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 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:01 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Spring has sprung. It's a gorgeous day where I am and hope it's the same for you. Let's talk some football
What is the split in carries this year for Dion Lewis and Ray Graham? I'd imagine Wannstedt doesn't want Lewis running the ball 30+ times a game. Not to mention, Graham's too dynamic to keep on the bench.. Thanks
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Good question. Coaches have been raving about Graham this spring. He's a little bit different runner than Lewis. But you don't want to take the ball out of Lewis's hands much. I think maybe we could see a McCoy/Stephens-Howling type thing where Lewis is the main back but Graham gets peppered in with 10 or so touches per game.
Brandon (Storrs, CT)
I'm approaching this season at UConn with a lot of enthusiasm with a lot of starters coming back and fabulous end of season win against USC (the east coast one), but I'm worried that the QB situation will start the same way it did last year with Frasier making a lot of careless mistakes and Edsall finally moving to Endres, any thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
I think Frazer turned a corner at the end of last year, and the hope is he'll keep that going. He has much more of an understanding of the offense now. The good news is, if he does struggle, Endres is a very solid option.
With the QB race at WVU being pushed back to accomadate Geno Smith, do you see Coley White being put out as a receiver on a regular basis? He just seems like hes too much of an athlete to have standing on the sidelines, similar to fellow back up QB Bradley Starks
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I think that will be the case if -- and it's a fairly good-sized if at this point -- Smith is healthy and capable and the freshmen are far enough along this fall
Chris (Pitman, NJ)
How do you think the youth of our team will affect our recruiting in a year that New Jersey supposedly has many top recruits?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Not really. I mean, a lot of Rutgers' best young players are sophomore or redshirt freshmen, so by the time a recruit comes to campus, they'll be three years behind those guys. And if a guy is good enough to play as a true frosh, the team will find a spot for him somewhere on the field
I'm looking around the league at a lot of QB battles or new QB's and then I look at what Cincy is bringing back on offense. I should go ahead and start printing "3 Peat" shirts, right?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I definitely think Cincinnati will be in the thick of it all year. But a lot has to go right to win the league -- just think of those close calls last year against WVU, UConn and Pitt. And there's a new staff and a lot of questions again on defense. So I would hold off on buying those shirts for now unless you have plenty of discretionary income.
Hey Brian do you see shaq making waves as the Irish's #2 WR? or do you see him playing primarily in the slot?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
He's got the talent to do it but has a lot to learn. Don't forget about Goodman either; I like that guy. And Riddick is going to get a chance in the slot this spring after the position switch
Do you predict a 0-2 record against Miami for the Big East this year?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I think Pitt has a good chance of knocking off the 'Canes at home, but I have a hard time seeing South Florida going down there and winning with as young of a team as the Bulls have
Looking for your thoughts on UConn for 2010/2011...think they are a dark horse in the BE and/or country?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I really like this UConn team, provided that the secondary gets shored up. I had to do a Top 25 for College Football Live this week, and I ranked the Huskies No. 25.
Why do you think that Wannstedt got asn extension and Randy Shannon has not?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
The simple answer is that Pitt has won 19 games the past two years, while Miami has won 16. Plus, Wannstedt has had the full support of the administration in Oakland, while I don't get the sense that's necessarily the case with Shannon.
Colin (Rutger Library)
Any word on Logan Heastie for WVU? Wasn't he MIA for a while?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
Haven't heard anything new for a while, but I'm hoping to talk to Stewart tomorrow, so I'll be sure to ask him.
CHAD (Kansas City)
How much of a role do you see Isaiah Pead playing in Cincinnati's offensive scheme this year? As we saw in a few games last year he has the power and skill set to be a big asset to the offense. I just think he need more touches. Thanks
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
Saw him yesterday, and he looks great, like he's put on some muscle. Of course, Collaros can run, too, and the receivers are outstanding and the tight ends are underrated. So many weapons. I'm not sure how they're going to give everybody enough touches, but what a nice problem to have.
"Pitt has a good chance of knocking off the 'Canes at home" -- What are you drinking? -- After the loss by the Hurricanes in The Shoe (to OSU) there is no way Miami even lets Pitt get on the field --
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
OK, well if you can tell me what the Ohio State game has to do with Pitt, maybe I'll buy into your line of thinking. Didn't say Pitt would win, but the Panthers will be at home and will have a decent chance.
Do you think lack of toughness was an issue for Louisville under Kragthorpe? I believe that good conditioning prevents a lot of injuries, and that Louisville could have prevented numerous injuries the past few season's by proper conditioning gained in workouts and practice.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
That's so hard to quantify. I went to a couple conditioning sessions under Kragthorpe, and it sure looked to me like the guys were being worked hard. I think it was more an issue of talent, the past two years at least, and poor discipline and disorganization.
how did the rest of the BE look in your top 25?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Waaaaalllt! (Sorry, been watching too much "Lost" lately.) Anyway, glad you asked. It looked like this:12. Pitt16. Cincinnati21. West Virginia25. UConn
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Keep in mind that it's March 31 and I've only seen two Big East teams in person so far (three after today). So it's pretty much a stab in the dark
Frazer turned what corner???? He was horrible against South Carolina in the bowl game!
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Against a good defense. By turning a corner I meant he stopped making dumb throws that led to INTs. Look at the games he had against Cincinnati and Syracuse down the stretch. With their running game, UConn doesn't need him to throw for 300 yards.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
More than halfway through and we haven't talked about expansion yet. Let's see if we can get through a full chat without it.
Did WVU get any help on its Oline or Dline this offseason?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
The offensive line returns pretty much intact. The Mountaineers got a juco transfer on defense who should help right away. Name escapes me at the moment.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Bruce Irvin, defensive end.
