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)
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat session. I'm here for the next hour, so fire away with your questions!
Why did so much of the national press focus on Kyle Dobson's flip from Wisconsin to Ohio State as the reason why Coach Beliema was upset with Coach Meyer? Clearly the stated reason was a "tactic" that Meyer was thought to be doing shortly after being hired at Ohio State. Even if it wasn't illegal (as Beliema later admitted) it must have been something that was fishy, and may have violated the spirit of an NCAA recruiting law. Will the real accusation ever come out?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
That's an excellent observation, Craig (Gosh, people from Kentucky are smart). Bielema clearly knows that flipping a committed recruit isn't "illegal," since he's done that himself. I always thought Bielema was referring to something else. But since he gave no details, we have no idea what it is he was talking about. If he wasn't going to get specific, he should not have taken that complaint publicly, in my opinion.
With our "cry baby" coach that we have, I can see why so many of our coaches left for other jobs. Do you think Bilema should just shut up and do his job?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Listen, I like Bielema a lot, and there's something very refreshing about a coach who's willing to speak his mind. I just think you have to be careful when tossing out words like "illegal" and then not backing that up further. Either way, the rivalry between the Badgers and Buckeyes just heated up quite a bit.
Bob J (Los Angeles)
So Iowa takes forever to name a defensive coordinator and then their offensive coordinator of 13 years leaves suddenly. Is there some sort of shake up going on in Iowa City or was it just a matter of Ken O'Keefe having an opportunity he couldn't pass up? I know we'll probably never know because Kirk Ferentz tells us nothing ever but what do you think?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
You're right in that it's hard to decipher. I don't think Ferentz was trying to get rid of either guy. He's been very loyal to his assistants. And if he wanted to make a change at OC, it would have come a lot sooner than this to give him more time to make a good hire. I think O'Keefe leaving was a result of his prior relationship with the new Dolphins coach. Don't blame him for leaving after all the criticism he has faced.
Nate (JAX, FL)
Brian, I recently just read the Tom Shatel piece he did on Bo.. very interesting. My question and what stuck out from the article to me was how Bo brought up that his husker teams over the past 4 years are tied with 7 other schools with the most wins... but he also has lost 4 games in each of his 1st 4 years as well. I know you can look on the bright or dark side of things but if 9 wins is what makes the coach happy should the Husker faithful start preparing for 9 wins a year for as long as Bo is the head coach? He seems content with it.... thank you.
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I disagree that he seems content with it. I thought he made very clear in that (excellent) article that he really wants to get to the next level and is searching for ways to do. Let's not forget that he hasn't been a head coach for all that long, or that the program wasn't exactly on top when he got there. Pelini has done good work thus far, but he has to figure out a way to get to the next step, which is often the hardest part of the process.
Brian (The Villa)
By no means am I an OSU fan, but I have to admit, the hiring of Meyer has me a bit excited. I feel like the Big Ten has become a bit apathetic over the past decade or so, content to sit upon the laurels of their tradition and big time programs. Meyer has made it very clear that if you want to be relevant and win, you had better come to play. A rising tide carries all boats, and I think his energy will make the whole league better even if he isn't the one winning. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
I agree with you (gosh, people named Brian are smart). I think the Big Ten needs a little influx of competitive juice. I don't want this to become a win-at-all-costs league, but clearly the Big Ten needs a little nudge after not really being relative in the national title chase for a few years now.
What is necessary, in your opinion, for Northwestern to take the leap from a perennial 6-7 win team to more a big ten contender? It seems like progress is stalling
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I think it's pretty clear that the improvement has to come on the defensive side. The Wildcats just have been too soft on that side of the ball. They have certain limitations in recruiting, but the signing of Ifeadi Odenigbo sure seems like a good move in the right direction.
Brian, I'm an Ohio transplant to Chicago for school but I've been a lifelong Buckeyes fan since I grew up in NE Ohio. My question is: since the Bucks are bowl ineligible, Penn State and Illinois will be rebuilding, and Wisconsin is kind of iffy on the whole QB front, what are the chances that a team like Purdue sneaks in and wins the division? I feel like they have a chance at a dark horse run, but we'll see. Oh, and Go Giants!! (Being a Browns fan means I'm not a huge Belichek fan either...)
