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 4 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Hello and welcome to another Big East/Notre Dame football chat. I'm here for the whole hour, so fire away with your best questions.
Hey Brian, Do you think the Big East will be as bad this season as last season? Or do you see a couple teams stepping up and being contenders across the country
Brian Bennett (4:02 PM)
I don't know that there will be any national title contenders, unless West Virginia or South Florida gets on a huge roll. But I do think the league will be better overall. Older quarterbacks will help.
Keith (Martinsburg, WV)
I have heard alot about chemistry issues with the WVU coaching staff this year, but I just don't see it. Stewart won't have a impact on offense nor defense. I think it will be awkward but if WVU stuggles next year I don't think that it will be due to chemistry. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:04 PM)
This type of arrangement is pretty much unprecedented, so who knows how it will work out. Why do you say Stewart will have no impact? Who makes the calls when it's fourth and one? Which coaches do the players listen to? It might work out fine, but it's still awkward and potentially troublesome, especially if there are some losses early.
In the mailbag today you had BJ Daniels 5th on the list for potential player of the year.. Just curious to hear your perspective as to why you think he's a candidate for player of the year. Are you thinking he's going to silence the critics?
Brian Bennett (4:06 PM)
We all know he's got plenty of athleticism and potential. He should be on a good team that contends. And if he can play like he did in the Meineke Car Care Bowl all season, he'll be in the discussion for postseason awards.
Brian, with the depth at the QB position at ND, do you think Brian Kelly will redshirt his prototypical QB in Everett Golson or do you see him and Hendrix battling for the next 4 years?
Brian Bennett (4:08 PM)
Based on what Kelly said before the spring, I think he could have some packages for running quarterbacks that either Golson and Hendrix can run. It all depends, though, on Dayne Crist. If he's healthy and playing well, then there's little reason for Golson to play this year.
Conner (Louisville, Ky)
What's your opinion on the whole DaMarcus Smith situation? I feel like he was surprised when Coach Strong got a commitment and signing from Bridgewater, and made the mistake of listening to the wrong people whispering in his ears. He's an 18 year old kid who made a mistake. I understand that O'Leary wants to send a message to recruits, but I don't really feel the whole LOI situation is a fair one to begin with.
Brian Bennett (4:10 PM)
I agree with most of what you say. The LOI is weighted heavily against players, but the bottom line is Smith and his family signed it. UCF is under no obligation to let him out of it.
Daniel (Belle, WV)
Yo, BB. Love the blog. Since you did the Cincinnati workout, I'd also like to see you run Law School Hill at WVU. With a parachute. Repeatedly. Go for it!!
Brian Bennett (4:11 PM)
I'd probably fare much better at that than I would in any weight room. Running I can handle. Ran a 10-mile race on Saturday.
How about a shout out for Eric LeGrand getting released from Kessler Rehab today? A tribute to his will and courage, as well as some tremendous medical care he received.
Brian Bennett (4:12 PM)
Posted it on the blog a little while ago. Great news for him and his family. Let's hope he keeps making progress.
Bill (New Haven, CT)
Hi Brian - how do you thik the coaching change at UConn will affect the Huskies? People here (CT) love Paulie - he's a native - but I'm not sure if he's still got all that Randy Edsall took to Maryland.
Brian Bennett (4:14 PM)
The guy can still coach. Randy Edsall's best season was 8-5. The hope is he can recruit top-notch athletes and get to an even higher level. We shall see.
Re: Your odds on the player of the year award - With how many guys come out of the blue in college football, and especially the Big East, I'd take the field every time.
Brian Bennett (4:15 PM)
Probably a smart bet. No one would have had Dion Lewis two years ago, though Jordan Todman certainly would have been on the board last preseason.
Brian- have you gone to any ND practices yet this spring? Any noticeable differences from last year you can comment on?
Brian Bennett (4:16 PM)
Not yet. Probably heading that way this weekend. But the media doesn't get to see a whole lot of practice anyway.
Hey Brian, i like Cincy's chances of winning the BE they get everyone back on defense let alone how horrible they were last year but they're a year more experienced they got the Zack attack and the Peadster back and that should translate to a BE title
Brian Bennett (4:18 PM)
I like your optimism, but I think there are probably a few too many issues to overcome -- offensive line, linebacker depth, overall talent on defense. This league is wide-open enough for anybody to win it, but I wouldn't make Cincinnati one of the favorites by any stretch.
I hear Geno, Pead, Collaros, Daniels, etc in POY talk, but no comment on Tavon Austin. I hear Holgy throws it a little bit, if Austin can have an 85 catch 1,200 yard type of season (very possible, look at Blackmon at Ok St.) what are his chances?
