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 (12:00 PM)
Hey everyone, here and ready for your questions. Fire away.
What should we expect from the Penn State offense this season? QB is always an issue there. The running game has been average lately. What kind of system is O'Brien looking to run, and does he have the horses to do it in the short term?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
A very complex system, Chris, based on what he ran in New England. Bill told me last week his approach this spring has been to throw everything at them and see what sticks. For the quarterbacks, it has understandably been a challenge. But the run game should be solid behind Silas Redd and what looks to be an improved line. Penn State will run some no-huddle, will try to get a lot of different players and space and will stretch the field in the pass game, like New England does.
Ryan Lenihan (Indianapolis, IN )
hello adam, do you think it is possible for the big ten to shed its image of its inability to advance to the title game? the SEC has been regulars for the title game... it really pains me to say this... but.. ohio state , historically, has been the only big ten team that has advanced and WON the title game. .. so there are not any other big ten teams.. such as michigan... iowa... indiana... northwestern... and wiscision... advancing to the title game.. is it the big ten's repuation ? or. can you please clarify why it is a success for the SEC while it is not the case for the big ten?
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
Ryan, you touch on the reason in your comments. The SEC has more depth at the top than the Big Ten. It's not just one SEC team making the championship game, but several. Ohio State has been the lone Big Ten program equipped to compete at a national level year in and year out. I think other Big Ten programs are getting closer to that point, such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State. But you need more teams in that nationally elite mix. Right now, the SEC has more than the Big Ten.
Hello Adam, what three current B1G assistant coaches do you think will be head coaches in 2013?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Mike, the first name on my list is Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. I think he's ready to make the job, and while MSU did a great job retaining him after Texas A&M came calling this winter, it's only a matter of time before Pat moves on. Ohio State DC Luke Fickell is also ready to lead a program full-time, especially after going through his experience in Columbus last year.
Devin Gardner (Ann Arbor)
Adam, this whole "Devin to receiver" thing is getting a bit old for me. I'm a ridiculously athletic Michigan quarterback who has issues throwing (sound familiar to anyone?). I'd rather be a second-string quarterback than a first-string receiver. When will this clamor die down? Also, why does everyone think I can make the transition to WR just because I'm tall, strong, and athletic? If size and speed were the only criteria for a wideout, wouldn't we switch RB's and WR's all the time? Can't a wet blanket be thrown on this thing so I can stop worrying about route-running and get back to figuring out how to throw the darn football?
Adam Rittenberg (12:06 PM)
Devin, I don't think you have to worry too much. I think the WR thing has been more fan-driven than reality. With a quarterback like Denard who is prone to injury because of his style, you need to be ready to step in under center. While Michigan could use another receiver or two, your primary concern should be quarterback and making strides there. Don't worry too much about the noise.
Adam, A lot of people have made reference to OSU struggleing this season possibly to adjusting to a new offense. I do think they may struggle a little bit, but I think by game 4 or so they will be clicking which happens to be right before the BIG season begins. Say OSU makes it through their first 4 at 4-0. DO you see them getting rankes early or wil it be something like USC the last couple years to where you do not give them a high ranking because of their sanctions keeping them from getting into a bowl? To me, as a OSU homer I thinik they end the year in the top 20 going 10-2. your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Joe, I wouldn't worry too much about Ohio State being ranked. Wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Buckeyes in the preseason Top 25. And a 4-0 start would simply move them up. I think the voters recognize that Ohio State's offense, while new, can't get much worse than it was last year. And like you say, players should be more comfortable by midseason. The Buckeyes defense, meanwhile, could be a lot better with another year of experience.
