Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten 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 Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Hello and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat. Lots to discuss today, including the sad news of Joe Paterno's passing. Fire away with your best questions
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
How long do you think it will take the school to rename it Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium? I know the scandal is still fresh in everyone's mind, but the fact remains that for 61 years he devoted himself to our university, helping to raise us up from a little ag school in a cow town to a research university known worldwide. And he did that through his focus on academics, not football. On the football field he made us one of the traditional powers in the nation, always with his focus on Success with Honor. So while renaming the field wouldn't be what he wanted, because he never cared much for the accolades, it is what he deserves.
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Kelley, I would say Paterno deserves more than just having a field named after him. Perhas the school could rename it Paterno-Beaver Stadium, like Alabama did with Bryant-Denny. It will be fascinating to see how Penn State handles honoring Paterno's legend while also dealing with the controversy. I think it will take at least a couple of years, frankly.
Griffin (Geneseo, NY)
Brian, I'm sure you have been receiving many questions about Coach Paterno's passing. What stands out to me is everyone who has ever met/interviewed/played for/coached against etc Coach Paterno can only speak of the great things he stood for and practiced, especially his former players and coaches who coached against him. What bothers me, is most of the articles/comments about Coach Paterno's involvement with the Sandusky scandal since yesterday are from people who have never spoken to him or even followed the Penn State program. I don't see that as fair by any means. The world lost a great man yesterday and he should always be remembered as that.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Griffin, there is no doubt that Joe Paterno had a profound impact on the lives of many, or that he did much good in his life. The fact is that he is also human, so he made some mistakes. Unfortunately, it looks like he made a mistake that will haunt others' lives. But we should judge Paterno on everything he was about, not just one piece.
Urban Meyer seems to be recruiting like he is still in the $EC, especially defensively where he is loading up on the defensive front. How much more of an advantage is that type of recruiting in the Big 10?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
It seems clear that Meyer learned in the SEC that you win up front on defense, and this first Buckeyes class is heavy in that area. Ohio State also had some needs in that position. Big Ten defensive lines were pretty good this year, and you have to have a great one to compete.
DiHSblog (Philadelphia, by way of State College)
Brian,As a proud PSU alum, I have no idea how to feel. I'm numb. The last three months have been the most inconceivable, gutting, heart wrenching roller coaster I?ve ever been on, for a multitude of reasons that have been stated and overstated. Of course the Sandusky thing is appalling. Of course he should be punished. Of course we Penn Staters need time to heal and move forward. But my question has to do with Joe Paterno and the public view of him. As someone who spent many a late night in the library that bears his name, he has had a profound impact on my life. No one can change that. In the wake of his passing, I have seen many pundits not understanding how one man can have had such a profound impact on a community, with little willing to write pieces on anything other than the last few months. Given there has never been a man like this, nor a situation like this, I feel my biased viewpoint clouds my vision as to why the public can so easily dismiss everything he has ever done. How can the public bring up the one mistake when he has preformed millions of minor miracles?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I agree, it is a confusing and complex time. But I disagree that the Sandusky scandal is all that people have been writing about. Every story I have read has dealt with the totality of his life. As I said earlier, Paterno did a lot of good things, but he wasn't perfect. None of us are.
I have seen bits and pieces about all the new coaches in Madison, but has there been anything about how these guys are going to work together to run the offense?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
It remains to be seen how exactly the staff chemistry will work out. But Bret Bielema has said Wisconsin will run the same basic system, and the coaches will be expected to learn it and run it. So I'm not sure we'll notice a huge difference in the on-field product.
Stilll no DC at Iowa, two questions: Does this mean that KF is looking toward an NFL team still (or recently) playing? Iowa really can't name Phil Parker DC at this point can they?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I wish I had a good answer for that one, as the Iowa DC search has been absurdly quiet and under the radar. I still think Parker might be the choice but have no real confidence that I'm right.
