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 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here. Thanks for waiting a few more hours for the chat. Let's get started!
Rob H. (Omaha, NE)
Have you heard any talk of Nebraska going back to a peso style D? I felt like the 2011 unit wasn't quite as versatile/effective as the previous year.
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
Rob, I haven't heard that. Nebraska's coaches recognize they need to play more true linebackers in the Big Ten because of the offenses they'll face. I did hear from the coaches that they should be more multiple this year in what type of coverages they can show. They feel they have improved depth up front and in the secondary.
I'm confused by Meyer's comments regarding players having nicer gear and living off campus. Isn't what he's saying the same as saying he is providing extra benefits for star players? I acknowledge that I'm no expert on the NCAA rule book, but I always thought that the gear that could be provided and housing allowances were governed by NCAA rules. What am I missing?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
Yeah, that comment was a bit of a head-scratcher. I think regarding off-campus housing, it was more him giving permission to certain players he felt had earned the privilege. Not sure what the "nice gear" thing meant.
Anthony (Cedar Rapids)
Hey Adam, is there any B1G ten teams that could benefit on the recruiting level from the Arkansas fallout? Have you seen any current players/commits talking about backing out of their scholarships?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
Good question, Anthony. I'll take a look at who Arkansas has been recruiting and if there are/were any other Big Ten teams vying for those players. The Hogs' staff certainly has some Big Ten flavor with former Ohio State assistants Taver Johnson and Paul Haynes, and former Illinois assistant Paul Petrino.
Who is the best BIG player not being talked about enough?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
Good question, Justin. I think Kawann Short is a heck of a player at Purdue. Definitely will be on the radar for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, and with so many elite defensive tackles departing the conference, Short looks like the top player at his position entering 2012. I also think Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown is an under-the-radar star.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
So you and Brian pick your "dream" 2012 B1G roadtrip, and you both leave out Kinnick and never see Indiana/Minnesota/Northwestern, while watching a postseason-ineligible OSU team multiple times? That's weak. Pick again, this time ensuring you at least SEE every team (and preferably visit every B1G stadium once).
Adam Rittenberg (4:06 PM)
Yeah, Chris, I got your email. It's our trip and our decisions. We're not required to go anywhere or see certain teams. That's the point of the series -- it's up to us. Now we might soon ask you guys to map out your dream road trip and tell us why. But these are our picks and we're not going to follow any rules about seeing stadiums. I've seen them all. I love Kinnick. But these are the games I want to see.
Adam, you're in East Lansing this week correct? With the exceptions of Worthy, Robinson, and Pickelman departed do you see this defense as good or better than 2011's defense at MSU?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Brian actually will be in East Lansing, as of tonight. Excited to see what he learns from the Spartans. I'm really excited about the Spartans D. Gholston is a potential national superstar. Bullough and Allen form an excellent 1-2 punch at LB. Adams might be the league's top cover corner. Michigan State is loaded with difference-makers on defense despite losing Worthy, Robinson and Pickelman. And being able to retain coordinator Pat Narduzzi is huge for the Green and White.
Bernard Diggins (Philadelphia, PA)
Many are speculating that the Sporting News hit job was primarily orchestrated by several members of the local Florida media that were treated poorly by Coach Meyer (one sports editor in Orlando certainly has an ax to grind). I am more of the opinion that Bielema is trying very hard to limit Meyer's recruting success as much as possible and could be behind much of this story. Either way, there wasn't much fire in the story for all the smoke and given there was only one named source in the article, seems like a whole lot of nothing.
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
I'm not sure about your media conspiracy theory, as a lot of the anger at Meyer comes from those either still within the Florida program or those recently part of it. And Bret Bielema is not behind a story so focused on the Florida program. He had his issue with Meyer, but I don't think he has intimate knowledge how how Meyer did or did not treat star players at a previous stop.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
Penn State has one of the best night game atmospheres in the B1G, and yet all the "big" games are scheduled in November when the league says we can't have night games, it seems like you would want big games every week, not just in November.
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
Kelley, last I checked, Penn State plays Ohio State on Oct. 27. Pretty good chance that one takes place under the lights.
Bobby P. (Fayetville, AR)
Adam, I hear the Razorback job down here just came open. Is there a coach in the BIG that might look at my... I mean the job as a good spot for them?
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
Been a rough ride for you, Bobby. Hope you're hanging in there (it's not really Bobby, people). While I don't think a sitting head coach in the Big Ten would want to take the Arkansas job, one former Big Ten assistant now serving as a head coach, UAB's Garrick McGee, has been mentioned as a possibility. I covered Garrick at Northwestern and liked his potential as a future HC.