Taylor (Elkhorn, NE)
With Nebraska wanting to lighten the load on Burkhead to keep him more fresh throughout the season we will see the younger backs get more reps. It seemed as if last year Abdullah got way more playing time than Green. I'm hoping to see more of Green this year because i think he brings more of a flash and game breaking speed that would compliment Burkheads style nicely. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
Taylor, I think you'll be seeing a lot of both Abdullah and Green this fall. The way the coaches were talking when I was there, they put Abdullah and Green in the same category, and they really like what both young backs did this spring. Green came in with a lot of hype, and I know he wasn't pleased with his role last year. It seems like he has used it as motivation during a strong offseason. Both men should help keep Rex fresh.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Has Bo Ryan now surpassed Les Miles as the most petty coach in America? I understand not allowing the player to transfer to an in conference opponent, or a definite team on the schedule, but his restrictions went above and beyond. Especially, when you consider coaches leave players high and dry at the eleventh hour all the time. Will this come back to bite him on the recruiting trail?
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
It seems like overkill for Bo, and he's receiving quite the backlash in the media ... Not unlike Randy Edsall ... who eventually relented and lifted restrictions on Danny O'Brien ... who eventually transferred to ... yep, Wisconsin. Doesn't seem like Bo and Bret Bielema are on the same page about transfers.
DuckI (Camp Randall)
Adam, It seems like the BIG currently has a lack of a conference identity and less unity than the SEC. How can we get this back when seven of the 12 teams are led by coaches that weren't in the conference two years ago? What will it take for a Badgers fan to again take pride in a Buckeye victory, or a Spartan to be proud of a Hawkeye?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Less unity? Not sure if I agree. I think most Big Ten fans pull for the league in nonconference matchups and in bowls. Sure, there will always be some fans who don't because of rivalry reasons, etc., but the fans I hear from want the league to succeed. Are Big Ten fans are loud and obnoxious about it as those from the SEC? Not even close. But I don't think it means the league lacks unity.
Hank (Washington DC)
What are your thoughts on Dantonio's comments about Michigan not being a threat? Go Blue!
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
I love it, Hank. Stirs up the rivalry even more. Dantonio is no fool. He knows Michigan's top rival always will be Ohio State, but Michigan State has made the in-state series much more interesting with its recent success. Michigan always will get more media coverage and hype than Michigan State, but the Spartans have been the better program as of late. I think his comment reflects what a lot of Spartans fans feel about Michigan and the hype it receives. I also think he still respects Michigan and knows it'll be a tough game every time the Spartans face the Maize and Blue.
Paul (Allentown (PA))
When Chryst left Wisconsin for Pitt, he took what seemed to be an inordinate number of coaches and players/recruits from UW with him. Was that business as usual with a coordinator leaving for a head coaching gig, or did that turn some heads with the way he cleaned the cupboards on the way out of Madison?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
He ended up taking three assistants (Bostad, Huxtable and Rudolph) with him to Pitt. No one was surprised Bostad left, given his relationship with Chryst, and Huxtable became a coordinator again, the spot he held at UCF before coming to Wisconsin. I think the total number of assistant departures (6) turned heads more than the number Chryst took to Pitt. It's pretty unusual to see so many departures from a staff with a head coach who has security and a team that has made the past two Rose Bowls.
What are your thoughts on Brady Hoke's ability to recruit? When he first got to Ann Arbor, I was a little skeptical. Now I'm a believer.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
He has done an incredible job on the recruiting trail. What I love is that Michigan has a vision for recruiting, and a strategy, and it doesn't waver from it. The coaches know who they want and they're not hesitating to get these players on board. It translates to so many early verbal commits for the Wolverines. I'm looking forward to seeing how Hoke's offensive recruits perform when Michigan is running a system more tailored to their abilities (pro-style).
Preston (East Lansing) [via mobile]
Hey, wondering I'd the late injury to Andrew Maxwell will be very crucible to the Spartans offense since he will be out all spring now? Does the back up freshman now have a chance to start?
Adam Rittenberg (12:21 PM)
Preston, stop sending your question 500 times. OK, the Maxwell injury is unfortunate because it limits the amount of practice time with the coaches that the first-team offense will have with its top QB. MSU would benefit from its young receivers having more time with Maxwell. But it's not the end of the world. And no, Connor Cook isn't going to be the starter come Aug. 31.