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I agree that Purdue is a sleeper candidate in the Leaders race for 2012. The Boilers have a lot of starters coming back, a potential star in Kawann Short on defense and a lot of depth at the offensive skill positions. I just need to see Danny Hope's team play with a bit more consistency and cut down the mental mistakes that have hurt them the past couple of years.
Early Pick....Wolverines or does the tide keep on rolling?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
It is very early. Alabama loses a lot of great players. I still think the Tide is probably a little more talented overall than Michigan, though, and has the speed to slow down Denard Robinson. I would make Alabama at least a touchdown favorite right now.
Last year, Michigan State red-shirted pretty much their entire entering class. Is this common and how is that going to play into reloading Michigan State's offense this season?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Mark Dantonio has shown that he doesn't rush freshman in to play before they're ready. That said I do think some of the receivers will have to play right away and will get a chance to do so. That position is a little easier to break into than, say, the spots on the line.
Illinois is pitching this recuriting class to fans as we did the best we could. We got guys who fit what we do. We dont care a how many starts a recuit has. Is there any other pitch they could possibly use? I assume this also means if/when they ever do sign a 5 star he wont be the first player mentioned every chance they get? Is there not some contradictions with all this?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Tim Beckman got a little bit of a late start, and some of his key staff members weren't hired until January. So it was tough from a recruiting standpoint, as well as the change in systems. He shouldn't be judged so much on this class as he is on his future ones, and there is a lot of talent in next year's senior class from Illinois. Most important, of course, is finding the right guys to fit his system.
Bart Houston (NorCal)
Hey Brian, I was pretty successful running the option at CA State Champion - De La Salle High School. Any chance Coach Canada dials up a little option package for me next year (even if it's just for a few plays each game)?
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
I don't know that there will be a lot of option, because I'm not sure you need to do that with Montee Ball and that O-line. But we saw this year that a QB with some mobility can make the Badgers offense even more dangerous, and Canada has a history of employing mobile QBs.
By my count, OSU is up to 86 scholarship players, 4 over their sanctioned limit. I was under the impression that 1) the B1G doesn't allow oversigning by more than 3 players at any time, and 2) you must provide documentation showing how you will get to the 85 (or 82) limit before offers go out. Yet Urban Meyer was allowed to oversign and not show how he's making room until later? Did I miss something?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Meyer said at signing day that the Buckeyes were at 81. Said there were a few players transferring, another couple dismissed for disciplinary reasons. There is always some turnover with a new coaching staff. He will make the roster numbers work.
mcs (state college)
just based on returning talent alone (no outside influences or coaching changes, etc), who has the goods to get it done in the BIG next year.
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
I would say Michigan State. Loaded on offense and just has to solidify the QB and WR spots. There is talent at those positions; it's just inexperienced. And the coaching stability there can't be dismissed.
Are 4-year scholarships going to a permanent thing?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
The full NCAA body is expected to vote on the issue this month. There is some opposition. Thought Brady Hoke's comments that they may have rushed this and that maybe a 2- or 3-year scholarship might become the norm were very interesting. For now, schools are free to offer them if they want but aren't obligated to do so.
I completely agree with all that. My point was more if/when they start landing any of these guys they will sing their 5 star status from the top of the Sears, err, Willis Tower.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Well, of course.
After reading today's article about Purdue bringing in 4 qb's, I couldn't help but wonder how does one go about developing and getting practice reps for the 7, 8, 9 (I don't know I've lost count) qb's on Purdue's roster? And could you see any of the Qb's switching to safety?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
A few of the quarterbacks are athletic guys who could play somewhere else. It's hard to get reps for more than three or four guys in practice, really. I used to cover Louisville when Bobby Petrino was there, and they'd bring in a bunch of QBs and end up switching a lot of them to new positions.
What prompted several B1G schools to begin offering 4 year scholarships to recruits? Was there one school that started this? If so what was their motivation? Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
It's part of a number of reforms that have been tossed around by NCAA and conference leaders. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany supports the idea, as does SEC boss Mike Slive. Delany encouraged schools to offer the 4-year grants.
I think an underrated part of MSU's success the last two years is that they've been able to red-shirt 36 of 42 freshman (86%) during that time frame. Could you and Adam write a column comparing that to the other schools in the conference? It would be interesting to see how that stacks up with others.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
That's an excellent idea that's going on the calendar. Thanks for the suggestion.
