Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.
Illini Mike (Chicago)
Hey Adam, I noticed a lack of Illinois games you attended, planning any trips down to Champaign next season? Maybe 6-0 Illinois vs 5-1 Ohio St, see who gains an early lead in the Blue division? Michigan and Wisconsin should be rocking as well!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Mike, I'd be happy to make the trip down I-57, but Illinois needs to convince my editors that it's worth sending me. If the Illini start off strong this coming fall, I could make a trip or two to Champaign.
Jake PSU fan (stuck in Missouri)
Hey Adam, what are your thoughts on the starting QB position next year for Penn State. I think that Jones and Bolden both are the most talented QBs but Joe loves McGloin. I was a fan of Rob Bolden and will continue to be. I hope that he can win the starting job because he was really hurt by the total lack of a running game while he was starting. One of the reasons McGloin had success was because the run game actually started to produce after he took over.
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Jake, I'm very interested to see how Bolden attacks the competition from a mental standpoint. He wanted to leave Penn State after the bowl but was denied his release and now is back in school. How will he react to the first sign of adversity? He clearly handled himself well in the competition last summer, and I agree that from a talent standpoint, he might be Penn State's best option. But McGloin brings some good things to the table as well, and Jones showed some promise in the Blue-White Game last year. Should be very interesting to watch.
Is Dan Persa going to be a serious preseason Heisman consideration nationally, or is that a dream for us Northwestern fans? Also, will his injury be taken into account?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Sam, I think he'll be mentioned as a fringe candidate, but most folks want to see how he responds from the Achilles' injury. It's hard for a Northwestern player to get on the national radar, but Persa is a name many college football fans know after what he did this season.
Rhabdomyolysis has been linked in some occurrences to steroids and PED's. Could this be another episode of the PED problem in Iowa?? What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
It's way too early to speculate, John. We know Iowa is taking a very close look at its drug-testing program for student-athletes. These cases of rhabdomyolysis are usually related to extreme exercise, and similar cases with athletes elsewhere usually occur at the start of a training program. Again, we shouldn't speculate too much, but the fact that this occurred at the start of winter workouts after a bit of a layoff is important to remember.
If your Hope; Do you stick Rob Henry at QB from day one, or let a battle between Marve, TerBush, and Henry develop in the fall? I think Henry showed enough to warrant a starting gig.
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
I don't. Henry did a nice job and tried to play through pain, but Robert Marve should be the No. 1 QB if healthy. He brings the most to the table from a passing standpoint. While I don't think the job should simply be handed to Marve, I'd be surprised if he's not the starter as long as he recovers from the knee injury.
Is Hoke doing a good job so far? Seems like it. Not stacking up 5 stars but doing a solid job.
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
He's doing well so far in recruiting, despite taking over so late in the game. You have to wonder what he could have done if given a full two months to recruit like he should have.
Ted (Amarillo, TX)
Adam, it looks like Christian Ballard is really impressing people this week at the Senior Bowl practices and I just saw a live blog about today's practice and it looks like Stanzi is having a great day today. Any word from your people at Ladd Peebles?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Check the blog later for an update. The Scouts Inc. crew is all over Senior Bowl week.
Matt (St. Paul, MN)
This might come off as a little overly critical...but shouldn't the Big Ten blogger at least see all the teams in the conference he blogs about in person at least once? I see you didn't see three teams in the conference last year in person while seeing other teams multiple times.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Matt, that's a fair point, but a few things to remember. As I always tell you guys, I don't pick the games I attend. And typically, I go to the top game on the Big Ten docket in a given week. Going to see two 2-6 teams just for the sake of it while passing up a matchup of two league title contenders doesn't really make sense when you're writing for a national Web site. While I'd like to see every team in person, teams have to give us a good reason to attend their games.
Do you think the medical situation in Iowa City will "scare" recruits away from an Iowa program that seems to have trouble with the law and now even potential practice induced medical problems?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Good question, Ian. I think Iowa needs to get out in front of this story and start providing some official information because the more speculation mounts, the more it could discourage potential recruits.
Kevin Wilson (Btown)
Someone tell my boss that if we want to turn this thing around we need to trim the fat from the team and recruiting class...Can I do it?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Kevin, I don't advocate running players off and feel that scholarship offers should be honored. You will have time to shape the program with players you recruited, and I think you can improve the current product as well. I totally agree with you that Indiana needs a culture change, but it will take time to get things right. That's why they gave you such a long contract (side note: this isn't really Kevin Wilson).