Mark (The Woodlands, TX)
Jumping in on Brady Hoke comment. Sure would have liked to see a Hoke vs. Tressel meeting but of course that will never happen now. Tressel of course was a pro-style offense and RichRod tried to run a spread. Ironic isn't it that Hoke seems to be going back to Michigan's old ways while Meyer is bringing in more of a spread type scheme?
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
It's interesting, Mark. Hoke is the ultimate Michigan coach, and he has stressed the same values as Lloyd Carr and Bo Schembechler. My only concern is whether he'll value competing for national championships as much as a coach of an elite program should. I hear a lot of Big Ten title/Rose Bowl talk from Hoke, but very little about national titles. This thinking is a bit outdated. You know Urban Meyer will aim for national titles beginning next year.
Do you really think Purdue could be a suprise in the leaders division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
I do, Dennis, but the Boilers have to clean up their play in all three phases. Too many major mistakes during the Danny Hope era. But the Boilers have talent at key spots like defensive tackle and cornerback, and they have more depth at quarterback than most Big Ten teams. The offensive line is a bit of a concern, but if Purdue can just play a cleaner style, it should have a chance to make some noise in the division.
Adam - quick three part question: Did you know that Iowa State started 3 Big Ten transfers (and played a total of 6 transfers from around the country) last year in hoops, and will be up to 4 Big Ten transfers next season when Korie Lucious takes the floor? Did you know that Iowa State is actively recruiting kids from other schools to transfer in, rather than recruiting high school kids, making them among the most hated basketball programs in the country, which explains why Bo Ryan will not allow his kid from Iowa to transfer to Iowa State? And lastly, do you think you should stick to talking about football?
Adam Rittenberg (12:26 PM)
Bill, that's one school. Explain all the others. Now back to talking football ...
Hank (Washington DC)
Adam--You must win a Big 10 Title before getting a National Championship title! I see nothing wrong with Hoke's mindset.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
Might want to check with Alabama about that :-) But yes, your point is valid. This is an issue I've wondered about not just with Hoke, but throughout the Big Ten. Do enough teams in this league truly strive to be national champions? Because that's how leagues are judged in this environment. And when a playoff arrives, winning the Rose Bowl will mean even less in terms of national perception.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Hi Adam, How many RB's do you see Iowa using next year? I know it will be by committee, but, how many will be in the rotation? and do you think 1 of them will get to 1000 yards?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
I think Iowa has to go into the season with a committee mind-set at RB. If one guy emerges during nonconference play as a featured back, go with him. But I think the Hawkeyes will get both Bullock and Johnson some carries, along with at least one of the freshmen. Garmon is a very intriguing prospect and could be an impact guy right away. So I could see anywhere from 2-4 backs in the RB rotation. If one emerges, a 1,000-yard season wouldn't be a shocker.
Taylor Martinez (Lincoln, NE)
Adam, I don't usually say much, but I just want to let the B1G know that it's not just my passing mechanics that are better with regards to footwork. My Ankle's finally at 100% since the Missouri game of 2010. I think B1G defenses should be ready for me to burn them with the zone read. You agree?
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM)
Amazing, Taylor. You told me the exact same things when I was in Lincoln earlier this month. You also said the coaches will run you more this season, which could be very good for Nebraska's offense. Big Ten defense already have you on their radar, but they need to be prepared for a guy who will be totally healthy entering the fall. Still, if you don't pass the ball more consistently, it'll be a struggle at times.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Hey Adam - how about taking a Penn State question that isn't about the QBs or O'Brien's offensive scheme? What was your impression of Fitz and the new strength program? Do you think it'll make a difference and is so, on which group(s) of players?
