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 (11:59 AM)
Hey guys, let's get started a bit early.
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
One programming note: I'm awaiting a call from Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr., a cancer survivor who recently returned to the practice field. I'll be stepping away for just a few minutes soon to talk with Arthur, but don't go anywhere as I'll be back shortly.
Doug Greenberg (San Antonio)
Adam-still haunted with the Rose Bowl loss. Cannot sleep. Plain and simple, did we wait too long to get John Clay involved, or was it simply a good competitive game? Who is my starting Qb this year? Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:01 PM)
Both, Doug. It was an extremely competitive game and a very clean game, with no turnovers and few penalties. But Wisconsin definitely waited too long to play Wisconsin football and pound away. Bret Bielema told me yesterday he felt TCU couldn't stop the Badgers on the ground in the fourth quarter. Why not stress the run earlier? ... Budmayr's your guy at QB until further notice.
Has there been any information on whether or not Denard Robinson will be the starting QB for Brady Hoke this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Every indication is he will be, Forrest. The coaches have liked Denard's approach, and his decision to stay at Michigan resonated throughout that locker room. Denard is the unquestioned leader among the players, which matters a lot in my book.
Is Stephen Hopkins (RB, Michigan) expected to have a larger role this year under Brady Hoke's system? I'm anxious to see him play more - he could be a beast!
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Back-to-back questions from Forrest. Yes, I think Hopkins will have a larger role, especially because of his size. He's more of a traditional power back the coaches want to feature in this scheme. But others like Cox, Smith and Shaw also will be in the mix.
Assuming you saw or read about Nebraskas spring game last weekend. If they had another spring game this weekend and you had the first 3 picks on offense and defense which 6 players would you pick?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Great question Brad. The defensive picks are easy, assuming Jared Crick is healthy. I'd go Crick, David and Dennard on defense. Burkhead is a no-brainer on offense. I'd probably take T-Magic, too, and a lineman, probably Caputo.
Jim (Barrington, IL)
Is there any chance the Illini will fire Ron Zook and be able to keep the offensive and defensive coordinators they hired before last season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Wow, no love for the Zooker, Jim. I don't see this happening as the new coach would want more control over his staff. Vic Koenning and Paul Petrino both did good jobs in their first seasons. The challenge gets tougher for Koenning in Year 2 without Liuget, Wilson and Bussey. I expect big things from Petrino's offense. The schedule also sets up well for Illinois, so I think the Zooker is here to stay.
Lou (Rockville, MD)
If you had to put your own money on it, how much would you put on Rob Bolden either staying or going?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
He really didn't show his hand Saturday, did he, Lou? The feeling I got in State College was that Bolden would stay and that Bolden himself wants to stay. It might depend on whether he's swayed by others. But he had a good spring and talked about getting a "fair shot" in the competition. That's all you can ask for.
Mark (Ann Arbor)
Adam, how can Dantonio preach that he is the minister of accountability and strict punishments for breaking the rules when he allows the guys involved in the Colorado fiasco to practice and not miss any time? Shouldn't there be some sort of punishment?
Adam Rittenberg (12:08 PM)
Well, they did miss a few spring practices, although some players would say that's the opposite of punishment. It's important to look at each case individually. If it's a first infraction for both players, I'd have less of an issue than if these guys had screwed up before.
Eric (Denver, CO)
Adam, if you're a Big Ten AD and could choose your division to play in, which one would it be - Legends or Leaders? Legends might give you an easier path to the championship, but Leaders may give you more marquee matchbox (read: $$$s). Whaddya think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Interesting question, Eric. You'd actually get marquee games in both divisions, although I'd give a slight edge to the Leaders with both Ohio State and Penn State. I think it depends on where I'm located, too, and where I recruit. It was interesting to hear Bret Bielema say being in the Leaders division actually helps Wisconsin because the Badgers typically recruit to the East rather than the West.
What do you think is the possibility that Nebraska runs some variation of the diamond formation with all the speed at the skill positions they possess. Between Tmart, Carnes, Turner and Rex with a sprinkling of freshman RB's they seem to have the talent to excel with that as an offensive scheme.
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Wow, Zach, I wish you were calling the plays! That'd be a lot of speed and skill on the field at the same time. I doubt we'll see Martinez and Carnes on the field together, but you never know. Rex will be a mainstay, and Turner showed a lot in the spring game at a position where Nebraska needs more playmakers.
