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, everybody and welcome to another Big Ten Monday chat.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
I'm here for the next hour to answer whatever questions you may have. So fire away!
Mike (Alexandria, VA)
After watching the Blue White game this Saturday, I have to think that the QBs will be whittled down to two going into summer camp. I thought McGloin had the best performance on Saturday of the three, with Jones showing the most athleticism and by far the best arm. Bolden will be the odd man out, and I think eventually (maybe not the first game of the season) Jones will win the job. O'Brien seems to really like the kid. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Jones probably is the most intriguing option, given his athleticism. But he has never played a game and has had trouble staying eligible. McGloin is the safest pick but isn't going to wow anybody. And Bolden just hasn't impressed me at all in two years. I still believe McGloin begins the year as the starter but wouldn't be surprised to see Jones pass him at some point.
Tim Ann arbor [via mobile]
Hey from what I've been hearing Michigan state seems to have great depth and player ability all over. But since you were the one out in east Lansing I'd like to ask if wide out seemed to be a real down side to the spartan offense or were they add equate enough to at least not be the bigger hindrance?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
The WR position for the Spartans doesn't lack talent, just experience. With Lippett and Fowler hurt, they're very young there. I think those guys will get better, and the freshmen coming in will help, but it's not going to be nearly as strong as when Cunningham and Martin were there last year. However, I do think the running game will be a lot better from Day One. Bell looks terrific this spring.
Johnny (East Lansing, MI)
There's a lot of talk about offenses and defenses but I haven't seen much mentioned about special teams. Given its importance in recent seasons such as MSU's trick plays or Michigan's kicking struggles, have you seen anything of note from any team during your B1G journey?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Not really, Johnny. You don't learn much about special teams in the spring, especially since the kickers and punters are often off in their own world. I did think Will Hagerup looked good punting for Michigan the day I was there, but overall I didn't learn a ton about the kicking teams this spring.
Brian, after doing some reading at MGoBlog today, it seems Michigan is actually not going to make the money that many expected them to make when they signed up for this game (and in fact, not much more than they would have had with a home game). Is there an upside to this game? Sure, beating Alabama would be tremendous for both the program and the Big 10, but given that Michigan is still recovering from the RichRod regime, and the state of Alabama's program (probably best in the country right now), it seems like Michigan has a lot to lose. If this game was in 2 years, I'd be much more positive about it.
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
The upside is exposure, really. That game is going to draw a ton of attention. And if Michigan were to win or even keep it close, the Wolverines will gain a lot of national respect. If not, it's no huge loss as the Big Ten title is still available
Mike (Alexandria, VA)
Where are you at Brian? It's 3:05!
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Been here since 3 sharp. Where are you?
I think people are as excited about the DLine here in Columbus as they are about the change in offensive philosophy. The DE/DL recruits Meyer is bringing in are just unreal!!
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
It is really impressive, and that group could be flat out nasty in a couple of years. Meyer is no dummy; he knows you win in big-boy football on the defensive lines. The Buckeyes should be awfully good soon.
Who wins in the circle drill, you or Adam?
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
I've got more overall athleticism, as I doubt Adam could run a half-marathon like I will be doing this weekend. But he does have a lower center of gravity.
Phillip (a stadium near you)
Brian,a 3-0 final score at the spring game at Minnesota this weekend.. Is this cause of major concern on the offensive side of the ball or is this all of sudden a great defense?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
I read almost nothing into spring game outcomes. You can see how some players have improved and are looking, but these are glorified walk-throughs for the fans and tell you very little. It was encouraging, however, that at least the Gophers have a little more competitiveness and depth on defense.
Angel Olvera (Texas, Edinburg)
Do u think USC, could have ended the SEC dominance if they hadnt been banned for the last couple of years?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Not one bit.
Where do you think Mercilus ends up going in the draft?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I'm no Mel Kiper, but I would think Mercilus goes in the first two rounds. Great motor, great production and he did well in his pre-draft workouts.