Adam Rittenberg (12:34 PM)
Brian, I was impressed by Craig Fitzgerald and his approach to strength training, but I was more impressed by what the players had to say about him. Fitz and his staff had the first crack at these guys after a very tough stretch between November-late January. They laid the groundwork for the transition and the changes. And players seemed to totally buy in, especially groups like the offensive line. No group has been impacted more by the new strength program than the O-line.
Ross (New York) [via mobile]
Sorry Adam for bothering you, is DeAnthony Arrnett going to be able to play or is the BCAA going to make him wait, if they do make him wait will the Spartans have enough offensive weapons to win the division again?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Ross, while the NCAA often leaves me puzzled, I'd be stunned if they didn't grant Arnett's waiver. His case is a lot more compelling than that of Notre Dame receiver Amir Carlisle, who had his waiver approved in March. If for some reason the NCAA makes the wrong decision, MSU will need several unproven players to emerge at receiver to help balance out the offense. But I really believe with or without Arnett, the Spartans will be a run-first team in 2012.
Are you going to attend the OSU spring game? Also, I am hearing that Devin Smith and Braxton Miller are forming good chemistry this spring. If some guys like Smith and Jordan Hall step up as playmakers, how will Urban Meyers offense fair in the B1G this season and going forward and what sort of impact it will have on recruiting?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
I won't be at the spring game, which really doesn't serve me well when I visit schools, but I will be in Columbus on Thursday and Friday. Looking forward to seeing how the Buckeyes are handling the new offense and who could be emerging as playmakers. I think the offense will look great at times and bad at other times, but the overall production will be much better by the end of the season than it was in 2011.
The last couple of years we've had expansion and division alignment to discuss in the off season which I felt helped it move faster. Do you miss having topics like those to discuss in the off season, or are you happier with only football questions?
Adam Rittenberg (12:39 PM)
Uh, after the past two offseasons, especially the last one, I'm very happy to be talking mostly about football right now. The perception that we love covering scandals isn't true. But it's our job to do so.
If could change any one thing about Iowa's football program, what would it be?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
From my perspective? More accessibility. I think Iowa would benefit from being more open to media and its fans. But most fans don't seem to care about that. I just think Iowa football is such a huge deal within the state, but the access policies, while improving a bit lately, limit some of the good stories that can be told.
Adam, in my opinion, I don't think many coaches in the BIG really care about National Titles because of it being a popularity contest. I'm not including Meyer in this (2006 is evidence that he loves to lobby for his teams to get it) All BIG coaches can do is strive for the BIG Title, and hope maybe one day, all the SEC homers that vote in the polls give them some love. But the way the system is set up right now, I don't blame any of them for not making that a priority...with what's happened in the past!
Adam Rittenberg (12:43 PM)
Maybe that's part of it, Dave, but Nebraska players don't seem to be shy about discussing the national title. They're new to the Big Ten and haven't competed for a title since 2001, but they're being open about aiming for the top. I don't think every team needs to talk openly about national titles, but it should be on the goal boards in the football facilities around this league. I'm just saying until more Big Ten programs are in the mix for the crystal football, the league will lag behind the SEC.
Pappy (Springfield, IL)
I want to ask an Illini question but the Tim Beckman hiring still has a bad taste in my mouth. Recruiting blows and no buzz at all with this program. This is why you don't hire a MAC Coach. Of course Mike Thomas probably wants to turn Illinois into the next MAC power.
Adam Rittenberg (12:45 PM)
Pappy, while I can understand some of your frustration, you should give Beckman and his staff a chance. They're making some key changes in Champaign, some of them relating to off-field issues, that should benefit the program going forward. And while the 2012 recruiting class wasn't great, let's give him a full recruiting cycle before judging him. I also think Illinois might have one of the Big Ten's best defenses this fall. The offense definitely will have some hiccups, but a front seven like Illinois' can carry a team to some wins.
Steven (Madison, WI)
Do you think it's possible that Delany threw the 4-plus-Rose game into the mix just to make the rest of the options look better to the other conferences? I love the Rose Bowl, and Delany does too, but we all know that that system would never be ratified.