Irrational Iowa Guy (Iowa)
You listed Wisconsin as having the best Corner Tandem in the B1G today on the blog. Who would you rank behind them?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Haha, looking at your title, maybe I should pick the Hawkeyes or fear for my life. Shaun Prater is one of the Big Ten's best corners, and if Micah Hyde stays at CB, its a formidable tandem. Even if Hyde moves to safety, Iowa has some talent at corner (Castillo, etc.) I like Purdue's tandem of Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson. Nebraska could be very good too with Dennard And Ciante Evans.
Hey Adam! I have this feeling that even though JoePa's contract expires after this season, we will see him coaching next season. your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Kevin, you can never count out Joe Paterno from another season, even though he'll be 85. As always, it depends mainly on his health. If Joe feels he can coach, I can't see him walking away.
Adam, Am I reading too much into the Michigan spring game to notice Devin Gardner closing the gap on Denard, possibly creating a QB controversy mid-season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
I think you are, Jason. As I wrote in Tuesday's mailblog, it's dangerous to read too much into spring games. They're basically one of 15 practices. Although Gardner is a very talented player, it'll take some significant struggles from Robinson in the first few games to see a potential change there.
Hi Adam.What is your guess on the additional sanctions that OSU will get from the NCAA....games vacated from 2010, additional games suspended of Tressel, scholarship losses, ban from postseason????
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
John, it's tough to predict this, but scholarship losses and vacated games from 2010 are both strong possibilities. The interesting part is what additional penalties, if any, are placed on Tressel. I don't think suspending him more games does much. If you want to hurt a coach, keep him out of practices and off the recruiting trail.
Justin (Iowa City)
Who do you think will have the Best O-line this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa and Illinois are my top four. Northwestern returns a ton of experience up front and Michigan also should be pretty solid with David Molk anchoring the group.
Among Nebraska's new potential rivalries, which one do you think has the most legs?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Definitely Iowa. It's a border battle. They've already moved the first two meetings to Black Friday. The fans already don't like each other. Michigan might be another potential rival, but Iowa definitely jumps out right now.
Alex (Des Moines)
Adam, lot of craziness going on off the field in the Big 10 again this offseason. Any major surprises you've seen on the (practice) field though so far this spring?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
I don't know about surprises, Alex, but I've seen some developments. ... Rob Henry's emergence as Purdue's No. 1 quarterback ... Ohio State looking very physical in practice despite the personnel losses on both sides ... Michigan State has some playmakers on defense and so does Wisconsin ...
Hey Adam, have you seen anything from my Wildcats to suggest that the run game will (finally) be improved this season? It was supposed to be a point of emphasis going in to last season, but we all know how that went. As you noted, we've got plenty of experience and talent on the O-line, so our under-achieving run game has been really disappointing.
Adam Rittenberg (12:22 PM)
Ted, it has been the biggest weakness of Pat Fitzgerald's mostly successful tenure as head coach. Northwestern repeatedly produced 1,000-yard backs under Randy Walker, but the trend has stopped. I think Mike Trumpy can be a solid back if he stays healthy. He did some nice things in the second half of Big Ten play last fall. Tyris Jones also could be a surprise contributor as a ball-carrier. But the pass attack once again will be the bread and butter of the offense.
Would it be better for the BIG for Nebraska to do very well its first year or would it be better for them to struggle the first season. which would make the BIG look better?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
Great question, Mark. I think the best situation would be somewhere in between. The Big Ten wouldn't benefit from its new member going 5-7, but if Nebraska wins the league after enduring a brutal schedule, it won't make the Big Ten look very strong. I think a 9-3 or even 10-2 season with a couple of league losses is ideal in terms of Big Ten perception.
Alot of people, including yourself, have good reason to question MSU's offensive line coming into the fall, but i see moving Blake Treadwell over to center from defense being a big plus due to his game experience. Do you see that actually happening or is the adjustment to great in your mind. BTW i think the little sisters in ann arbor have bigger worries than how Dantonio disciplines his players.
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Cory, the coaches feel that while they're younger up front, they're also more athletic. That definitely ties into guys like Treadwell and Dan France moving over to the offensive line from the defensive side. The big question is whether the line will jell together because chemistry is so important up front. While Treadwell has game experience, he doesn't have it on offense. It likely will take a little time for the line to come together.
