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. Been a while since our last chat, so let's get to it!
Dustin (Colorado Springs)
Iowa should be ok on the offensive side of the ball with Vandenberg and Coker filling holes, but defensively how do you feel they will fill in with such key losses on the D-Line, Safeties and will they get better in the Linebacker core?
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Dustin, the safety spot concerns me most with Iowa. Both Greenwood and Sash were multiyear starters and playmakers. They'll be tough to replace. If Tyler Nielsen can finally stay healthy, I think Iowa will be fine at two of the three LB spots. As for the D-line, the Hawkeyes need a much better season from Broderick Binns. Mike Daniels is a great player to build around, though.
Nate K (Orange Park, FL)
Adam, what kind of chance would you give Ohio St. to beat Nebraska this season? That game will be the 1st one with all the players and their coach back. Thank you and Go Big Red!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Nate, it's so hard to say right now without seeing both teams play. You'd expect Ohio State will have an adjustment period as Pryor and the others return to the game field for the first time since the Sugar Bowl. I felt all along that adjustment would be much easier against Michigan State at home vs. Nebraska on the road. Pryor will need to be a big-game QB in Lincoln for Ohio State to come out of there with a win. Nebraska will be extremely tough to beat.
What does the landscape of Illini football look like for the next few years?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Milton, the program definitely took a step forward last fall, but the challenge is to keep it going. Illinois really struggles to string together two good seasons in a row. The Illini lose three standout juniors in Liuget, Leshoure and Martez Wilson, but I love the potential from Nathan Scheelhaase at QB. If Vic Koenning can work his magic on defense once again, Illinois should be in good shape to make another bowl. The schedule is a lot more favorable this year, especially early on with so many home games.
Les (Erie, PA)
Adam, do you know what spring games you will attend this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Les, I will be making quite a few visits to Big Ten schools during practices, but no spring games. For what I need when I'm on campus (video interviews, sit-down interviews, etc.), it's a lot easier to go during a regular practice than the spring games. Spring games are more for the fans than the media, so you should enjoy them!
Dustin (Colorado Springs)
Very interested in the coaching changes this year, who do you see making the biggest impact their first year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
From a head-coaching level, I think you'll see a significant impact from Brady Hoke at Michigan. I don't think the Wolverines are too far away from turning a corner, despite their defensive woes. I also think you'll see an impact at Indiana and Minnesota, but both of those programs have to upgrade their personnel. From a coordinator standpoint, I'm excited to see Greg Mattison at Michigan, Tim Beck at Nebraska and Chris Ash at Wisconsin.
Chris M (Omaha, NE)
What current Big Ten coach could most easily sustain a very poor (4-8 or so) season record without being fired? Essentially, who is the coach with the "coldest seat"?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern is about as safe as you can possibly get, although it's important for him to maintain some momentum. First-year coaches won't get launched with a 4-8 performance. I couldn't see Michigan State dumping Dantonio, Wisconsin dumping Bielema or Nebraska dumping Pelini. And despite Iowa's recent issues, Ferentz is very safe in his job.
Doesn't Tressel's having to self suspensed himself for 5 games indicate the a lack of understanding of the serious of the issue by the OSU Athletic Department?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
It could be, Marc. It indicates a misunderstanding of perception and how that laughable news conference would be received nationally. When you really look into what Tressel did, you realize the seriousness of the matter. A two-game suspension against MAC teams wouldn't cut it. Ohio State should have come out stronger from the beginning.
Does Danny Hope need to make a bowl game this year? Ton of injuries last year, but hardly any Big Ten coach can survive 3 straight years with no bowl.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
If Purdue has a relatively healthy roster and Hope doesn't show progress, he could be in some trouble. There were concerns when he came about whether he could get it done at the Big Ten level, and so far his track record is incomplete. So yes, it's a big year for Hope and Purdue. AD Morgan Burke still has strong support for Hope, but he has acknowledged some of the frustration outside the program, and there seems to be a lack of buzz surrounding the Boilers that needs to change.
Let's assume the NCAA vacates OSU's wins from last season. Would they also vacate the Sugar Bowl win? Seems to me the NCAA on its own allowed ineligible players to play in that game and that the result should therefore count.