Adam, what are the chances the Iowa defensive line isn't terrible this season? Who looks like a "player to watch" on the DL?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
Doubt Iowa's D-line will be "terrible," but expectations should be lower than normal. We haven't seen so much youth up front for the Hawkeyes in a long time. One young guy to watch is redshirt freshman Darian Cooper. Several coaches and players mentioned him when I was in IC. He's got a lot to learn but has a lot of natural ability.
You always talk about OSU and how they will be able to compete for national championship because of the talent they have and are recruiting. My question is, what is the difference between them and Michigan? Michigan has just as much talent and are arguably recruiting at a higher level right now.
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
Logan, I agree Michigan is getting closer to that nationally elite level. And the Wolverines very well might break through this year. But Ohio State has been at or near the top of college football for most of the last decade. Michigan has been a notch below -- or, under RichRod, several notches below. I think several Brady Hoke recruiting classes will put U-M back in the national mix, but I'm not quite ready to say the Wolverines are there yet.
Tyler (Austin, MN)
Hey Adam, Do you see the Huskers as a real title contender? Are we going to see Taylor Martinez air it out more this year? Is Rex going to get more or less carries this year and what are your thoughts about him being a heisman contender?
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
I see Nebraska as a Big Ten title contender but not a national title contender. I'd definitely expect more passes from Martinez, particularly during non-league play when Tim Beck can experiment a bit. I also think Rex's workload will go down because of how Abdullah and Green are performing in spring ball. That's not a bad thing for Rex, who was overworked at times last year. I think Rex will need a huge game or two early to really put himself on the Heisman radar. It's a crowded pool right now, and he's not on it (although he deserves to be).
Mike (State College)
When you were talking to BOB, it was mentioned that he wont be showing the entire playbook during the spring game in 10 days. With that said, what do YOU think we should expect when we descend on Beaver Stadium next weekend?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
Mike, I think you should look for subtle things, how coaches use personnel in certain situations, who looks bigger and stronger, etc. You're not going to glean too much about the offensive play-calling. Bill told me he wants to keep things as under wraps as possible for this first year.
Jalky (Dodgeville MI)
What are your thoughts about Bucky using formations with White and Ball (in general two halfbacks and no fullbacks) in the backfield at the same time?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
I like that they're experimenting with it, Jalky. It makes sense. Listening to Montee Ball today, I'm not sure how much Wisconsin will actually use two backs this fall. But James White still can help this team, and he provides a different look in that rushing attack. Plus, coaches always talk about getting their best 11 on the field. White certainly seems to fit in that category for the Badgers' offense.
FFX Lion (Washington, DC)
How long are you planning on being in State College? Do you like what you have seen offensively?
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
Already left town, FFX. Back in Chicago now. It's interesting to watch the offense and hear about the complexities and all the changes there. Silas Redd will be a stud for PSU. I think more receivers will emerge as playmakers, including Alex Kenney. But the QB situation is the big unknown, and I saw a lot of ups and downs there.
The Land Grant Trophy (East Lansing)
Do you think that I will continue to be locked up in this musty storage closet in Spartan Stadium. It sure would be nice to take a trip to Indy and have me awarded, even if I do have to come back here.
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
Always great to hear from you, LG. Hey, if Michigan State and Penn State reach the title game, I'll start the movement to get you out of your case and down to Naptown.
Who leads MSU in recieving yds this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
Good question, Drew. If DeAnthony Arnett receives his waiver from the NCAA, he should step into that No. 1 role immediately. If not, it'll be interesting. Bennie Fowler is one to watch. Dion Sims also should play a bigger role as the team's No. 1 TE.
Meyer said that it's taking a little bit more time than he anticipated for the offense to pick up his system. With that in mind, do you think we'll see Miller throwing the ball down field or scrambling more often?
Adam Rittenberg (4:26 PM)
The tendency for quarterbacks with Miller's skill set is to take off and run when pressured. So I think he'll still scramble a lot. But Meyer knows Miller won't take the next step if he doesn't upgrade his passing. I'd expect Ohio State to experiment with the pass game in the first two weeks to see who emerges as targets for Miller.
Doug (Rochester, MI)
I believe the Legends division will be settled in East Lansing on 11/03/12 vs. Nebraska. What say you Adam?
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
Doug, you might be right. I think the Nebraska-Michigan and Michigan-MSU games also will have a lot to do with it. But the game you mention is the last one played between those three teams, so it very well could be the most significant.
Adam Rittenberg (4:28 PM)
What I like about Legends divisions schedule is that Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska all play one another once at home and once on the road. Whichever team goes 2-0 should have the inside track to Indy.
With 2 O'Brien's (Danny and Bob) entering the B1G this year, things are going to get confusing when referencing them. Can we think of someway to differentiate the two or just use their first names as well? Reminds me of the 'NU' debate a year ago.