Brian Bennett (4:20 PM)
Entirely possible, but smarter bets go to running backs and quarterbacks for those types of awards. Unless you're Larry Fitzgerald, it's hard to win it as a receiver since you're so dependent on others to put up stats.
A lot of recent focus has been on Notre Dame's depth at running back. Should we also be worried about receiver position, given the uncertainty about Floyd's return? And is that why one of the two new walk-ons is a receiver?
Brian Bennett (4:22 PM)
Depth isn't all that bad at receiver. Problem is there isn't an established big-time playmaker like Floyd yet. If he were still there, then maybe Riddick goes to the backfield to help that depth problem. But now the Irish can't afford to move him.
Should making the O-line amazing be the Scarlet Knight's number 1 priority?
Brian Bennett (4:23 PM)
Making it mediocre is job No. 1. Mediocre is a long way up from last year.
Would the BCS cutting ties with the Fiesta Bowl affect the Big East in any way, since we seem to have send our champs there every year?
Brian Bennett (4:24 PM)
Every year? Big East teams went there in '04, '08 and '11. Don't think it will have any effect. But I wonder how much of UConn's ticket money went into strippers' G-strings
Mike (Storrs, CT)
Mike Ryan, Mo Petrus, Ryan Griffin, Jesse Joseph, Kendall Reyes, Sio Moore, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Nick Williams, and Dave Teggart are All Conference caliber players. If we only had known commodities at RB & QB we'd be the runaway favorite. Can you imagine if Endres and Todman came back for their final seasons?
Brian Bennett (4:27 PM)
I don't know about runaway favorites ... this is a team that finished 8-5 last year and won a lot of close games. But a quarterback and running back would certainly improve the outlook.
Tim (Durham, NC)
How is the QB competition at Pitt playing out so far? Is it a true competition or has Sunseri already won the job and if so how short will his leash be?
Brian Bennett (4:28 PM)
Sunseri clearly has the edge because of his experience. Mark Myers has been impressive by all accounts, though.
With ND's great job recruiting on D-line, is it ok to think that any of those freshmen will start or switch in? Or will they come in when ND has a comfortable lead?
Brian Bennett (4:30 PM)
Aaron Lynch probably has the best chance of cracking the two-deep, since he enrolled in January and is very physically developed. The rest will probably have a slower time early on.
Brian - Do you have any update regarding Nova's move up or potential invites to others including UCF/Houston/ECU?
Brian Bennett (4:31 PM)
Everyone is still waiting on Villanova. Official decision/announcement is still scheduled for April 12.
Drew (Touchdown City, WV)
What is the general mood like at Mountaineer Field for the first day of spring practice with the new coaches in town? Has Bill Stewart's role changed since last year's spring practice? Has Coach Bedenbaugh ripped any player's arms off yet? The guy just has intensity written all over his face.
Brian Bennett (4:32 PM)
Can't say because I wasn't there. But I will be next week. I'll let you know what I see.
Brian--speaking of Michael Floyd, have you heard anything about the length of his suspension, # of games expected to miss, etc.? Is there any chance he doesn't play at all in 2011? Thanks for your comments and all your good work.
Brian Bennett (4:34 PM)
It's mostly out of Brian Kelly's hands at this point. The school's Office of Residence Life will have to decide on a punishment. And then Kelly can add his own if appropriate.
Ted (Dayton, OH)
Glad to see you spent some time with Derek Wolfe. Honestly I think he might be the best Bearcat football player offensively or defensively. It just gets lost in the shuffle sometimes because of some awful play behind him. Your thoughts on Wolfe?
Brian Bennett (4:36 PM)
Might be one of the most underrated players in the Big East. He was an iron man last year. Needs more help to get noticed.
Rich (New York, NY)
The o-line situation at Rutgers is even more frustrating to me because I think the skill positions (especially WR, as you've discussed) are loaded and amongst the most talented in the Big East. Even at RB, with Huggins, Deering and Hayward, I can't help but be excited about the skill players. Is it overly-optimistic of me to think that if the line is even mediocre, Rutgers could do more than simply get back to a bowl game this year?
Brian Bennett (4:38 PM)
I'll say this: There's plenty of talent on hand. The roster is a little young. I like Civil and Lowery on the O-line and think they can help. The pro style offense seems like a better fit. This is a team that can make some noise, but a lot of things have to come together.
With WVU needing to replace Chris Nield at NT, is there any buzz with the Jnew JC transfer Shaq Rowell?