Jason (Northville, MI)
Hi Brian, you're doing a great job in the B1G blog! Do you see the MSU defense improving in 2012 compared to the 2011 season?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Jason, that defense was awfully good in 2011, finishing No. 5 nationally. It loses two excellent players in All-American Jerel Worthy and Trenton Robinson. But everybody else is back, including coordinator Pat Narduzzi, so this unit should still be very, very good next season. Whether it can be as good or better as '11 depends on whether Anthony Rashad White or someone else can adequately replace Worthy's presence up front.
Who's the Big Ten's best QB? Is it Denard Robinson? The guy with the highest interception percentage in college football? I have to say as a MSU fan I feel pretty good about a RS Junior in Maxwell stepping in when I look at the other QB's in the conference.
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
I think you have to rank Robinson as the best QB in the Big Ten for 2012 at this point. Braxton Miller and Taylor Martinez are up there as well. Maxwell will obviously be more of a pocket passer, and in that regard probably only James Vandenberg of Iowa is an established guy in the league.
Does this prove that NOBODY is above ultimate power? This guy had these knuckleheads wrapped around his finger for decades. He called the shots and told them what to think and when they wanted to fire him he showed them the door. Lets pray this never happens to a college campus EVER again.
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
It's never a good idea to give any one person too much power. This was also a unique situation just by virtue of where Penn State is and its isolated geography. I doubt we ever see a situation quite like this one again, though successful college football coaches still garner too much idol worship and authority on campuses
Hello Brian, I endured a lot of talk from my UM fans when Hoke put together this year's highly ranked recruiting class. With Meyer's late surge, which team do you think will end up with the best class in the Big Ten?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I don't get too caught up in ranking classes, but I have the feeling Meyer is going to snag one or two more big names before next Wednesday and end up with the Big Ten's top class. What he's done in a short time is wildly impressive and should throw some fear into the rest of the league about the future potential of the Buckeyes with him in charge.
Hey Brian,While the news out of state college is sad, I'd like to point out a piece of good news. PSU recruiting seems to be going well all things considered. They just got Akeem Lynch to verbally commit, and while he is listed out of St Francis out of western NY, make no mistake he is a Toronto boy and a really great RB prospect at that. Despite some significant decommits the class is looking decent. And if O'brian can help lead NE to a Superbowl win won't that just make things better?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
It was a startling contrast that Penn State got three verbal commitments on the day Joe Paterno died. That's good work by Bill O'Brien and his staff, who are obviously in a tough position. A Super Bowl win would help O'Brien's credibility in the future, for sure, but for now it just means he's going to be busy preparing the Pats until after signing day, which could hurt in the short term.
mcs (state college)
hey brian... what would you did if employee came to your house with same accusations he saw at espn? i dont expect an answer
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
None of us can truly say how we'd react in difficult situations until we are actually faced with one. However, I strongly believe I would do more than just inform my superiors and then do nothing else. I would have constantly been asking what happened with the case, and if the answers weren't satisfactory, I'd have gone to the police myself.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
And, of course, I'm far from being the more most powerful man at ESPN, as Paterno was at PSU. (Though I'm working on it).
Northwestern is on the verge of landing a former 5-star recruit via transfer from USC (WR Kyle Prater) and in the top 2 for stellar '13 Prep QB Matt Alviti to go along with an already strong 2012 class. If they land both, does it signal a turning point for NU in regards to finally getting top-tier talent in Evanston?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Those would both be nice gets for Pat FItzgerald. However, offensive talent hasn't really been the issue for the Wildcats. They need top-shelf defensive players. That's why I'd be more excited about landing highly touted DE Ifeadi Odenigbo in this class
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
(And yes, I had to pause to look up the spelling of that name).
Hank (Washington DC)
Now that Daryll Stonum has been booted off UM, who does Michigan need to step up at WR next year? It appears their talent at WR needs a boost next year.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I agree, Hank. Stonum was being counted on as a playmaker next year. Now he's gone, along with Hemingway. Jeremy Gallon has shown he can make plays, but he's a 5-8 slot man. They need an outside presence, and may have to rely on Jeremy Jackson or some other youngsters. The guy who really needs to step up, though, is Roy Roundtree.
