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 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.
I hear the Buckeyes like Jake Stoneburner as a tall and fast deep threat down the middle. Will he come off from the normal TE spot or line-up in the slot?
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
Joe, I really think Ohio State needs to feature Stoneburner more in the passing game. He's not your Jake Ballard, Rory Nicol type of tight end (no disrespect to those guys). And since the Buckeyes have only two proven wide receivers, you've got to use Stoneburner's ability. He was lining up mostly along the line when I saw them practice last week.
Mike (Iowa City)
will you be buying a time-share in iowa city this fall? Are Iowa fans going to see some of the most memorable games of the 2010 season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
Ha, I might! Great home schedule for Iowa, so I'm sure I'll be there a lot. I would caution Hawkeyes fans thinking they'll see the same type of drama they saw in 2009. Seasons like that don't come around every year. But we should see at least a few memorable contests featuring Iowa.
Mark (Holland, MI)
If Michigan surprises everyone and goes 9-3 this year, is Rich Rod safe no matter what?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
It's hard to say he's safe no matter what before seeing what the NCAA does in August, and if there's anything more to the West Virginia situation. I think it'd be hard to part ways if Michigan goes 9-3, but there are a lot of factors going on.
Tony (Iowa City)
Adam, not sure if you made it out this way for the spring practices, and I know Cpt. Kirk is usually pretty low-key on information about the team, but I was curious about your thoughts about Lb Jeff Tarpinian in next years scheme. Last year he seemed like a monster on special teams, but im curious if that will translate to in-game ability? Also, do you see ATL AJ Derby contributing early, and if so, where?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
Tony, Iowa is extremely low key about spring football info. That's why you haven't seen much coverage on the blog, but I will be going out there tomorrow, which is good. I don't think Kirk or Norm Parker are worried about Tarpinian or the linebackers. He should step in well. Might not be another Angerer, but Tarpinian is a solid player. My hunch on Derby is Iowa won't play him much this fall, unless there are some injuries at the skill spots.
Jonathan (Westerville, Ohio)
I have heard nothing but great things about Chris Fields coming out of Spring practice. Did you have a chance to see Fields play if or when you visited Columbus?
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
I did see him, Jonathan, and Ohio State is pleased with his progress this spring. The No. 3 wide receiver spot is far from locked up, and Fields should continue to push Taurian Washington. Duron Carter also should be in the mix when he returns.
Matt (Madison, WI)
Do you think the injury to Curt Phillips may end up being a positive thing for him? The staff seems pretty committed to Budmayr and Brennan seems to be a good fit for the offense. Do you think it could usher a needed position change to get Phillips on the field?
Adam Rittenberg (4:09 PM)
Matt, I'd never say a serious knee injury is a good thing for a player, as these guys work extremely hard all year round. But you might be right in that this could lead to a position change for Phillips, especially if Budmayr steps up in practice. I liked Budmayr's demeanor when I talked to him last spring, and he seems willing to learn from his mistakes. He's got a good arm, too. But Wisconsin could miss Phillips if Scott Tolzien goes down at all this fall.
Even thought he received an "extension", do you consider Minnesota's Tim Brewster a coach on the "hot seat?"
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
Yes, I do. Brewster still needs to show he can take Minnesota to the next level and compete for Big Ten championships, something he's spent a lot of time talking about. He's got to win trophy games and win in November, two things that haven't happened under his watch.
Is it safe to say that Chris Borland and Mike Taylor are the Badgers starting outside linebackers this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
I'd be very surprised if they weren't, Rob. Culmer St. Jean is the likely third starter, but I liked what I saw from Blake Sorensen when I was up in Madison last month. Sorensen graded out very well in the film session I attended. He'll be in the mix, too.
james (Iowa City)
what 3 teams do you think have the best receiving corps. going into the fall? Also top three quarterbacks?
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
Best groups of receivers/tight ends: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin.Top three quarterbacks: Tolzien, Cousins, Pryor/Stanzi
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
Not in that order, per se
lunkface (rocky mountains)
adam - is mcgloin really competing with Newsome? I find that hard to believe but that's what is coming out of State College...
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
He's definitely in the mix. It's hard for a lot of Penn State fans to believe, but unless Newsome really separates himself, McGloin has to be considered as a serious candidate. The coaches certainly see it that way.