Brian Bennett (4:40 PM)
I haven't heard any. Bill Stewart didn't mention him in my interview with him, and it seemed like he mentioned just about every other player on the roster
I expect antwon bailey, rb from Syracuse ,to have a big year. Surprised that he is not receiving more attention.
Brian Bennett (4:41 PM)
He'll definitely get the opportunity to be the No. 1 back, replacing Delone Carter. Let's see if he can be an every down guy. He's been more of a change of pace/third-down guy in the past
Mike (Charleston, WV)
First of all great job with your coverage of all the BE teams. Now onto business. With this being only the first day of spring practice and WVU Players already showing an edge and an attitude that we havn't seen from this program since the Rich Rod days, do you see WVU regaining their BE dominance and stating once agian that the title will run through Morgantown? Refering to the edge by a player shouting "This aint no country club no more"
Brian Bennett (4:43 PM)
I wouldn't get overly excited or concerned (barring injury) over anything that happens on the first day of spring practice.
Sanu at punter kind of changes the whole 'punters being the absolute last and weakest line of defense' thing, doesn't it?
Brian Bennett (4:45 PM)
It definitely would put pressure on opposing teams on fourth downs. I wonder if Sanu has enough time to concentrate on punting to be really good at it, given all the other things he is asked to do.
Keith (Martinsburg, WV)
Hey BB, do you think that WVU defense will be able to rebound like they did when they lost alot of talent in '07? Do you think they had the depth last year to loose that much and sill be a top 20 D this season?
Brian Bennett (4:46 PM)
Remember that '08 defense needed some time before it figured things out. That could be the case again in '11. The stats are bound to dip a little bit, if for no other reason than the defense might be on the field more after Holgorsen's offense scores.
Bearcatvol (Dalton, GA)
Really have enjoyed your early reports on UC spring practice. Curious, I (and many others) donated to the bubble/practice field project. I haven't seen it first hand... I know the whole facility is't done yet.... but what are your impressions. (loved Marvin Lewis standing there jelous)
Brian Bennett (4:48 PM)
They did a good job fitting a practice facility into a tight space on campus. As far as bubbles go, it's everything you'd want.
Eddie (RT 6 Bristol)
With TCU coming on board in 2012 do you think the Big East can get better and more attractive bowl agreements?
Brian Bennett (4:51 PM)
The Big East will have two more years of its current bowl agreement left when TCU joins, though there could be some changes in the bowl alignments because of the Big 12/Big Ten/Pac-12 changes. I think the Big East might be able to land a game closer to Texas. Getting more than six tie-ins will be tough for a nine-team league.
Will BE schools travel to TCU to watch their teams play? Not sure if you have been to a game at TCU, but is it worth the trip?
Brian Bennett (4:52 PM)
I haven't been to a game there, but it's a pretty easy flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. The stadium should be very nice after the remodel. And there's plenty of good Texas BBQ to be had
Andrew (South Bend)
October 22 night game ND vs USC, first night game in 21 years, what do you think?
Brian Bennett (4:54 PM)
I like it. Should be a great atmosphere, rowdier than normal if you catch my drift. Just hope it's warm that day.
My biggest concern with USF this year is how changes on the offensive line might result in more pressure on BJ Daniels, which in turn might bring us back to some of those really ugly games with bad decision making on his part. Seen anything so far that gives you confidence in a seemless transition for those positions or more maturity from BJ?
Brian Bennett (4:55 PM)
I actually spoke with USF O-line coach Steve Shankweiler earlier today and am planning to speak with guard Jeremiah Warren later this afternoon. Shankweiler likes the starters but is concerned about the depth. It's a work in progress, and the tackles will have to step up.
Nick (Charleston, WV)
Does WVU have a tackle that can stir up enough trouble in the middle of the line to take the pressure off of Bruce Irvin this year? Everyone here in Mountaineer country expect huge numbers from Bruce as an every down defensive end, but I fear that without Chris Neild collecting double teams he may be in for a rude awakening.
Brian Bennett (4:57 PM)
That's a good question. There aren't a lot of Chris Neilds around. The Mountaineers are hoping that Jorge Wright or Josh Taylor can step up after being backups. But those are big shoes to fill.
If the Wildcats join the BE, they bring a crazy good tv market. Add in the large Dallas market with TCU's arrival and the growing fan base in Tampa Bay along with Rutgers and their huge market. Things seem to be looking up for the BE. I think this will have a very positive impact during the next time tv contracts get renewed. More money for the BE, putting them above the ACC. BB what are your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (4:59 PM)
I seriously doubt the league gets more than the ACC, and no one is projecting that. But the Big East may be able to close the gap a little bit.
Brian Bennett (5:00 PM)
That's all my time for today, everybody. Thanks for all the great questions.