Do you think that the spread offense that RichRod ran in Michigan contributed to the defensive woes? I know there are a lot of other factors but it seems that by not being able to practice against pro-style offenses throughout the season would hinder them even more. Defensive players were probably always keeping one eye on D-Rob. It seems that now that Michigan will go to a pro-style offense the players will be better prepared. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Rick, teams with spread offenses can struggle on defense simply because of the speed with which the offense plays and the potential time of possession issues it creates. But I don't think practicing against the spread rather than the pro-style hurts a defense. Michigan's problems related mostly to fundamental lapses as well as the 3-3-5 scheme, which I hear players absolutely hated by the end of the season.
Hey Adam,Are you going to have a lot more recruiting coverage in the next week or so leading up to National Signing Day?Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Drew, I'll post what I can, but it's important that you guys go first to our ESPN Recruiting page for coverage. My blog isn't recruiting based because there's so much news to cover with the existing players. So while I'll touch on recruiting from time to time, your best bet is to check out the ESPN Recruiting coverage.
What are the chances Bielema and co. land a big-time recruit (e.g. one of the Dywer players) on signing day?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
It's certainly possible, Drew. Although Ohio State and Nebraska appear to have the strongest recruiting classes, teams like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan all seem to be finishing strong and remain in the mix for some good players.
Lou (Rockville, MD)
It seems rumors of PSU's recruiting demise are greatly exaggerated. Why is everyone now acknowleging that there were only a few scholarships to go around? That was still the case when there were only 4 commits. Seems like the blogosphere wanted to use it to add another angle to the JoePa retirement "story."
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Lou, people often assume a small recruiting class automatically equals a bad one. I've noticed that seemingly average 25-man classes earn higher marks than 20-man classes that feature more top-level players. So I think the scholarship situation hurt Penn State's recruiting perception. The Lions also seem to be finishing the recruiting season with a nice burst.
Tim (Newark, NJ)
Adam did you ever decide how you're going to refer to Nebraska in the blog? I know you said you stick to calling Northwestern NU.
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
I'll address this in the coming weeks when Nebraska becomes part of the Big Ten blog coverage, but I want to honor fans' wishes. If Nebraska fans want to be called NU, I'll call them NU and we'll have two of them. What I won't do is change Northwestern's designation to accommodate Nebraska. The fans should decide how they want their teams to be labeled in the blog. I'm totally fine with two NUs.
IS there any chance Darius Willis will ever be able to stay healthy and live up to the hype surrounding him when the hoosiers landed him a few years back?
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
I hope so, Cam, because Willis has shown flashes of being something special for the Hoosiers. But you're right, he just can't seem to stay healthy. Indiana needs a running back to emerge this fall as it transitions to a new offense and a new starting QB. Willis' progress could be crucial for the Hoosiers.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
Adam: If I'm Big Ten Commish Jim D. why wouldn't I direct all my teams to clear out the first Saturday in November and put a challenge out to the SEC to fill those dates. Right now the SEC is playing a lot of Div II opponents in NOVEMBER, but are rarely called on this. 2) would Mike S of the SEC buckle under media pressure to travel his teams north for these match ups?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Bren, always good to hear from my hometown. ... I think you're overestimating how much power conference commissioners wield in scheduling. It's ultimately up to the schools to decide who they play out of conference, and the SEC schools, for the most part, have no interest in playing in the cold. I also don't think Delany can say much about soft scheduling after the Big Ten's pathetic Week 4 slate in 2010.
I can't believe this oversigning isn't a bigger issue throughout the country. The last few years it's been shown that Ohio State is the only team in the league with enough depth to persevere through injuries. If you add 5 more players to every reruiting class in the Big Ten, imagine how much extra edge that would give teams.
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Greg, I think the issue will attract more and more attention going forward. It's not simply five more recruits per class but a way to maneuver and get the best 85 scholarship players on the roster, even at the expense of running off some players. The Big Ten has enough disadvantages in recruiting, but this one could be remedied with stricter rules.
Erik (Kyle, Sd)
Hi Adam,As a devoted Michigan fan I was unhappy with the Hoke hire. I have to admit though that he is saying and doing all the right things at the moment. My question is two fold:1. What can we expect on the field next year?2. Can Hoke win recruiting battles against the likes of OSU, Nebraska, and PSU?Thank you!
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Erik, you have to admire his enthusiasm for the Michigan program. Hoke truly wants to make Michigan great again. Not sure coaches like Harbaugh and Miles truly had that same desire. ... 1) I think you can expect a team that shows flashes but is still trying to find itself in new offensive and defensive schemes. Michigan makes a bowl but probably loses 3-5 games. 2) Hoke will win those recruiting battles on a more consistent basis when Michigan starts beating those teams, especially Ohio State, on a more consistent basis. Simple as that.