Aces Malone (Jackson, MS)
Im hearing some good things about Michigan's defense, any player or players stick out in your mind when you visited Ann Arbor?
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
Aces, everyone was talking about Cam Gordon. Coaches and teammates love his move from WR to safety. J.T. Floyd got some praise while I was there, and I think Troy Woolfolk and Craig Roh will be real good this fall. On the offensive side, RB Michael Cox seems to have stepped up his game, and QB Denard Robinson has closed the gap with Tate Forcier.
Will MSU be able to rebound from the tumultuous end to last season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
You know, Tony, I think they will. Michigan State still has good team leaders in Kirk Cousins and Greg Jones, and that's important when you come off an ugly offseason. I really like what the Spartans have at the skill spots on both sides of the ball. The big questions are on both lines, especially the offensive front.
Dan (Springfield, OH)
Whats the latest on Tyler Moeller? I know he was held to non-contact in spring drills. Are the Buckeye coaches opptomistic that hell be able to fully participate come this fall. If so Ive heard theres a possiblity hell contend for a safety position
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
It all depends on Moeller getting medically cleared to play. The coaches were high on him at safety last spring, and he could have been a starter if not for the unfortunate incident. He'll definitely contend for major playing time at safety if he's cleared. Orhian Johnson also in the mix there with returning starter Jermale Hines.
Bryant (State College)
Hey Adam. Are you going to be in town for the Blue-White game next weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
I won't be Bryant, but I hope to get out to State College in the preseason and definitely during the fall. It's hard for some fans to understand, but the spring games really aren't that valuable for me. It's better for me to come in, talk to players and coaches individually, and hopefully watch a practice, too. I get a lot more out of that.
How do the IU coaches feel about their 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes? Are we a year away from a bowl game or can we get there this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
I was pretty surprised the other night when co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic said defensive ends Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush would make everyone forget about Kirlew and Middleton. That's very high praise. The coaches know Indiana is close, but that program never seems to get over the hump in close games. It could happen this fall.
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Cubs bullpen imploding ... again
John Cusack (Hollywood, CA)
Do you think Penn State fans can expect to see Brandon Ware on the field this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
It's possible, John, but he's still got a long way to go with his academics and his conditioning. Penn State has a couple of good defensive tackles in Ogbu and Still, but Ware could work into the mix if he cleans up his act.
Dan (Springfield, OH)
Come fall, who do you see being the 3rd starting LB for the Buckeyes? Sabino has been said to very impressive but Ive also heard that Sweat and Moeller have a possibility of competing for playing time there
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Sabino is definitely the guy right now, but the competition will continue. If Moeller plays, it'll likely be at safety, not linebacker. Ohio State has a bigger need there after losing Coleman and Russell.
Russell (Iowa City)
How do you think the Iowa RB's will out? Do you think there is a possibility of any incoming freshman to have an impact, such as Marcus Coker at RB or C.J. Fiedorowicz at TE? I know that is an area where after Reisner nobody knows what is going on.
Adam Rittenberg (4:25 PM)
I'd say there's a much stronger chance Fiedorowicz plays immediately than Coker. I think you'll see a nice rotation of Robinson, Wegher and Hampton, but if Hampton is healthy, I just get the feeling he'll end up as the featured guy for Iowa. That's a hunch more than anything else. We've got a long way to go with that competition.
Will Persa give Northwestern decent QB play?
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
He's definitely giving NU good leadership so far, Randy. The big question is whether he can become a consistent passer, as short passes drive NU's offense. He's probably the best running quarterback the Wildcats have had since Zak Kustok, but he has to make strides with his passing.
Steve (San Diego)
A question re expansion- why would the Big 10 take a team like Missouri from the Big 12 when it could have Nebraska or Oklahoma or someone who is a true "national brand"? What does Mizzou bring to the table? No one cares about them.
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
Let the record show 27 minutes passed without an expansion question. Must be a new record ... Steve, I don't think the Big Ten could get Oklahoma. Nebraska, on the other hand, is intriguing because it's a former national powerhouse in football. Missouri does help you a bit in new markets (St. Louis, KC), and the Tigers have the type of athletic program that could compete in the Big Ten. Is Mizzou a big splash? No. But aside from the football program -- and a good baseball team -- neither is Nebraska.