Does ESPN pay you in real dollars or those Fancy Burt Cooper bucks???
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
That was a 1966 Bert Cooper $5 bill. Wonder how much that is worth today with inflation?
What did you think of the Badgers D-line when you saw them this week? Any improvement or hope for a pass rush? I know Gilbert is limited still, but did anyone else stand out?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
Really liked the defensive tackles and think Beau Allen could have a really big year. Brendan Kelly played well in the scrimmage on Saturday. Good pressure up the middle. They still need an explosive edge guy, and Gilbert is the only real candidate. So he's got to get healthy
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Just saw the news about John L. Smith taking over at Arkansas. Stunned, to say the least.
Did you see coach coombs during the OSU Bull Ring? I thought he was going to tear someone's head off...
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Nothing I hadn't seen from him at Cincinnati. That guy is one intense dude. He's great.
Matt (Sker in Scottsdale)
Brian, why isn't Husker LB David higher on the draft boards? Also what is Nebraskas Contingency plan if T-Magic goes down early? Who steps up and runs this offense or do we go back to running the ball 75% plus of the time?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
Size. That's the simple answer. David just isn't very big for an NFL linebacker, but he is a beast who makes plays. He'll make somebody happy. Sure looks like Brion Carnes would be the guy if Martinez went down. Reports this spring were that he had improved a lot over last year.
Addison (East Lansing)
How does MSU stack up to Wisconsin this year after seeing both teams this spring?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
If they played tomorrow, Michigan State would win big. Wisconsin has issues in the passing game, on the right side of its O-line and at DE, plus some key injuries right now. Michigan State is solid everywhere except the passing game. But we're a long way away.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
John L Smith slapped himself after losing games in the Big 10. What's he going to do when those SEC fans get to him?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
I know this, as a guy who covered Smith at Louisville: It won't be boring. The combo of Smith and those Hogs fans should create quite a bit of drama.
Did Braxton Miller make that big of an improvement in Spring (under Meyer/Herman), or was his Spring game performance just a function of the rules they were playing under? I would like to think he improved, but...
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Well, the Buckeyes were basically just out there throwing it all over the place. Would love to see the full offensive package with Miller running and throwing. But it is encouraging to see him make some good throws after he was not asked to pass a lot most of last year. And the Michael Thomas performance might have been the best thing that happened for a WR corps that needs playmakers.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think the Boilermakers are a bowl team this seson?
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
I do. They have a lot of returning starters and good talent on both sides of the ball back from last years 7-6 team. They should be able to avoid losing games they shouldn't, like that loss at Rice. Sleeper in the Leaders Division
Mike (Evergreen, CO)
If you had to pick a B1G to run the table (I don't think anyone will either), who would it be? And more a product of best team or best schedule?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I really don't see it, with the parity and the road games facing the top teams. Michigan State probably has the best depth to be able to do that, but the Spartans have to go to Wisconsin and Michigan. The Wolverines have to go to Nebraska and Ohio State. Wisconsin goes to Nebraska and Penn State. So I'd be pretty surprised if anyone ran the table, especially since there's is not much separation between the top teams.
Dr0pt (In the OC)
Bill Belton looked good at RB in the Blue White game. Do you think he a Redd will form a formidable duo or if healthy do you see Redd having the bulk of the carries?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Belton is an athletic guy who can do a lot of things. Could be a really nice complement to Redd in the passing game. And maybe most importantly, he can take some of the load off Redd, who sure seemed to get worn down late in the year after some big games midseason.
Mike (Ann Arbor)
Brian from reading the blog it seems pretty common thinking that Alabama should be about a 10 point favorite over Michigan and some of my fellow wolverine fans take this as a slight against the program while I think its more of a nod to Alabama. So I was wondering if there were any teams in the B1G that you would give a better chance against Alabama in week 1 down in Texas considering that Ohio State and Penn State have new coaches to break in, Wisconsin has a new QB and coaching turnover and Michigan State would be almost completely one-dimensional with a new QB and no receivers.