Back to Illinois recruiting...is there anything besides sustained winning missing from Illinois athletics? Seems like they have enough facilities. They don't seem too cheap with paying coachs. Am I missing some glaring weakness besides constant winning?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Well, let's face it: Illinois is more of a basketball school, the campus isn't the most picturesque in the Big Ten, and the game-day atmosphere doesn't rival that of league powers. But Illinois has several advantages, too, and should be a more consistent winner than it has been. The right coach could change a lot of things. We'll have to see if Beckman is that guy.
What is going on with my Hawkeyes? Seems like nothing but bad news lately and I fear we are going backwards to another mediocre BIG team. Should I be worried?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I don't think it's reason to panic, though there hasn't been a lot of real good news out of Iowa City of late. Iowa has been so stable under Ferentz that this seems like a shock. However, some change could be good for that program.
Johnny (East LA)
If you and Greg Jones get married on the same day, whose wedding should I crash?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I'm guessing his wedding will be a much bigger party. Though you don't want to miss the drama of Zooey Deschanel running down the aisle trying to stop my proceedings.
I am a fan of T-magic when the Huskers take the leash off of him and let him run. Do you think they should let him risk injury where he plays at his best or go in a different direction with QB? (It could be another stressful two years)
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
It's pretty clear that Pelini is sticking with Martinez as his guy, and there aren't a lot of other options right now anyway. Haven't seen enough of Carnes to make much of an opinion. Nebraska needs to utilize Martinez's strengths running the ball, but at the same time it needs some balance in the offense to keep teams honest. And that means he simply has to become a more accurate passer.
Jared (San Diego)
Do you think that when Ohio St. is throwing for td's in the 4th quarter against Wisconsin when they're already up 28 pts later this year, Baby-Bielema will cry about coaches running up the score is what you do in the SEC, not the B1G? (Oh wait, how many times did he hang 70 or someone last season?)
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Did I mention I'm excited for this game next year?
How far ahead is the state of Ohio for talented high school kids compared to other states in the Big Ten?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
Ohio clearly is the recruiting hotbed in the Big Ten, especially as Pennsylvania has dipped a little in its output of blue-chippers. Just about every Big Ten school recruits Ohio.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
Does Bench have a shot at competing for the starting QB spot his first year? McGloin is all right, Bolden should have transferred, and let's face it, Jones probably won't ever be academically eligible.
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
I would say all things are possible. It's not easy for a freshman to start right away at QB. But let's face it: McGloin isn't that far ahead of anyone, and Bolden hasn't shown anything yet. O'Brien will simply play the best guy, something that didn't seem to happen most of this past year.
What more can Beliema do to get the support of Wisconsin fans? The guy has won two Big Ten championships and has a great overall record. Sure he puts his foot in his mouth on occasion, but what coach doesn't. I don't understand the segment of fans that constantly bash him, whether it is about his public speaking, recruiting rankings, whatever.
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Totally agree. I know a lot of other programs would happily take him off your hands.
Brian,I'm a little confused on the offensive direction for Purdue. On campus, we have a pair of pro style QB's (Marve and Terbush) and a pair that are more dual threat (Henry and Robinson). In this class, we have an Elite 11 pro style QB and two Top 20 Dual threat QB's. Does this mean Hope is likely to go with a true two QB system or are the coaches still trying to figure out what kind of offense they want to run?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
I understand your confusion. I'm not sure I know what exactly Purdue's identity is under Hope, and I think that's something the Boilers really need to establish. It's nice to have options, but it's better to have a system you believe in.
Jim (Grand Junction, Colorado)
I loved the article about Pelini but I wonder if he put enough responsibility on himself and the assistant coaches. A few penalties and a few fumbles can be attributed to game-time situations and stress. But repeated and numerous penalties and turnovers come down to poor coaching of fundamentals. Do you think that Pelini recognizes this fact?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
I agree on the penalties, but not necessarily turnovers. Sometimes that's just luck. How different would the Super Bowl have been if the ball bounces a little differently on two of those Giants fumbles last night? I thought Pelini accepted some blame in his interview. No doubt, the program has to improve in all areas, but it's not that far off.
Bob (Cary NC)
Gene Smith, AD of OSU, says he is confident that Urban Meyer is following every NCAA recruiting regulation. Doesn't that comfort you after him saying the same thing about Jim Tressel?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Bob, I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.