Adam Rittenberg (12:46 PM)
Steven, I think he did it to show his loyalty to the Rose Bowl, telling them that he's fighting for them even though both parties know they're not winning this one. I also think he could be using it at leverage to advocate for more realistic options, such as having semifinal games on campus, something both Delany and Pac-12 commish Larry Scott both want.
Peter (Lansing )
When will night games be announced? Will the Ohio State - Michigan State game be at night?
Adam Rittenberg (12:49 PM)
It should be soon, Paul. Last year's announcement came in mid May, which was a little later than normal. We could see something before the end of the month or in early May. While I can't confirm any specific games, it seems as though Ohio State-MSU and Wisconsin-Nebraska are the two top primetime candidates for Sept. 29.
Hearing rumors this may be one of the defenses the badgers have ever had. Seems everyone is downplaying the potential of the badger defense. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
You could be right, Drew. I know the coaches have been excited about this year's defense for some time. It always helps to have two All-Big Ten linebackers in Borland and Taylor. The secondary needs to upgrade its depth and improve its overall speed. Wisconsin also needs more production from the defensive end spot. But if several young players continue to make strides, the Badgers' D could be very solid this fall.
Chris (Los Angeles)
Adam, I know the game times haven't been released yet but I need your opinion.... I have been a Wolverine fan my whole life and am not sure if I should be sitting on my couch watching them face off against Ohio on Nov 24 or should I be at the Coliseum watching USC Vs Notre Dame... What would you do (if their game times conflict)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Hmmm, could be an issue, Chris, although Michigan-Ohio State has traditionally been a noon ET kickoff (9 am Pacific), while the Notre Dame-USC game is almost always late afternoon or evening. I remember covering ND-USC at night in the Coliseum back in 2006. So my guess is you'll be OK watching The Game at home and have plenty of time to make it to the Coliseum for a 330 or 5 pm kickoff.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Is the tough Northwestern defensive line from the spring game real? Or a mirage based on holes in the O-line/rules preventing Kain Colter from scrambling?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Chris, I think the Northwestern D-line will be better. Couldn't get much worse from a pass-rush perspective. Tyler Scott is a player, and younger guys like Deonte Gibson had strong springs. That said, the offensive line clearly needs work, and the spring game raised some red flags (although the play-calling, not done by the coordinator, had something to do with it). Northwestern has recruited well to the O-line, but the results haven't translated to the field, especially with the run game. It'll be a very important summer for Adam Cushing and his o-linemen.
Adam - you only say nice things about football programs. What's a positive thing you can say about Minnesota (other than they have a nice new stadium)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
Ah, Bill, you clearly haven't been reading the blog -- like ever. It's spring, so the general tone about these teams is optimistic. Minnesota has a lot to work on, particularly its non-existent pass rush, thin secondary and lack of run game. But like most teams in this league, I can see the Gophers making strides in Year 2 under Jerry Kill. Players are a lot more comfortable with what's going on there.
Adam, when will the Big Ten and Pac-12 announce which teams will be paired against each other in their agreement in the future? Are there any updates an this new "alliance"?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Paul, I'll check on this, but since things don't fully get going until 2017, it likely will be a little while. There are also teams from both leagues that have previous scheduling agreements -- like Northwestern and Stanford -- that need to be absorbed in the new partnership.
Pete (Bozeman, MT)
Curious what your thoughts on the Husker defense are for the coming season...new coach, losing crucial players and coming off of a fairly poor season in terms of traditional blackshirt performance.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
Nebraska's defense will need to win with greater depth. I'm not too concerned with the coordinator transition, as the players already know John Papuchis, and Bo Pelini is still their head coach. Also, I think the two new assistants, Kaczenski and Joseph, are excellent additions. The Huskers need to show greater depth both in the line and in the secondary, and they feel like they have it. They also think they'll be able to do more schematically than they did last fall, when they were soft in some areas (deep middle, etc).
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Great questions this week. Thanks for participating.