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
Well, for starters, it's Danny and Bill. I think it would have been much more confusing had Danny O'Brien picked Penn State, where Bill is the coach. But since one is a coach and one is a quarterback, I don't think we'll have too much confusion.
Jim Delany (In a B1G Country)
Adam I was trying to avoid competitive unbalance in the divisions. Looks like it will happen this year. I am keeping the names, but maybe I should swap Michigan and Wisconsin. Possible rematch of tOSU and Michigan shouldn't happen and Wisconsin likes their Iowa buddies. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
Ah, Jim, we've had this discussion before. You wanted to split the four big brands into the two divisions. If you put Ohio State with Michigan and Penn State, you're going to have more eyeballs on the Leaders. Let's wait and see when that first Michigan-Ohio State rematch actually happens -- still waiting on Florida State-Miami in the ACC title game -- and then reassess. Sound good?
Max (Wisconsin Cheerleading squad)
Adam, As per your article about the changes in how PSU is going to play D this season, do you think a drastic change is a good idea? The system is pretty tried and true, especially with LJ Sr and Ron VDL still on staff. Don't you think Ted Roof should take the "If it isn't broke don't fix it" approach?
Adam Rittenberg (4:33 PM)
Good question, Max, and one I thought a lot about while in State College. Although PSU wisely retained Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden as position coaches, you can see that Roof is definitely in charge on the practice field. It'll be important for the defensive backs to get comfortable with the presnap motion, disguising blitzes and coverages and the other elements that go along with a more varied defensive approach. But I don't think things will change too much for the front seven guys, who really serve as Penn State's bread and butter on D.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Realistic Best Case Scenario for Iowa this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
Iowa has had a knack for surprising people in seasons where they're viewed as under the radar. So I'd never rule out 9-10 wins for the Hawkeyes. But there are some areas of concern, namely defensive line and running back. The secondary also leaves me a little uneasy, despite Micah Hyde's return at CB. And typically you see some growing pains when there are significant coaching changes, as there have been in IC.
I know you guys haven't been to Madison yet, but do you have any thoughts on Marquis Mason? Been hearing some noise about him from Badger beat writers, and lord knows they need another reliable target behind Abbrederis.
Adam Rittenberg (4:36 PM)
Brian will be heading up to Madtown next week, and I'm sure he'll be looking out for Mason. I've read a lot about him this spring, and there's certainly an opportunity for a WR or two to emerge alongside Abby. While Wisconsin has a strong No. 1 WR and No. 1 TE in Pedersen, it needs 2-3 more reliable receivers to emerge in my view.
For the B1G CCG, which team from the Leaders would draw more ratings: Penn State or Wisconsin (also meaning, which team would Delany be happier about having in the game)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
Penn State, no doubt. That's not a knock on the Wisconsin team or the Wisconsin brand at all. You asked about ratings, though, and a Penn State team making the championship after all the turmoil in its first season without Joe Paterno would be a ratings goldmine. There would be more national media in Indy, and the TV audience would be huge.
If wisconsin makes it a threepeat will be be considered dominant?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
I'd certainly hope so, David. There would be some national media pointing to Ohio State's bowl ban or maybe Michigan still dealing with the problems of the past coaching staff or Nebraska no longer being elite, but I would hope Wisconsin gets the credit it deserves as an emerging national powerhouse. Now it might only take a Rose Bowl win for the Badgers to affirm themselves as a power, but they'd have a strong case with three straight B1G titles.
The Heartland Bull (Madison, Wisconsin)
Between me and the Land Grant Trophy, which one of us do you think is more likely to make a trip to Indy?
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
Sorry, Bull, but I'm going with the Land Grant. Wisconsin will be the favorite to end up in Indy, but I don't see Iowa finishing ahead of Michigan, MSU and Nebraska. Michigan State will be among the favorites to win the Legends, and I think Penn State has a shot in the Leaders because it's a more wide-open division.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
Speaking of Silas Redd. If he stays healthy and comes back for a senior season, what are his shots at the major national awards? We haven't had a Heisman in, well, a long time.
Adam Rittenberg (4:43 PM)
Kelley, as long as Silas stays healthy, I'd be stunned if he weren't in the national awards mix as a senior. I think he's that good, and he has an admirable approach to the game. Really impressive kid. That said, a strong junior season might be enough to push him toward the NFL draft. It's just the position he plays.
Thrasher (Tucson, AZ)
Does the leaders division have a conceivable risk to end up like 2011 PAC-12 South? With the turnover, turmoil and ineligibility issues for the big three of the division, the B1G certainly doesn't need an embarrassment like that.
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
Yikes, I hope not, Thrasher. But you bring up a good point, and there are some comparisons to be made. I'd be stunned if a team as poor as UCLA was ends up winning the Leaders. But it wouldn't shock me to see an 8-4 champion in the division, either.
