think has the best home schedule for the fans next year? I know that Iowa gets to have Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn St., and Iowa St. at home, is there any fans in the big ten who have it sweeter then that?
Adam Rittenberg (2:26 PM)
As far as marquee names coming to their place, Iowa certainly is at the top of my list. Any time you have Ohio State and Penn State visiting in the same year, plus two rivalry games in Wisconsin and Iowa State, that's pretty good. Ohio State gets Penn State, Michigan and Miami in Columbus, which is a pretty good slate as well.
Not to ride the conference expansion train into the ground, but how much will a candidate's basketball matter? Football is obviously driving this train, but a good basketball program might be just as valuable to the Big Ten Network in terms of driving ratings...
Adam Rittenberg (2:27 PM)
Hoops matters, Chad. Certainly not as much as football, but it factors into the process, just like anything else. Hoops is one thing that obviously works against Rutgers, and perhaps Nebraska as well.
Tim (Springfield, OH)
If Justin Siller comes back for Purdue this fall, where will he play? Wildcat QB? Running back? Defensive back (heaven knows we need enough of those)? Somewhere else?
Adam Rittenberg (2:28 PM)
Tim, he might do some things at Wildcat QB, but he won't be a full-time QB for the Boilers. Gary Nord made that pretty clear when we talked last month. I see Siller at either wide receiver or running back for the Boilers.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
Wisconsin is better than PSU? You crazy?
Adam Rittenberg (2:30 PM)
I might be, Hayden! But you look at Penn State losing six first-team All-Big Ten performers, and Wisconsin returning more starters than any Big Ten team, and it starts to make some sense.
what about Minnesota's home slate? USC, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, and Northwestern. You CAN'T beat that, can you?
Adam Rittenberg (2:30 PM)
Great call, Joe. Forgot how good Minnesota's slate will be this year. And fans of all those teams really get a treat in getting to visit TCF Bank Stadium.
Justin (Grand Rapids, MI)
What are your feelings on Michigan State hiring former Detroit Southeastern coach Archie Collins? Collins was a coach and also legal guardian of William Gholston, the Spartans' prized 2010 recruit.
Adam Rittenberg (2:31 PM)
I heard about this earlier in the week. Obviously, it's intriguing, given Collins' connection to MSU signees and the state high school scene. But I can't say I'm surprised. It happens a lot of places, more so in basketball.
Oliver (Columbus, OH)
Adam, can you please give Michigan the "M" back for Michigan Stadium?
Adam Rittenberg (2:32 PM)
I had nothing to do with it! I swear! Too busy producing blog posts for you fine people. There's my alibi.
In Madison, this walk-on receiver Jared Abbrederis has been making headlines for being a big surprise and a great success story. However, I feel like this has happened in the past, where a back-up comes out of nowhere, but in the end, he's still a reserve, and will always be a reserve for one reason or another. Do you actually see Abbrederis becoming an impact player for the Badgers in the next couple years? Or is this just another story glorified by the media?
Adam Rittenberg (2:34 PM)
It could go either way, Evan, but Wisconsin does have a history of under-recruited guys coming out of nowhere to surprise people. Remember that Luke Swan was a walk-on, too. I saw one of Wisconsin's early practices, and I was impressed with Abbrederis, who has continued to look good. The Badgers could use another option at wide receiver alongside Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson, and maybe this guy will be it.
Akili (Hilliard, Ohio)
You spoke to Jim Bollman. Do you expect the routes to open up for Terrelle Pryor if he continues to develop (not just the safe routes he threw in the Rose Bowl)? When do you think the coaching staff will have enough confidence to risk a little?