One word to describe Danny Hope as a football coach... go.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Um, how about incomplete? Purdue clearly made some progress this year, but I still am not sure what the Boilermakers' identity is under Hope. I need to see a more consistent effort and fewer mistakes next season, when the team returns a lot of key starters.
WR's I think were the elite unit in 2011 for the B1G, what unit will step up for 2012?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I'd disagree with your assessment. DT and C were clearly the strongest positions in the league this past season. I think RB could be the class of the league in '12, with Montee Ball back, Rex Burkhead, Silas Redd, Le'Veon Bell, Fitz Toussaint and others.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
Brian, last week you slotted an SEC team (even with 1 loss) into the 2012 National Championship game before a single snap. Are you willing to now say that your comments were a bit pre-mature and that we should see how the whole season plays out prior to giving the SEC a virtual auto-bid into the championship game?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Not at all. Why would I? The BCS game might have been ugly, but no one did anything in the other bowls to prove they belonged in that game. The SEC's run continues unabated.
meech (akron ohio)
with the new staff and new freshmen coming in to ohio state do you think they get back to playing national championship football
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I do. It won't happen next year, of course, with the bowl ban. But Ohio State should be a factor in the national title race as soon as 2013 and should become an annual contender under Meyer.
Chris (Bloomington, IN)
What was the B1G's biggest nonconference regular season victory in 2011? It seems like there wasn't one, but the closest is Nebraska/Washington or Michigan/Notre Dame. Both of which are flawed.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
It's one of those two, and neither is all that impressive in hindsight. That was a big problem with the league's perception last year, since there was almost nothing on the nonconference resume. That's why it's important for a better showing this year, starting with Michigan-Alabama and Michigan State-Boise State
Zach (Madison, WI)
So when do you guys get to start your deserved vacations? After signing day?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Vacation? What's that? I'll definitely be taking some time off this summer to get hitched, but the blog will keep rolling on.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Brian, I lived in Alabama when Bear Bryant died and in Ann Arbor when Bo Schembechler died. Both programs seemed to lose their way for a few years after the deaths of both of those legends. How do you think Penn State responds to losing a college football giant?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
It will be a fascinating story to follow. One thing that's different is Penn State has already hired an "outsider" instead of someone "in the family" with Bill O'Brien. I think it's important not to get weighed down by the tradition. But Paterno was basically all Penn State knew for 60 years. Impossible to predict how it moves forward.
Bryan (Hoboken, NJ)
Brian, do you expect to see more of Al Borge's "pro-style" offense this year or do you think he just utilizes Denard Robinson's strength in the spread? Which style of offense gives Michigan a better chance against that Alabama defense Week 1?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I think Borges will continue add some more pro-style elements, but he's going to utilize Robinson's talents and minimize his weaknesses. The Alabama defense won't be as good because it loses a lot of great players, but the Tide will still have enough speed to cause all kinds of problems, as we saw Va Tech do. Robinson is going to have make throws downfield in that game for Michigan to win.
Chris (Bloomington, IN)
Hey Brian, any idea how much the Big Ten Network has an effect on recruiting within the big ten? Between the money extra money it brings in, the exposure to be able to see all football games on tv, and that it is rivaling national network subscribership, it would seem to be a powerful tool for the conference.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
It's a hard thing to quantify. The extra money helps schools upgrade facilities and pay more for staffs. I'm not sure the exposure is having a huge effect yet, or else we'd see Big Ten schools get more big-time recruits out of their traditional areas. The network is a major win for the conference though.
Brian, I'm a little worried about Michigan's first three games. First they play potential pre-season #1 Alabama in Dallas. Then back to Michigan to face Air Force and their option game. Then Notre Dame, which they will be fired up to win because they weren't able to beat Michigan when Michigan was down. What was Dave Brandon thinking?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Actually, the third game is against UMass, and Notre Dame is in Week 4. But your point about the difficulty is true. The Alabama game, win or lose, is likely to take a lot out of the Wolverines, and then they'll have to turn around and prepare for the tricky Air Force offense. That's not a good combo. Still, Michigan should always have enough talent to beat a service academy at home, right?