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
Michigan State is best equipped, in my opinion, to play with a team like Alabama because of its lines. But it would be tough for the Spartans to beat that defense if it were one-dimensional. I wouldn't see any team in the Big Ten being better than a 10-point 'dog to the Tide right now.
Ryan (New York, NY)
Thoughts on Ondre Pipkins ability to have an impact as a freshman?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
You never know with freshmen until they arrive on campus. But I do know that Michigan needs more depth on the DL, and Pipkins will be given every shot to crack the two-deep if he's ready.
In your estimation, how much of Taylor Martinez's "poor decision making" last season can be attributed to young receivers learning a VERY complex offensive system that asks them to read defenses constantly? I have more confidence in him than many of my fellow Cornhusker fans do, and I think there were numerous interceptions and incomplete passes that looked like the result of bad reads by the receivers.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
The receivers certainly must share a large part of the blame. Even when they got open and Martinez got them the ball, there were too many drops. The WRs were a pretty young bunch last year and it was a new system. There's every reason to expect improvement there in 2012.
Have a prediction for Northwestern's record?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
7-5. They win two of the first three, lose to Michigan, MSU, Nebraska and Penn State.
Jeff (from Philly)
Brian, you heard it here 1st Penn State will win the B1G this year and play in the BCS Championship Game in 2014. I'm not saying this cause I'm a homer, but they have been under coached for years. Even in their recent 11-2 and 12-1 campaigns they won in spite of coaching.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I don't know about all that. The defense has been really good and well coached of late. The offense should improve but am not sure the Lions have the trigger man to be truly great there. Wouldn't be at all surprised to see them win the Leaders, though. Getting Wisconsin and Ohio State at home is huge.
Bernard (Philly, PA)
Maybe a better questin for Adam since he just spent time in Columbus, but how have your experiences been with Urban Meyer since he took over the OSU job? He has a terrible reputation with the local sports' media in Florida and they continue to write very personal attacks to this day. If he is difficult to deal with for the media and causes negative press to develop in Ohio, will it hurt recruiting down the road?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I talked to Meyer for a Q&A right after signing day, and Adam interviewed him last week. We found him to be pretty revealing and honest, and his press conferences have been very interesting to watch so far in Columbus. So far, so good, though we'll see how things go when there's a rough patch. Being on the other side of the media may have helped Meyer's perspective on that stuff.
Addison (East Lansing)
It seems like last year there was not a standout TE in B1G, who is the best TE in the B1G this upcoming season?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I think Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen could have a huge year, especially without a lot of experience at WR there. And I would expect Iowa and Penn State to use their TEs a lot more in the passing game. Also look out for Ted Bolser at Indiana, who had a really nice spring.
Alfonso Denard (Lincoln, NE)
Am I screwed, after my arrest of assualt charges over the weekend? Is your basement available?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Great timing on that one. Don't understand why anyone would be messing around the week before the draft. Someone's going to get a bargain in the draft.
John L to Arkansas???? I apologize to the Hog fanbase on that one...... That means the last 3 MSU coaches are in the SEC (Saban, Williams at Bama and JLS at Arkansas).
Last year the leading receiver for the Buckeyes had 14 catches. In the spring game, the freshman Thomas had 12. That's gotta mean significant progress in the passing game right?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
Again, don't read too much into spring games, but Thomas does look like he can help. I would expect the Buckeyes' leading receiver to have more than 14 after two games this season. Remember that OSU barely threw the ball much of last season. That will definitely change with Meyer and a more seasoned QB
Jake Stoneburner (Cbus)
what about me BB?!? im not poised for a breakout campeign?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Should have mentioned you, too. We should see a major TE resurgence in the league this year.
What are the chances Shilique Calhoun beats out Marcus Rush for the starting DE spot in East Lansing?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Not too high for the time being. Rush is a really solid player. Calhoun has some impressive physical skills but needs to learn how to be more consistent. He will contribute.