Adam Rittenberg (2:36 PM)
I got the sense that Bolls wants to go in that direction. Ohio State needs to find more options in the passing game for Pryor. Right now, DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher are the only two sure things. Ohio State needs to identify a No. 3 wide receiver, and there are some very high hopes for Jake Stoneburner at tight end. Stoneburner could really provide a big lift. If those parts come together and the offensive line continues to progress, I don't see why Ohio State wouldn't open things up more.
nagleliscious (Big Apple)
Do you agree that Larry Johnson Sr is really going to have to work his magic this year to successfully relaod after several years of high profile D guys gone (Evans, Poz, Lee, Bowman, Hali, Evans, Odrick, etc)?
Adam Rittenberg (2:37 PM)
I've learned not to question the greatness of Larry Johnson Sr. He's one of the best assistants in the Big Ten for a reason. He'll find some playmakers. Very excited to see how Jack Crawford develops this fall.
Potential comeback player of the year - Tyler Moeller?
Adam Rittenberg (2:38 PM)
That would be something, wouldn't it? Moeller still has to be cleared by the doctors this fall, so we should hold judgment for a while. But he does fill a need at safety, and was reportedly performing really well there last spring. I know a lot of folks are rooting for Moeller after what happened last summer.
John (New York)
How many more mailbag entries do you plan to write speculating on Harbaugh going to Michigan next year? 50? 100?
Adam Rittenberg (2:39 PM)
John, I answer the questions I receive. When people stop asking all the time, I'll stop speculating. But unlike some folks, I'm not writing off Rich Rodriguez at all in 2010. Rich hasn't forgotten how to coach, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Michigan win eight or nine games.
Bobby (Iowa City)
I was trolling over on a Gopher Blog (I know, I shouldn't do that), and found a thread asking what QB would you take--Stanzi or Weber. The Gopher fans aren't 100% insane as many of them said they'd rather have Stanzi. I assume you agree? Or has your self-admitted man-crush on Adam Weber clouded your judgment?
Adam Rittenberg (2:41 PM)
Ha, according to you folks, I have a man-crush on 20 players. Better not tell my wife. ... Ricky Stanzi wins football games, and for that reason, I'd take him over Weber. While I think Weber has gotten a bit of a raw deal at Minnesota with the scheme change, he hasn't made nearly as many crunch-time plays as Stanzi. And that's how you should value a QB. But I still think Adam Weber is a good football player.
Since Texas did it and Ohio State is on par with Texas (more/less) in most measurable statistics (mainly money), will the Buckeyes name a head coach in waiting like Texas did with Will Muschamp? Would this limit Ohio State to Luke Fickell and Darrell Hazell?
Adam Rittenberg (2:44 PM)
Good question, Phillip. Ohio State has an interesting decision to make when Jim Tressel moves on. That job would generate a ridiculous amount of interest from elite, proven coaches, not only because it's a national powerhouse but because it's in Ohio, where seemingly every great college football coach grew up. So Ohio State could open things up and it could turn into a bit of a circus, or it could go the safer route and name a coach in-waiting. If I were Gene Smith, I'd open things up and see who I could land.
How far along do you think QB Tate Forcier is by now? Wouldnt it be a good idea to redshirt Denard Robinson if Tate is capable of running the system, and save Robinson for after Forcier is gone
Adam Rittenberg (2:46 PM)
No, no, no. You need a backup quarterback, Hussein, and Michigan doesn't want to put a true freshman (Devin Gardner) into that role. Also, Robinson is too valuable as a play-maker to keep off the field this fall. Tate Forcier has a playing style that some would describe as reckless, and he's always capable of being injured. You need an insurance policy, and Robinson provides one.
I believe Minnesota's new stadium's official name is Kinnick North 2.0, not TCF Bank Stadium. That aside, it seems like there are some pretty good non-conference games this year. Are we still going to hear so many complaints about all the cupcakes?
Adam Rittenberg (2:48 PM)
Eric, the good news is that the "name" programs in the Big Ten are playing pretty competitive slates this fall. A lot of people saw Penn State's 2009 schedule and concluded that the entire Big Ten doesn't play anyone. This year, Penn State beefs things up with Alabama. Ohio State has got Miami. Iowa travels to Arizona. Wisconsin's slate remains a bit soft, but I don't think that hurts the league as much.