John Williams (State College)
Hey Adam. I was just wondering when Big Ten primetime games will be announced. Can I expect Gameday to be coming up to Happy Valley for a primetime clash against Alabama? Will there be another primetime game in Beaver Stadium?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
John, I know the Big Ten wants to finalize these games as soon as possible. Typically, the primetime schedule isn't announced until April, but we could hear something before the end of February. There are a ton of good options this season in September and October (no November night games allowed).
Do you expect a significant drop-off going from Leshoure to Ford? Ford's not a burner, but he seems like a classic Big Ten power runner.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
That he is, Matt. The difference is Ford lacks the speed-power blend that Leshoure possessed. It's what made Leshoure such a unique running back and so successful pretty much every week. Ford boasts experience and should fare well on between the tackles runs, but Illinois needs to find someone with the home-run ability Leshoure showed.
One knock on OSU's recruiting class is no runningback, with that added into Boom sitting out the first 5 games and Brandon Saine leaving, do you see Jamaal Bery sticking it out and really showing up next season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Adam, I'm not overly concerned about the lack of a running back as Ohio State boasts several good options there. You have Boom Herron available for the Big Ten season, and we should see a good competition between Berry, Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Roderick Smith in the spring and summer. Smith is a guy who generated a lot of buzz with his performances in prebowl practices. Should be a really fun group to watch.
Just a quick quesiton, the Hawkeyes are losing tons of players, offense and defense, any way they can overcome that and still make a bowl after a disappointing season this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
Iowa has typically been most dangerous when it finds itself in this type of situation: under the radar, replacing a lot of starters, projected in the middle of the Big Ten. There are certainly holes to fill, but don't be surprised if Iowa ends up in the top half of the league by season's end.
Jason (Columbus, Ohio)
Adam, from a pure exposure and viewing audience point of view, do you expect the conference to get a greater pickup across the board this upcoming season with it being the first year of Neb and divisions?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Absolutely, Jason. First, you gain a large and passionate fan base from Nebraska. You also increase the number of must-see matchups. People will watch Nebraska-Michigan, Nebraska-Penn State, Nebraska-Ohio State, Nebraska-Iowa, Nebraska-Wisconsin, the list goes on. Those games appeal not just to Big Ten fans but college football fans. So yes, the exposure for the Big Ten will increase.
Rich (New York, NY)
If this was to be JoePa's last year, what would be the timetable for finding out internally and externally? Do you think Bradley has a realistic shot at becoming head coach? Do you see him fit for the role?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
Great question, Rich. You would hope Penn State could make the change after the regular season and conduct a full national search in early to mid December. But with JoePa, things could get complicated and drag out. While I'm a big Tom Bradley fan and think he'd be a good option for several head-coaching positions, I'd be surprised if he succeeds Paterno at Penn State. Think the Lions will look for a bigger name with head-coaching experience and ties to the region.
Stephanie (Denver, CO)
I know you say that the Big Ten needs to win a national championship (or multiple national championships) to get back in the media's favor. My question is, there doesn't seem to be the same vitriol against the Pac-12, ACC or Big 12 as there is against the Big Ten. Why don't those conferences need to win a title? Isn't that a lot to ask? Also, isn't the attacks just based on support size and trying to gain a reaction (from this large base)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Stephanie, this is a good observation. The reason those other leagues aren't held to the same standard, at least in my opinion, is because they generate less interest. In terms of interest, the Big Ten and the SEC tower above the other conferences, especially with Nebraska joining the Big Ten. It's easier to dismiss the Pac-10's 0-5 bowl performance or the ACC's constant BCS bowl flops because fewer people care about those leagues. When the Big Ten struggles, it's magnified because there's so much interest in this league.
How will Wisconsin be next year after losing a lot of starters?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Very interested to see, Jimmy. No Big Ten team loses more individual standouts than the Badgers. I'm not overly concerned about the offensive line, which will find a way to reload. Wisconsin will have to find some answers along the defensive line, and obviously the quarterback position looms large with Scott Tolzien departing. One of my big questions is how Chris Borland comes back after the shoulder issues. Will those injuries persist or can he get back to the form he showed in 2009?
JB (The ATL)
Mel Kiper Jr has Kirk Cousins as his #3 QB prospect in the 2012 class. Frankly, I don't see it. He is a solid Big Ten QB, but does not seem to have the measurables or escapability required to succeed at the next level (like Big Ben or Aaron Rodgers). Maybe a Jim Sorgi clipboard type?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Well, to be fair, Sorgi has forged a pretty good career for himself. I think Cousins has a lot of tools that project well to the next level. He plays in a pro-style offense, displays pretty good arm strength and has tremendous intelligence and knowledge of the game. He also showed tremendous toughness this past season. He's not as big as most NFL QBs and adding muscle mass should be a priority this offseason.