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Jim, that's an excellent question! I would guess all wins would be vacated, but you bring up a great point about the Sugar Bowl. The NCAA knew the players' situations at that point, although they didn't know about Tressel's prior knowledge. Vacating wins stings the program, but I've always seen it more as a symbolic punishment. If the NCAA wants to hurt Tressel, it should hit him with recruiting penalties.
Was there any new information that came out of the rhabdo report today?
Adam Rittenberg (12:15 PM)
Not particularly, Alex. There were a few revelations about no link between rhabdo-drugs/supplements and the players' parents criticizing Iowa's football staff for poor communication, but basically the report confirmed that the workout caused the rhabdo. It also pretty much absolved the strength coaches of major fault stating they weren't trying to punish the players.
Depressed Buckeye (Carmel, IN)
Adam, with all of the negativity surrounding OSU ... can you givs us Buckeye fans ANY good news to lift our spirits? It seems like one bad thing after another ... ANYTHING?!?!
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
It has been a rough stretch, no doubt. The two things I'd point out are that Tressel has a very good staff of assistant coaches, not necessarily big names but guys like Jim Heacock who can flat out coach and get it done year after year. The other thing is the talent level, which is still better than almost any Big Ten team even with the Tat 5 on the sideline. Ohio State has the talent to survive this. Whether the Buckeyes have the leadership and the mental toughness remains to be seen.
Chad (Chicago, IL)
Adam -- any word on how Northwestern plans to use Kain Colter this year in the offense? He seemed to bring a spark, and it'd be great to see him AND Persa on the field in a true "Wildcat" formation....
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Chad, you could definitely see Persa and Colter on the field together. The coaches see Colter as a guy who needs to have the ball one way or another. He won't be spending too much time on the sideline. It's important, though, for Northwestern to identify its top reserve QBs in case Persa goes down again. The team can't fall apart like it did without Persa, and Colter seemingly provided a bigger lift than Evan Watkins late last season.
Was it me or is Stefen Wisniewski not on your draft board? Did something happen to where he is not projected to get drafted or was he just left off the list? Also who is PSU's next Wisniewski? We both know we need one, two, or five more of him to win the B1G.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
David, I can check with the Scouts guys, but he wasn't on their offensive board I posted earlier today. He should still be drafted in the middle rounds in April, most likely. Penn State certainly will miss Wisniewski up front this fall. John Urschel looks like the guy who will step in, but Penn State could use a big preseason from Johnnie Troutman as well.
Tyler (Eden Prairie, MN)
Who wins in a race, Taylor Martinez or Denard Robinson?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Hard to pick against Shoelace, but I'd love to see it!
How do you think a 9 Game conference schedule affecting Big Ten Teams out of conference games? Do you think teams would be more likely or less likely to schedule big time out of conference games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Really good question, Steve. I tend to think teams would be less likely to schedule big-time non-con games, but you've already seen an upgrade in scheduling throughout the Big Ten in recent years. Teams like Michigan State are beefing up their schedules. You also have rivalry games like Notre Dame (Michigan, MSU, Purdue) and Iowa State (Iowa) that people want to maintain. The Pac-10 has done an admirable job of scheduling tough non-con games despite a 9-game league slate. The flip side, though, is fewer years with two Pac-10 squads in BCS bowls.
How good can Wisconsin be if they have decent quarterback play? They return quite a few playmakers on offense, and have lost Watt on defense, but they do get Borland back this year.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Borland's return will be big for Wisconsin as it can't expect the same type of production from the defensive end spot. The Badgers really need Borland's shoulder to hold up. But you're right about the QB play. Scott Tolzien showed how important a consistent passing game can be to that offense. I spoke with Jon Budmayr yesterday and he mentioned that while he's a different QB than Tolzien and will take more shots down the field, he understands the importance of consistency and efficiency in the Wisconsin offense. He learned behind one of the best in Scott T.
Paul (Husker in Houston)
How will Lavonte David adapt to the more physical nature of Big 10 football as an undersized linebacker?
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Paul, I think David will be fine. I look at the way TCU's defenders performed against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and see a blueprint for Nebraska. Despite being a bit undersized, the Horned Frogs held their own and limited the damage from one of the nation's most powerful offenses. David also has added a bit of size during the offseason. If he can get in the 215-225 range, he should be fine.