What does MarQueis Gray have to do to win the starting job? Or do you believe Tim Brewster is going with Adam Weber regardless of how Gray progresses. Gray has a much higher ceiling and I believe the time to make the change is now.
Adam Rittenberg (2:50 PM)
Tim Brewster certainly has a lot of loyalty to Weber, but he's also facing a potential make-or-break year in Minnesota. I think Brew will trust what he sees in practice and go with Gray if Gray deserves it. When a coach's job is on the line, he needs to make the best decision for the team, loyalties aside.
Denard (Ann Arbor)
which position do you think i should play? wide reciever or qb? tate didnt look too good in his last game vs osu. and gardner too young.
Adam Rittenberg (2:51 PM)
Denard, my man. Isn't there a practice going on right now? You should be a quarterback for 2010, as Michigan needs you in case Tate goes down with an injury. Plus, you finally got a full offseason to work with this system, which should really help your development as a QB.
Michael (Iowa City)
With the new excitement of our new coach it got me wondering. Which would you rate higher the overall coaching of the football teams or basketball teams in the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (2:54 PM)
Yeah, Fran was a good get for Iowa, Michael. In terms of truly elite coaches, I'd have to go with the basketball crew. You've got Izzo at the top, along with Tubby Smith and Bo Ryan. And then you've got so many guys who have been to the Final Four (Matta, Crean, Weber). Plus you have Matt Painter, who I think will be one of the coaching greats when he's done. Football has some good ones, too, and the JoePa factor, but I'd have to go with hoops.
Ethan (Canton MI)
how many of the freshman corners going to michigan (Dorsey, christian, talbott) do you think will start in the fall? do you think any of them can improve michigans pass defense despite the loss of warren?
Adam Rittenberg (2:55 PM)
Ethan, I would expect Dorsey to start at one cornerback spot, opposite Troy Woolfolk. Those other guys could work their way into the mix, but Michigan also has J.T. Turner and J.T. Floyd. Warren is a big loss, though. Surprised so many teams attacked him last year.
Tom (burke VA)
why does everyone ask about the "next coach" at michigan?! just cause he has had 2 bad seasons, doesnt mean that he is already gone. id say even if he goes 7-5, he'll stay cause eventually, either this year or the next, theyll be back, better than ever!
Adam Rittenberg (2:57 PM)
Tom, Rich has to make a bowl game this fall. That much is pretty obvious. A 7-5 regular season would be interesting. Would it guarantee him a fourth year? I can't say it would . But if he posted a big win or two, especially one against the Buckeyes, that would be huge for Michigan to get the momentum back.
Kevin (Cleveland, OH)
Does the Big Ten factor in the possibility that Greg Schiano may move on from Rutgers? What if the school replaces him with a bad coach and the program is god awful? Isn't that too big of a risk (in addition to the rest of Rutger sports stinking)?
Adam Rittenberg (2:58 PM)
Kevin, I doubt the Big Ten will base its expansion decision on whether a football coach will leave or not. The league is more interested in how Rutgers has made a much stronger investment in its entire football program, not just the head coach, in recent years. If Rutgers could assure the league that such an investment would continue, the Big Ten wouldn't care who's coaching the team.
James (State College)
Penn State vs. Alabama this year. Any chance PSU can go into Tuscaloosa and pull a major upset? Or is it Alabama just too good? Love the blog by the way.
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
Thanks, James. It's going to be awfully tough because Penn State will be so young at QB. It'll take a great, and I mean great, effort from Penn State's offensive line, to not only get the running game going with Royster but protect the QB. Penn State's front seven will need a great effort to contain Ingram. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No.
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
OK guys, time's up. Great chat this week. I'm on the road for most of next week, so I'll probably be checking in from another Big Ten city.