How much would a resurgence of the Wolverines help the B1G image? (Assuming Nebraska does well also)
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
It's huge, Jay, as I've been writing for years. Most leagues are at their strongest when the traditional powers are doing well. For the Big Ten, that means Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska. The Big Ten also benefits from what both Wisconsin and Iowa have done the last two decades and will be a stronger league if programs like Michigan State and Northwestern continue to make strides.
Adam, I have noticed other sites when talking about players to watch for next year, fail to include PSU RB Silas Redd. Based on his limited touches this year, I think he is going to be a beast for Penn State next year...1200 yards. Whaddya think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Not sure which sites you're referring to, and I'm also not sure what games their watching. Redd can be an absolute stud for Penn State if the Lions bolster their offensive line. He not only has tremendous north-south speed, but he moves laterally extremely well. He'll be pushed for the starting job next fall, which is a good thing, but I could definitely see a big 2011 season for Mr. Redd.
Bill (Plowville, PA)
Didn't PSU boast back to back #1 recruiting classes in the Big Ten in 09/10? Do you think we will start to see that come to fruition next season? I know a lot of Penn Staters are certainly hoping so.
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Bill, the 2010 class ranked as the Big Ten's best, but I don't know about the 2009 class. For Penn State, it's simple. If the Lions can get their offensive line and defensive line in order, they should once again contend for Big Ten titles. I like what the Lions have done with their O-line recruiting the last two years.
Ben (East Lansing)
Hey Adam, just throwing this one out there. What are the chances we see MSU running any Wildcat formations next season? Myself and others have fantasies of Keith Nichol and Keyshawn Martin in the backfield, either one ready to take the snap, run it, throw it, or do any number of crazy options such as the Nichol hand off to Martin, reverse to Fowler, reverse to Cousins, pass to Martin/Nichol...etc. Given Dantonio's panache for executing trickery in the clutch I would love to see him throw a few unexpected sets in to confuse/set-up the defenses. Viable possibility? or just dreams?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Ben, I'd love to see this, too, and Nichol and Martin would be the perfect pair to operate in the Wildcat on a more consistent basis. You saw a little Wildcat from Nichol in the 2009 Alamo Bowl. Will this come to fruition? Check back with me after Michigan State names its offensive coordiantor and I have a chance to visit with the new coach.
big m (st. louis, mo)
with iowa losing a lot of defensive talent, do u see the likes of christian kirksey, and/ or jim poggi, getting any significant roles or playing time for the hawkeyes this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
Linebacker is a position where Iowa must build some depth for 2011, so both of those guys could factor into the mix.
Any thoughts for us poor Gopher fans?
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
I really like your new coaching staff, and I'm especially interested to see how the offense fares this fall. There's a lot to learn, but I think MarQueis Gray could be a very good fit for what Jerry Kill likes to run. I'm also excited about what will be a more aggressive defense run by coordinator Tracy Claeys.
Drew (Las Vegas)
I know you must be sick of this question or ones like it but when do you fully take over nebraska, I have noticed a weaning off the big 12 blog after the season to yours
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
No specific date has been set, so all I can say is be patient. I know it's tough, but I'll let you know when something is official. Thanks!
Nick T (Omaha/NE)
Hey Adam, Which game do you find the most exciting for Nebraska next year? Border Rivalry with Iowa??
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Definitely, Nick. Can't wait for that one. Also excited for the Big Ten opener (Nebraska at Wisconsin) as well as the Ohio State trip to Lincoln the following week, which could mark the return of Terrelle Pryor and the other suspended Buckeyes.
Kelly (San Diego)
Do you believe that after the new TV deal (I think it's 2016 or something) is finished with whatever network(s), that will be Jim Delany's Swan Song? Or do you believe Delany will walk away after another round of expansions?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Delany has said he'll likely step down when he's around 65, but he still has some goals he'd like to achieve in this role.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Adam - Many people seem to think that Ohio State will still start undefeated, despite the "Buckeye Five" sitting out. I see Michigan State, or Colorado perhaps beating them. And the very 1st game that the 5 players will be back for is: Nebraska! Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
You're forgetting the game at Miami, which likely will be tougher than Colorado. Michigan State is a tough test, but it comes at home. The Nebraska trip is never easy, especially for some guys playing their first game of the season.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, time's up. Talk to you soon.