Jeff (Bloomington, IL)
What are some realistic expectations for Nathan Scheelhaase's improvement in the passing game this year? I know he'll never be a gunslinger, but he quietly finished the year with 13 td's and only 1 int in his last 7 games.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Jeff, good points here. Scheelhaase's bowl performance really encouraged me about his potential as a passer. He likely will never be a pass-first quarterback, but he can help in that area and likely needs to. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino told me Scheelhaase has really improved his release and seems to be thinking less and reacting quicker this spring. Those are good signs.
I'm a huge Ohio State fan, but I must admit I really like what Hoke is doing at Michigan and in particular by reenergizing the rivalry--not wearing red, calling us 'Ohio' and not Ohio State. With everything going on with Tressel, for the first time in a long time, I'm jealous of the coach in blue (kind of like the entire time Cooper was at OSU). I feel like Ohio State will have a more talented team this year when the travel to Ann Arbor, but you can bet the boys in blue will be motivated for this game. I think Michigan wins 8-9 games this year, including Ohio State. What are your thoughts?GO BUCKS!
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Arte, I like your perspective here and wish more Ohio State fans took this attitude toward the rivalry. As I wrote yesterday, The Game has become dull and Hoke is spicing it up a little. Now I firmly believe Michigan only will beat Ohio State when it has a better team than the Buckeyes -- which could take a while -- but I think this year's contest should have a little more life to it than last year's.
Bob (North Carolina)
How do you see the RB and WR situations shaking out of Ohio State considering the suspensions of Posey and Herron? I think the WR situation is the most critical for Ohio State, due to lack of experience and Duron Carter not coming back.
Adam Rittenberg (12:31 PM)
Bob, totally agree that WR is more critical than RB, where Ohio State should be fine. There's really no proven depth at receiver and it's important for players like Chris Fields to take the next step. I also think Ohio State should use the tight ends (Stoneburner, Fragel) more in the pass game and possibly incorporate more running backs as receivers. The RB group is loaded even without Herron. I really like the variety there, and it'll be interesting to see who emerges as a featured guy.
Who from NU(hehehehe) do you think has the best shot to win a B1G POY award, if you believe any would?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Interesting question. I talked with my pal Howard Griffith from the Big Ten Network on Tuesday about the difficulty of naming a preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. I think you have to pick one of the Nebraska players, Jared Crick or Lavonte David, even though they haven't played a down in the Big Ten. So your answer could come before the season kicks off with a guy like Crick or David.
Hello Adam,To follow up on Mark's comments. The first year for PSU was tough. The refereeing was different and the league and media didn't give them any respect. Winning the BIG in 1994 helped but I am not sure if they have have ever truly been accepted. I am hoping Nebraska's entry is smoother. Any thoughts Adam?Also PSU has traditionally been strong with a good TE. Last year it was a weakness and it is not looking good this year so far. It didn't appear that PSU recruited hard for a sound TE prospect. Any thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Bob, thanks for your perspective. I know you're not alone in thinking Penn State hasn't truly been accepted into the Big Ten. Part of that, to be fair, is that Penn State has struggled more in the league than many had expected. Everything I've heard is that the Big Ten did a better job integrating Nebraska than Penn State ... As for the tight end situation, it's certainly a concern. Andrew Szczerba and Garry Gilliam both were dealing with injuries this spring. It's a key spot and one that needs to be addressed in fall camp for sure.
Jaron (Madison, Wisconsin)
Adam, catch you at the Union Terrace tonight for some Spotted Cows? Gotta love this Madison weather! Seriously though, swing through my Management Consulting class at Grainger Hall and lets talk some football!
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
Jaron, would love to, but I'm already back in Chicago. I did take a walk through the Union Terrace on Monday night and across campus, one of my favorites in the Big Ten. We'll have to take a rain check, or a snow check, given the recent weather in Madtown.
For the next two years, the Penn State linebacking corps will consist of Fortt, Mauti and Hodges. Do you think this could be the best corps in the B1G Ten, or maybe even the nation? We are Linebacker U for a reason.
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
John, while I understand your excitement, let's see how they perform before putting big labels on them. I really like each individual player, especially the way Hodges and Fortt seemed to come on this spring. Mauti will be a stud if he's healthy, and senior Nate Stupar is still going to play a ton. I'll say this: Penn State is a lot closer to being a linebacker-driven defense in 2011 than it was in 2010.
Adam when are you going to make the jump from the blog to Game Day? You'd fit in between Corso and Herby.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
You want to be my agent?