Which game will have more media hype this fall and potentially be the featured College Game Day location? Nebraska's first Big Ten game at Wisconsin or Ohio State coming to Nebraska with all their players and coach back?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
The Ohio State-Nebraska game will have more hype, no doubt, but Nebraska's Big Ten debut against Wisconsin isn't small potatoes, either. Both games likely will be at night, and you could see "GameDay" at both locations.
Johnny Rotten (Bangkok)
Adam, I'm not gonna make it to spring ball this year, but I heard the Coach Kill is making all of his practices open to the public. Will you be making it to Minnesota this year? (since you did NOT make it last spring).
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Ha, good memory, Johnny. Yes, the plan is to make it up to the Twin Cities this spring. Excited about it.
Brutus (C Bus)
Any concern up North about Robinson's performance against the Big 10 elite last season? He put up huge numbers against MAC teams (and ND) but his numbers dropped across the board when he played real defenses. Add in a new offensive game plan, its not a stretch to think his numbers don't reach the lofty ones he had last year, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
It's hard to imagine Denard Robinson putting up the same numbers as he did in 2010, but I wouldn't be too sure about a significant drop-off. Michigan's offense will be different, but Al Borges knows what Robinson can do on the move and will try to use him in that capacity. Michigan also brings back a solid O-line and a very good group of wide receivers. The biggest key with Michigan is the running back position. The Wolverines need to take some of the rushing load off of Robinson. This will keep him in games longer and keep him fresher.
PSUJosh (Galesburg, IL)
How do PSU defensive front seven will do this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
The linebacker group should be very good, especially if guys like Mauti and Hodges stay healthy. The D-line, quite frankly, is a question mark. I like the way Devon Still finished the season, but Penn State needs more from the defensive end spot. Is this finally the year where Brandon Ware emerges? The potential is there, no doubt, but coach Larry Johnson must bring together that group and get more production.
James Gatz (The Green Light across the Lake)
MarQueis Gray is a transcendent athlete. He can truck LBs and outrun almost everyone. What do you think his ceiling is in Coach Kill's run heavy scheme?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
James, I'm glad Gray will have more than one year in the system because he could be VERY good toward the end of this season and especially in 2012. There will be an adjustment period for him and the rest of the offense, but after watching what Chandler Harnish did under Kill at Northern Illinois, Gray could be a very dangerous player once he gets used to the offense.
Craig (BG - Ohio)
Adam, Thank God your back I was becoming dangerously productive at work! Anyways, what is your opinion on the article you posted about the possibility of Urban taking over for the fest in 2012?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Ha, Craig, I'm sure your boss feels differently. ... Given some of the coaching changes we've seen recently, anything is possible in college football. Without knowing how hard the NCAA comes down on Tressel, it's tough to project his future. But I've said all along that I don't think he'll be coaching Ohio State that much longer. And when that job comes open, there will be tremendous interest from some of the nation's top names. Meyer is one of many great coaches who have roots in Ohio.
Brutus (C Bus)
Etienne Sabino: is he a break-out star for the Buckeyes? 5 star highly touted, but has not really had a chance to live up to the hype yet.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
He's had a weird career, Brutus. When I was in C-Bus last spring, he seemed like a shoo-in for a starting job. Then things changed in the preseason and he nearly played after Homan's injury. I know this: Ohio State could use a big season from Sabino as it must replace two starting LBs.
Matt (The Interweb)
Any chance of seeing you on the Big XII blog this summer and enacting some revenge for Ubben's lame stunts against the Husker fans?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
You might see me on the Big 12 blog, but I'm going to be the better man and rise above Ubben's lame shenanigans.
Nick (Iowa City)
Who do you see stepping up for the Hawkeyes at SS and FS? I have see reports of Jordan Bernstein or even Micah Hyde switching into that role.
Adam Rittenberg (12:42 PM)
Nick, it makes sense for Iowa to shift one of those two over to safety, given their game experience. Prater gives Iowa some insurance at the CB spot since he can cover an opponent's top WR. Hyde is a big-time playmaker who could work well at safety. Same goes for Bernstine.
Does Missouri's bowl loss to Iowa and Baylor's (surprising) bowl loss to Illinois not bode well for Nebraska, being the only Big 12-esque team in the league?