Hector Hernandez (Alabama)
Just wanted to offer my Condolences to the Paterno family and Penn State fans, God Speed and May god res his soul in peace, From a USC (trojans) fan, Fight On!
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Mike (Lincoln, NE)
Can I get an early prediction on wins for Nebraska next year? I think we go over, non-conference is manageable, Michigan has to come to Nebraska, Wisconsin looses a lot. I say Nebraska goes 10-2.
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I'm worried about the defense, especially with David and Dennard gone. So I'd probably lean more toward 9-3, with losses at Ohio State and Michigan State and one other spot somewhere. But it's awfully early to analyze.
Jim (Right behind you)
BOO! - now that I got your attention, with the recent success of basketball players transitioning to stellar tight ends in the NFL, do you see any B1G teams scouting their basketball teams for help?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
A Purdue basketball player joined the football team as a tight end but we didn't hear much about him. It seems like these guys usually work out better in the NFL, where coaches have more time to teach them the games. But I wouldn't mind seeing Jared Sullinger going out to catch passes.
Which new Big Ten assistant coach or coordinator will have the most difficult time filling the shoes of the assistant they replaced?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I'd have to say Matt Canada. Not that he isn't a good coach, but Paul Chryst had the Badgers offense moving like a well-oiled machine. And mostly because Canada won't have Russell Wilson -- or even Scott Tolzien -- to run the show.
Brian, are you going to have a prenup that says that you can annul your marriage if Zooey comes calling?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I'd ask my fiancee that. If I have a black eye and a broken nose in the next video I shoot, you'll know why.
Addison (East Lansing)
Is Max Bullough the best MLB in the big ten? Also, does MSU have a top 5 LB core in the nation?
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Bullough is good and should be better next year, but there are some good ones in this league. Chris Borland comes to mind. Ryan Shazier should be special in time at OSU. I do love MSU's linebacker group for 2012 and think it will be even better than this past season.
Brain, I'm doing some traveling this year and was wondering which big ten team has the best city to visit?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Hard to beat Madison and Ann Arbor. I've still got a few league cities I need to experience, like Iowa City and Minneapolis.
"However, I strongly believe I would do more than just inform my superiors and then do nothing else. I would have constantly been asking what happened with the case, and if the answers weren't satisfactory, I'd have gone to the police myself."-- And if the first person you tell is the head of ESPN police? And he tells you its under investigation? Then what?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Of course, there's no such thing as ESPN police. Look, I'm never going to convince the ardent Paterno supporters that he made a mistake, just as you will never convince me that he shouldn't have done more. Paterno himself admitted that he didn't do enough, by the way.
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Has anyone commented on the audacity of Jerry Sandusky to release a statement? And with an ill-placed exclamation point and an awkward tone? I almost threw my remote through my TV.
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
That was pretty bad. We didn't put in the blog for a reason. Yuck
Bryan (Hoboken, NJ)
Considering B1G Coach of the year usually goes to the coach who's team was sub-par/struggling the previous season, who is your pre-season pick for COY?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
To answer that, I guess I'd have to reveal my choice for surprise team already. My money will be on Urban Meyer. I think the Buckeyes are good next year, and he has a 6-7 record to improve upon.
What vibe are you getting from the BCS discussions? regular tie-ins to bowls, then the extra game (this seems like going a step backward), taking the top 4 ranked teams regardless of conference in two games, and then play an extra game from the outcome of those two games, OR having the four teams be the highest ranked conference champions, and then an extra game from the two winners? Or do you get a sense of something other than the plus-one?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
It sounds like there are dozens of options on the table and nobody really knows where this will end up. There will be a ton more meetings/discussions before this is settled. I would bet they would still use the BCS standings and the bowls but I hope for something better
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, I'm out of time for this week. Thanks for the questions and enjoy your week!