What a "Kill"-er chat you have going on here. Speaking of Coach Kill and the new look Gophers, can you please comment on who else will be able to catch passes this year other than McKnight? The lack of receiver depth is scary. Any recruits coming in that can contribute?
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Noah, Minnesota is pretty thin at receiver and you'll probably see it in the spring game. Spoke with D coordinator Tracy Claeys earlier today and he said that while the defense is looking better and better, the offense is limited right now because of injuries. Freshman Marcus Jones is getting a lot of reps and could contribute, but Minnesota needs to surround McKnight with more options.
Austin (Kansas City)
Adam, did you spend any time in Lincoln this spring? I'm sure a lot of Husker fans are like me, I.E., SUPER CURIOS as to what this new offense will look like. Sadly, the Spring Game gave us no answers. Any insights from Spring Practice? Your thoughts on what we're likely to see this fall? GO BIG RED.
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Austin, while I was in Lincoln in late March, practices are closed to the media so I didn't get to see the offense live. From talking with coordinator Tim Beck and the players, it sounds like this scheme is less rule-driven and will allow players greater freedom.
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Hey, there's Arthur Ray calling. Hold on a few minutes.
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Will be back ...
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Hey guys, I'm back. Arthur Ray says "Go Green!" He's thrilled to be back on the practice field.
Dan (Springfield, OH)
Fickel with a 5-0 start while Tressel is suspended, Potential B1G Coach of the Year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Interesting question, Dan. I might have to steal it for a post. I know Don Treadwell deserved a part of Mark Dantonio's Coach of the Year award for Michigan State. While I can't see Tressel winning it after what he did, Fickell is an intriguing option. I wonder if he'd even be eligible.
GREGORY P BEARRINGER (Knoxville TN)
I am stuck in SEC country, so please throw me a bone..... If the Michigan Defense can hold their opponents (especially in the Big Ten) to 28 Points, can they win 6 Big Ten Games?
Adam Rittenberg (12:54 PM)
I know Greg Mattison would be less than pleased if his defense was surrendering 28 points a game. I'd have a hard time seeing Michigan win six games basically having to outscore people again. It could happen, but I think the Wolverines would need to make a bigger jump on D. You have to think there will be a few growing pains on the offensive side.
Arthur Ray is just a feel good story and has to be comeback POTY in the big ten once he's fully back. Go Green!
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Absolutely Cory. He told me playing his first college football game will be the greatest day of his life. Hope he keeps making progress and gets on the field this year or next.
Jackson (West Lafayette, IN)
I was at the spring game, and I've been more and more impressed with Rob Henry's leadership and improved passing. I think that if Hope is thinking about the future of the program he will make Henry the starting quarterback. I don't see Marve producing after 2 ACL injuries. What do you think about the next Purdue QB?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Jackson, this is a fascinating debate to me. Rob Henry looks the The Guy at Purdue. Danny Hope said no player made more progress this spring than Henry, and Henry's teammates already have voted him a co-captain for the season. On the other hand, the staff has a lot invested in Marve, who has been their most high-profile player addition in the past few seasons. By no means is Marve out of the picture for the Boilers, but I think they'd be best going ahead with Henry unless Marve really wows everyone in preseason camp.
Pete (Chicago )
I'd like to return to the question about PSU not feeling "totally welcomed in the conference. I think a lot of that is due to OSU and Michigan. They seem so wrapped up in their 'rivalry' that they seem to be loathe to give anyone else credit for anything.
Adam Rittenberg (12:58 PM)
Pete, that's an interesting point. Penn State entered the Big Ten as the third powerhouse program, but it was fighting history in a league that always has centered on Ohio State and Michigan and The Game. I think recognition comes with success, and Penn State has been fairly successful since the 2005 season. The key is to keep finishing among the Big Ten's top group and have fewer years like 2010.
Every coach who has broken the same NCAA rule that Tressel did has ended up fired. Any reason to believe he'll have a different fate?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Yeah, the fact he hasn't been fired already. Ohio State has made its stance pretty clear: it doesn't want to fire Tressel. And while those other coaches got the axe, I doubt they carried the clout that Tressel does with the Buckeyes. So unless the NCAA finds something else, I can't see Tressel being canned.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
last one for the day ...
Which B1G team has the deepest and most talented WR corp in the conference?
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Four teams jump out to me: Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State and Indiana. Those groups have more depth than the rest.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Alright, great chat today, and thanks for your patience during my Arthur Ray interview. Look for a Q&A soon on the blog.