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Not necessarily, Alex. The Huskers took Oklahoma down to the wire in the Big 12 championship game and the Sooners were pretty darn good. There will be an adjustment for Nebraska, especially on the offensive side, but the foundation of that program is a lot like several Big Ten teams and ultimately, Nebraska should fit in well.
Adam: Stephfon Green seems to have some durability issues. Can you see Silas Redd emerging as the number one RB in Happy Valley this season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
I can, J.B. I'd actually be a bit surprised if Redd isn't Penn State's No. 1 back heading into the fall. Green has shown bursts of his potential, but Redd seemed to surpass him last season.
Adam, regarding the poor communication at Iowa during the Rhabdo incident. You point out that parents were mad at the Iowa staff for it, but the players did not notify anyone of any symptoms until one had high blood pressure and was diagnosed. Doesn't the blame for poor communication involve the players as well?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Absolutely, IowaFan. The players need to communicate better, especially when these symptoms can lead to a serious condition like rhabdo. But the overall communication -- players to trainers/coaches, coaches to parents, school to media -- was pretty lousy throughout this whole incident. My hope going forward is that Iowa's athletic trainers and doctors have more say over what type of workouts are conducted and when.
Alex (GR, MI)
If there is one sleeper (ie not Wisc, OSU, MSU, Nebraska) to win the Big 10 title this upcoming year, who is it?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Penn State definitely could be a sleeper, Alex. The Lions need to figure things out at QB but return more experience there. If they can improve on both lines, they should contend in the Leaders division. Northwestern feels like this could be The Year, and the Wildcats will return one of the league's best offenses. The big questions in Evanston are on the defensive side, as I see a unit with limited talent.
Do you think Tressel's 5 game suspension is a joke? He will still be conducting practices, meetings, game planning, etc. If it's a true suspension, he should be held with no contact. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
I agree, Sam, and colleague Ivan Maisel pointed this out in a column last week. Although Tressel's game-management skills shouldn't be overlooked or underplayed, his involvement in week-to-week game plans won't be affected unless the NCAA steps in.
You can add media to the public. Probably the one of the worst cases of the media making things up and blaming everyone that the school and coaches did not drop everything to get them answers that in many cases they were not entitled to due to privacy issues.
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
It's easy to blame the media and Iowa fans seem to love doing so (and in this case, they might be justified). But Kirk Ferentz should have addressed the media earlier than he did, if only to provide important background information about this particular workout and explain why he didn't immediately return to Iowa City. Parents were upset. 13 players were in the hospital. It's a big story.
If Nebraska makes it to the Big Ten championship game will they have an advantage over the Leaders division since they've played in two consecutive championship games....or do you think that will be a non-factor.
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Interesting point, Jerome. Nebraska is the only Big Ten squad that knows what it's like to compete in a conference title game. Although some coaches in the league have experienced one, like Wisconsin's Bret Bielema (former K-State defensive coordinator), the Nebraska players will have a bit of an advantage. I don't think it's a decisive edge, but it's worth nothing.
Will playing a December championship game from now on help put the B1G in a prime position to put a team in the title game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Alex, a lot of folks think a championship game will work against the Big Ten reaching the national title game. The Big Ten has had little trouble getting teams into the national title game or into BCS bowls without a conference championship game. A league title game guarantees one more loss for one of the league's elite teams, a loss that could knock that team out of the national championship game.
Chris (Lincoln, NE)
What Big Ten non-conference game are you most looking forward to in 2011?
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
It's a close call between Alabama-Penn State and Notre Dame-Michigan under the lights in the Big House. There are some other intriguing contests, but those two top my list.
Eric (East Lansing)
Adam, You were critical of Dantonio's handling of the Rucker situation this fall... Do you feel he needs to come down hard on the recent transgressions in Aspen or are the two unrelated?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
My issue with Dantonio was allowing a player to come out of jail and immediately reinstate him for a game. We'll have to see how the Linthicum/Bullough situation plays out legally, but I'm interested to see if there are any playing-time penalties for those two.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
How about a blog topic where you cover the best places for visiting fans to go and things to do in each Big 10 town? As a Husker fan new to all things Big and 10, I'd like to know about the goings on and hot spots on game day in the event I travel there some day.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Homer, this is a great idea, and one I'll be sure and do in May or June, when news is at a minimum and we'll all be itching for the fall to get here.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Great chat today! Talk to you next week.