Chances of Purdue making a big splash in the conference this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
I felt a lot better about the Boilers before all these injuries started to crop up, but Purdue should still be OK. If Marve is as advertised, the offense should be strong, although the line must be rebuilt. Defensively, the front seven will be better, but the secondary has some major question marks. But I liked what I saw in Big Ten play last year, so Purdue is primed to take another step.
I know the Ill-NU game at Wrigley is almost set, and that NU really wants to use it to push season ticket sales (which are pretty weak). How much do you think this game can add to the Wildcats' season ticket holder number?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
Great question, Steve. It all depends on how Northwestern markets its season-ticket package. Northwestern doesn't want just a one-game splash, especially if it turns into a virtual Illinois home game. I've heard Northwestern is looking into some unique marketing strategies for the athletic department, as it tries to improve the lousy football attendance.
jp (my desk)
Does Devier Posey have the ability to be a big time #1 receiver this season?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
Absolutely, JP. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Posey earns first-team All-Big Ten honors this year. He's got NFL written all over him, and I saw his chemistry with Terrelle Pryor last week at practice. I'm predicting big things for Posey this fall.
Who is the best prospect coming out of the draft this year from the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga almost certainly will be the first pick from the Big Ten. I really like Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham and Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick. Both will be solid pros. And Illinois WR Arrelious Benn could be very good at the next level.
Do people discount Academics to much when the throw out a big 10 expansion target? People have to realize that the Big 10 is one of the top academic conferences in the country, in some studies only 2nd to the Ivy league
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
You're preaching to the choir, Tony. Way too many people dismiss the academics element here, throwing out schools that don't even appear in the US News rankings. Academics matter, and I'll say it again: the Big Ten can afford to be picky with this decision.
Chuck (Omaha, NE)
Adam, lifelong Hawkeye fan living in a sea of Red and love your blog! Been alot of talk about rebuilding the O-line at Iowa for next season, but I'm more concerned if Ricky S can make better decisions and limit pick 6's. Considering he will have new guys in front of him that is a big worry. What is your take on the chances Ricky will markedly improve in this area?
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
Stanzi got bailed out a lot last year, so it's now on him to make better decisions out there. Yes, the line will be new, but he's the experienced quarterback. He needs to review the tape from last year and see how he can limit those major mistakes. Iowa can't survive pick-sixes forever.
Joe (Kansas City)
Aside from football, Nebraska isn't a splash???? Aside from basketball, Duke isn't a splash... please. Nebraska, Oklahoma, etc. are college football...
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
That's true, Joe, but Lincoln, Neb., doesn't bring you a major TV market, and TV is driving this whole expansion push. It's the only reason schools like Rutgers and Connecticut are being considered, because they're located in more populated areas than Nebraska or Missouri.
Pat (trying to get to amsterdam)
Adam, I'm in Florence Italy and supposed fly to Amsterdam tomorrow morning but my flight is cancelled!! Got any advice??
Adam Rittenberg (4:39 PM)
I wish I did, Pat. Never been to Florence, or Italy, for that matter. I'd have some advice if you were stuck in Amsterdam, but this is a family show.
Connor Erickson (Duluth, MN)
Hey Adam. If you were Coach Brewster, who would you start at quarterback between the returning starter Adam Weber, Marquis Gray, or Moses Alipate? What are your predictions for the Gophers this year? Could they catch USC at the right time and the right location to get a key win?
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
If Weber is looking more comfortable in the pro-style offense, I'd go with him. He's still an excellent leader and boasts more experience than almost any FBS quarterback in the country. Now if Gray and Weber are truly equal, I might go with Gray because he has more upside as a runner. ... It would take a pretty strong defensive performance to beat USC, but Minnesota certainly will benefit from having the game at home.
When you say Denard has closed the gap, do u think it'll be enough to top Forcier for the starting job. Who is more likely to start from the perspective you got when visiting ann arbor? How well do you expect the wolverines to do this year. (wins-losses)
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
I got the sense that Denard has become more consistent as a passer, but he still has some things to tighten up. One U-M assistant told me his hip still flies out on some throws, which they're trying to correct. Rich Rodriguez is certainly challenging Tate Forcier, talking a lot about his maturity and how to conduct himself, but Forcier should be held to a higher standard after starting all of last year. Right now, Forcier would start, but if Robinson continues to make progress this summer, it wouldn't surprise me to see him get the job.