MSU PR Dept (EL)
You guys keep talking about OSU and UM competing for NCships in 2013. MSU only has 4 seniors in their 2 deep this year. Plus OSU and Wisc fall off the schedule in 2013. MSU is better setup for NC aspirations than anyone. Can you add them to the overhype list for '13?
Adam Rittenberg (4:46 PM)
We're already doing an overhype list for 2013? C'mon, guys, I know you're in PR, but let's play the 2012 season first, OK? I think the Spartans are set up very well for the next two seasons, but it'll be important for them to take another step this season, maybe win the Big Ten and reach the Rose Bowl. Then we can start talking national title.
Do you think there will be another game at Wrigley in the near future? Possibly Notre Dame playing there?
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
I don't see it, Jack, as the field size remains a big obstacle. Unless there's another configuration or a way to create more space for the end zones, it'll be tough to play a game at Wrigley. I can't imagine teams like Illinois, Northwestern or Iowa would want to schedule games using only one end zone like Northwestern and Illinois did in 2010.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Adam, I have to say that I am most impressed with Coach O'Brien so far (the Board of Trustees may want to give him another role as their media consultant). In general terms, what was your takeaways about his personality having spent a good deal of time around him this week?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
He's a good guy. He's a football coach and doesn't hide it. He's not trying to be more than that at Penn State. He's there to coach football and win at a place that, despite all the turmoil, is set up to compete at a high level. He's not trying to be a savior or a legend. He even told me there's no way he'll be coaching in his eighties. I think he's done a good job of acknowledging the past and emphasizing the importance to take pride in playing for Penn State, while at the same time making some dramatic -- and many would say necessary -- changes.
OSU PR Dept (CBus)
Hey MSU PR, Neb and MSU fall off our schedule, so i think we are in even better position.
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
So now we're debating who has the easiest schedule? C'mon, guys. As you often love to tell me, you're better than that (god I hate that phrase).
Joe (New Glarus, WI)
Whether it's a question in the mailblog, chat, or you guys writing, every time the NC comes up it seems like a different group of teams is mentioned as those likely to dethrone the SEC. Removing OSU and UM, which program(s) has/have the BEST shot at winning it all in the next 5 years? Maybe a ranking system of sorts.
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
Joe, I'd go with Wisconsin and then Nebraska. Wisconsin has been right there the past two seasons. It still amazes me how the Badgers managed to lose three games last fall. But the program is inching toward a nationally elite level. Nebraska might not be too far away, either, and the talent level in Lincoln is pretty good. But the Huskers might have to skip a few steps to reach the promised land as they haven't won a league title since 1999.
Who has the best chance for Heisman in the big 10?
Adam Rittenberg (4:54 PM)
Montee Ball has to be up there as a Heisman finalist from 2011. Denard Robinson is the other name to watch because he's so recognizable nationally. That's a big part of it -- how exciting you are as a player and how recognizable you are nationally. People point out Denard's shortcomings, and there are some. But he's a face that college football fans know about coast to coast. And that matters regarding the Heisman.
Adam, does Delany simply hate Michigan State? First, once Penn State joins, he forces a "rivalry" between MSU and PSU and creates the abomination that is the Land Grant Trophy for them to play for. Second, once Nebraska joins, MSU is forced to be inter-divisional "rivals" with Indiana...
Adam Rittenberg (4:56 PM)
I don't think so, Chris. Someone needed to have a cross-division game with Indiana, and pairing Nebraska with Penn State made more sense than continuing the Land Grant series. Nebraska and Penn State have more in common than MSU and PSU. So I don't think there's a blatant conspiracy against the Spartans. They just don't have as strong of a connection with teams from the Leaders division as fellow Legends division squads do.
Adam Rittenberg (4:56 PM)
Got to run a little bit early today, so this will be the final question ...
Andrew (Mount Pleasant, Mi)
Am I the only one crazy enough to say Michigan has a chance against Alabama? Alabama loses practically their whole defense, and Trent Richardson as well. Michigan, on the other hand, returns all of their secondary, and all of their linebackers. Yes they have to replace much of the D & O lines. They return Denard and Fitz in the bacjfield as well. Am i crazy?
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
You're not crazy, Andrew. Michigan could win. But Alabama is one of those programs that can lose a ton of starters and be just fine. The Tide are simply that good, and Nick Saban is the best college coach in the country. Alabama will be formidable come Sept. 1. Michigan's offense will need to hit on some big plays and limit mistakes from Denard Robinson. The Tide will test Michigan up front, and the Wolverines will be leaning more on some new players on both sides like Ricky Barnum and Will Campbell.
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
OK, guys, thanks for the chat. Let's do it again soon.
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