I know you work BE Football, but how bout them Eers! Champions in 5 days!
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
Good for them. They saved the Big East in this tournament. Can't imagine too many Big East fans will be rooting for Duke on Saturday
now that kelly has left for greener pastures can we stop with all the nonsense about "cincinnati being the best team in ohio"?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
If this is something that really bothers you, just point to the BCS bowls this year for your argument.
I love what B. Kelly is doing at ND - instilling toughness and getting the Irish ready to play for 4 qtrs. Reallistically, how many W's do you see for the Irish in '10?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Don't all new staffs say they're working their guys harder than the old way? That said, I do think Kelly will install toughness and discipline, because he's done it everywhere he's been. Realistically, I think this is about an 8-win team if things go well.
Zach (Somerville, NJ)
last year's deciding game was Pitt vs Cincinatti. the year before that was Cincinatti vs West virginia the year before that was West virginia vs pitt (WV wins- they win the league and a spot in the title game ) 2006 was in my opinion WV vs RU. every game- a thriller. each team in it until the end.In your opinion, what is an early forecast for the de facto Big East Title Game- who should we expect to be in it?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
I still like Cincinnati-Pitt at the end of the year. I just think at least one will be involved in the title chase, if not both
Josh (New Orleans)
Given that the conference has typically been ruled by teams with the most effective QB since the realignment (WV in 2005 with White, L'ville in 2006 with Brohm, WV in 2007 with White and Cincinnati in 2009 with Pike; meaning 4 out of 5 conference champions have had the league's top QB that season) doesnt it bode well for Cincinnati to capture the conference crown again this season despite the coaching change and the questions on defense?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
You make some good points. I'd counter with 2008, when Cincinnati won with four QBs and nobody saw Pike coming, uh, down the pike. There are a lot of really talented but really young quarterbacks in this league, and it's hard to say who is definitely the best right now, though certainly Collaros has the inside edge.
Alan (Morgantown )
How do you think the BE stacks up against the ACC over all?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I think it's relatively even. Neither team has a dominant, definite national title contender. The ACC might be a bit stronger at the top with Virginia Tech, Miami and maybe Georgia Tech but if so, it's not by much. The games between the two leagues have been very close and mostly even the past couple of years.
Frazer only starts because he is a transfer for Notre Dame. Based on performance Endres should be the starter.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I see what you're saying, Jim, but the UConn coaches seem to feel Frazer runs the team better from a leadership standpoint.
Oops.. I read your blog all the time... I am just always at work for these things... sorry to ask about USF and the Big East expansion / dropping football... Keep up the great work
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
No worries, Rob. There just isn't much new on that topic and we've got actual spring football to talk about. Thanks for reading
Am I allowed to scream your name out loud if I run into you at the Louisville practice this afternoon?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
I'm pretty sure people would look at you like you're crazy
Do you think coach Jones will utilize any wildcat formations, and will Darren Williams be used more as a change of pace to Pead?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Haven't seen any evidence of that. With Collaros such a running threat there's really not much need.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I love that Alex from New Orleans is asking me baseball questions. Think you've got the wrong chat, Alex, but I do have a fantasy draft tonight.
Mike (Storrs, CT)
Is there going to better Offensive Line in the league this year than UConn's? I'm not well versed enough with what other teams have coming back, and wanted to know your thoughts. Where does UConn's OLine rank?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I'll say this: there isn't a line that's better coached in this league. The Huskies just keep getting it done, and I expect them to be very good again this year up front. I love Petrus and Hurd.
Hey Brian, nice work on the blog, I follow it with incessant interest. Anyway, this deals with the Sunseri-Bostick QB battle at Pitt. From what you've heard from coaches, what's the case for each of them to be the starter? Does either bring a unique strength the other doesn't?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
More and more, it looks like Sunseri's to lose. I don't think the coaches want to say that so they can keep Bostick motivated and Sunseri on his toes, but it sure seems that way to me at this point.
Brian,I know you spent some time at USF this past week. Alot of South Florida's hopes of the Big East title went out the window when our starting QB went down last year. Because of this, I would like to know how BJ's backups are looking during the Spring... you know, incase something (god forbid) happens to BJ.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
Well, Greg, you won't like the answer. It's a pair of walk-ons right now, and they don't look anywhere near ready to play. USF will rely on a true freshman who arrives in August to be Daniels' backup, though Evan Landi can always move over. Let's just say that Daniels better stay healthy.
Out of UConn's WR coming back who do you think will step up and put up Marcus Easley like numbers?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
It seems like Kashif Moore is the obvious choice to be the No. 1 guy, but Easley had a special year. Looking forward to checking the Huskies out in person next week.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
Pitt opens Labor Day weekend at Utah, not exactly a cupcake opener. Are we good enough at all other positions that we just need a game manager at QB? If not and if Sunseri wins the QB job, will he be ready for the speedy Utes? (thus this fan hopes it's Bostick). Last question: have you heard how good Utah will be / how much they have coming back?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
The running game is really solid, but I don't really like that game manager stuff. Especially with Baldwin out there. Somebody needs to get the ball deep. I haven't studied the Utes closely yet.
Mark (Ny, Ny)
If you're a college coach and you have to choose between Callaros and Savage to be your quarterback, who do you take?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Hate to sound like I'm ducking the question, but it really depends on what offense you run. Collaros is perfect for Butch Jones's system, which is a spread where the QB runs, while Savage fits in Greg Schiano's pro-style attack. Savage is the better pro prospect, by far, but that doesn't mean much in the college game.
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
OK, folks. I've got to jump off a little early so I can head over to Floyd Street and see those Louisville Cardinals. No expansion talk and not a single Natalie Portman reference for me. Must be some sort of record. Thanks for all the questions.