Let me be the first to say (OK probably no where near the first) that I am both excited and sad to see O'Keefe go. I'm happy that Iowa will have a new OC because the Hawkeye nation has been in dire need of some new and exciting play calling. But I'll also miss the consistency that he brought to the game.That being said, any rumors yet on who is replacing him? Any word on DC too?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
I just hope Iowa fans aren't wishing they had O'Keefe back next fall. I doubt Ferentz is going to change the philosophy of the offense much. That was so sudden that I haven't heard much chatter yet about a successor. As for the DC, it looks like we might get an announcement this week, but nobody seems to have good information on it. Jim Herrmann effectively shot down that rumor at the Super Bowl.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Who steps up and anchors the middle for Michigan with Mike Martin and David Molk graduating?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
That's the key question for Michigan this offseason. It's got to be time for Will Campbell to finally cash in on his talent. If he can't do it after two years of coaching by Hoke and Mattison, he won't ever do it. Center is going to be another interesting spot. Rocko Khoury was the backup to Molk this past season, but filling the Rimington winner's shoes won't be easy
Even though Ohio State is banned from any postseason contests what in your mind would be the record for the buckeyes?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
The nonconference schedule is extremely manageable. The trips to Wisconsin and Penn State won't be easy, but Nebraska and Michigan come to Columbus. I think a 9-3 season is perfectly attainable.
In less than six months, Urban has changed the B1G's 'recruiting methods.' Even if other coaches do not adopt his approach to recruiting, they must now take proactive measures to rebuff his success. Which leads me to this question, will Urban Meyer spark the trend of hanging 50 plus points on a helpless B1G team?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
That would in no way be a first for this league
BB, we all know that every school in the country recruits in Florida, Texas, and Cali. And, we know that pretty much every school in the B1G recruits in Ohio. Do you know how many schools outside of the B1G actively recruit in Ohio (ok, the MAC doesn't count). It'd be interesting to see how many (if any) kids from Ohio got signed to SEC schools
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I sure can't tell you off the top of my head. I know Kentucky recruits Ohio and the Cincinnati area. Same for West Virginia, Louisville, Pitt and others. That's another good idea for a story down the road.
Will Brian Ferentz leave New England and come be the OC for his dad?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
He was interviewed about that and didn't really give an answer. He's still young, but you have to include him on any list of potential candidates for obvious reasons.
Matt (Des Moines, IA)
After reading your B1G recruiting class rankings, I feel you guys ranked Iowa off what is happening with the coaching staff and players leaving rather then what type of class we actually recruited...Looking back on that quick you have to agree..we should have been at least #5, but i mean from you its typical to rank Iowa though I'm just curious where the actual analysis of how they did was? FAIL, but thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Matt, I think you misinterpreted that. The power rankings were simply updated ratings after signing day and were based solely on recruiting. Remember that most recruits will have little or no impact next season anyway. We dropped Iowa because at this point we have no idea who the coordinators will be. But it's only early February; a lot can and will change between now and August
Faygo (Silver Spring)
Brian, Ohio State also has that little trip to East Lansing this fall.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Absolutely. And those road trips could be your three losses in a 9-3 season.
Brian, if Michigan and Ohio State return to former glory, can you get excited for a rematch in the Big Ten Championship game? Or do you think the decision to have The Game at the end of the year will be revisited?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
Adam disagrees with me on this, but I think it would have to be revisited. Having the two teams play in back-to-back weeks is a very poor idea, in my opinion. But I do think it will happen less frequently than most people think.
Tom (Washington, DC)
At this point, who is your favorite to win the Legends Division in 2012? Leaders Division?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Same old bosses. I've got MSU and Wisconsin. Badgers basically by default because of the situations at OSU and PSU
Isn't it funny watching all these other schools squirm now that Urban has come aboard? He has not only dominated this chat, but he is all you hear anyone talking about anymore when B1G football is discussed.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I am enjoying the theater of it, I will say that
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Time for one more. Who wants to be the hero?
So, it sounds like the division names are staying. I'm not surprised by that, but what I am surprised at is the fact the sample size was a whole 500 people...
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
I'm not going to question the polling company's methods. You can do some really accurate polling with small sample sizes if you do it right. I just wonder who in the world the people are who like those names out of any sized group
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
That's all my time for this week, folks. Have a wonderful week and we'll see you back here in the same time and space next Monday.