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
Samardzija is in for the Cubs. This could be a long inning.
If Jim Delaney comes out and says the Big Ten is not expanding, would people come out and kill the Big Ten (even more)? It's expanding, so this is a pointless question.
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
It's not pointless until an announcement is made, and while most signs point toward expansion, these things can always fall apart because they're so complex. From the beginning, I told fans to be open to the possibility that no expansion will occur. But you're right, there would be outrage anyway if nothing happens.
Drew (New York )
Hey Adam, did you know that the video interviews you did with JJ Watt, Scotty Tolzien and Jay Valai don't work properly on your blog? I missed them while out of the country but would still love to see them! What are two are three things you think John Clay needs to accomplish on the field this fall to get an invite to New York in December (and not including staying healthy)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:48 PM)
That's funny, Drew, because I just called up the Watt video and it works fine on my screen. I'll let our tech people know, but all three videos worked fine for me. ... I think Clay needs a huge game against an elite defense or two. Iowa and Ohio State are the two obvious games where he needs to step up. He also needs some long, highlight-reel type runs, preferably where he trucks five or six defenders on his way to the end zone. Those always help in the Heisman race.
Carl (Newport Beach)
The rest of the country would much rather watch Nebraska v. Ohio State than Illinois v. Rutgers... even in New Jersey. Nebraska (and OU too) is a national brand and brings tvs from all over... Adam, you're out to lunch on this one.
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
I might be, Carl! And that's why I'm not making the decision here. You can bet Jim Delany and his staff will consider Nebraska's appeal as a football program, which I believe is very strong. Now is NU a fit in all the other elements (athletic department, academic reputation, TV market)? They'll take a look at all that stuff, too. Nebraska would be a fabulous addition in football, no doubt.
Do you think JoePa will win another MNC before packing it in? The Lions are loaded with young talent and maybe a year away from making a run at it.
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
It's a good point, Bob. Next year could be The Year for Penn State, and it could be Joe's final run at a title. He was very close in 2008, and you have to wonder how many more legit chances he'll get before he hangs it up.
Dave (New York)
Do you and other Big 10 writers prefer UConn or Rutgers because you are fearful Nebraska, Oklahoma or anyone else would dominate the league? At least in football... splash!
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
Uh, no. I actually wrote last year that Missouri would be the best fit for the Big Ten. I want a school that can compete in football right now. And I have no major objection to Nebraska. If the Big Ten could get Oklahoma, it should make it happen. But I don't think OU would leave the Big 12 as easily as Nebraska or Missouri would.
It looks like it's going to rain on April 24, but if Ohio State gets 96,000 or something, will people criticize Buckeye fans for having no lives and going to the Spring Game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:54 PM)
Probably. And how do you know it'll rain on April 24? You might have a career as a weather man. That's a week and a half away!
Adam, do Big Ten AD's remotely consider their student athletes that don't play football and the thought that some sports bus? I mean, bus from Iowa to New Jersey is somewhat farther than Iowa to State College (as of now). Don't bring up Syracuse or UConn.
Adam Rittenberg (4:56 PM)
Good point, Oliver. They certainly consider it, but they also consider that they'll likely have to cut sports if they don't find new revenue streams. So if adding Rutgers or UConn brings in major $$$, they'll likely do it to avoid cutting sports. People need to realize how expensive it is for schools to have 25 or more varsity sports. This isn't the SEC, which only has 17 or 18.
Is this the most talented Northwestern team since RW's death?
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
The 2008 team was pretty talented, but NU has recruited well the last few years. This is still a pretty young team, so I don't have extremely high expectations. The 2011 squad should be very good, though.
How many teams join the Big10? 1, 3, or 5?
Adam Rittenberg (4:59 PM)
It'll be 1 if it's Notre Dame and more if it's not. Almost everyone I've talked to this spring around the league thinks it'll be multiple teams.
Adam Rittenberg (5:00 PM)
Well, Derrek Lee just got tossed. That's my cue to get out of here before I get in real trouble. Enjoyed the chat. Let's do it again next week!