Ryan (New York, NY)
What is your favorite restaurant that you have found in a Big Ten Town? Zingerman's in AA for me.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
Had a humongous and delicious eggs Benedict at Zingerman's while in Ann Arbor. Also had gigantic and super tasty breakfasts at Sparty's in East Lansing and Mickie's Dairy Bar in Madison. I need to run 10 miles and buy a lipo machine.
Schrodinger's Cat (Austria)
Even if we go to a 4 team playoff with games on campus, how long before the B1G hosts?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
That's a good question, because the league wouldn't have even have had a team in the playoff the last two years, just going by rankings. The Big Ten needs to get back to the point of seriously competing for national titles, then it will have a better argument for more favorable geography.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
So since you're getting married and going to be taking your "love leave," does that make Adam the Peggy to your Don?
Brian Bennett (3:45 PM)
Adam's more like Roger Sterling. He's been there the longest, his name is on the door. Just don't tell his wife.
Since UM and OSU are the only ones doing anything in recruiting, how close is the Big Ten dream of having "The Game" twice a year and is this what they hoped for when putting the two powerhouses in separate divisions?
Brian Bennett (3:48 PM)
It's quite possible in a couple of years, but I really don't think that scenario would be a great thing for the league. Playing twice in two weeks? Not good, and it may force a scheduling or alignment change. But remember that somebody has to lose The Game, so the loser would have to have its division locked up by two games going into it. Going to be hard to do that every year.
CHUCK (God's country (Minnesota))
I'm really liking the Gophers this year. I think they will surprise, and win six trophies. GOPHERS #1!!!!!
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
I admire your optimism. Do they give out trophies for the UNLV and New Hampshire games?
Pub Crawler ((Merry Ol') England)
With Abby nursing an injury this spring, what were your impressions of the Badger WR's? Mason, Hammond, or anyone else looking like they might breakout?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
Really inconsistent. They'd make a play one series and then vanish. Isaiah Williams had the best day at the scrimmage on Saturday. Mason has some skills but takes plays off too much. Kenzel Doe can be a little sparkplug at slot. I like that Mason and Hammond are tall with good size. With Wisconsin's offense, that can be especially valuable.
Kelley (Los Angeles, PSU Nation)
Now that the Pac 12 agreement is coming there is almost no chance that we will get to revive our rivalry with Pitt. Is there anyone you see with whom we can develop a true rivalry? The powers that be tried to get one going with MSU and the Land Grant Trophy + the blood drive challenge, but now even that is gone...
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
There are games scheduled with Pitt for 2016 and 2017, but we'll see if that '17 one sticks if the Pac-12 series starts in earnest that year. Ohio State should be a natural rival for Penn State and could be if both teams really challenge for Leaders supremacy. The Nebraska series also has potential, if not geography on its side.
Is it just me or does it seem like the recruits are committing earlier and earlier each year? Can it really be April 2012 and the staffs are well into the 2014 classes?!
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
Not just committing earlier, but so many are arriving in January as well. If it were me, I'd want to enjoy my senior year of HS.
Even with a team that has a few weaknesses right now, how do you think Wisconsin will fare because of the big games at home? Will that be enough to make it to the Championship game?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I'd be more worried about the road games, at Nebraska and at Penn State, as Wisconsin just hasn't been the same team away from Camp Randall. But the Badgers should still be the preseason favorites in the Leaders given Ohio State's probation.
How funny is it that most of the Big Ten coaches seem pretty content with a Big Ten title, I have only heard one coach, Urban Meyer saying that he expects National titles.
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Nebraska has talked about national titles this spring, too. Thing is, if you win a Big Ten title, there's a good chance you're in the running for the big enchilada as well.
Mike W (Lincoln, NE)
Should Nebraska and Minnesota start a trophy series? We (husker nation) have the longest history with the Gophers than other Big Ten teams have with us so it makes some sense, and it used to be a pretty competitive series. Will it ever become a rivalry again? Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
It only becomes a rivalry again if Minnesota starts playing better and actually beats Nebraska. If the series gets competitive, I'd be all for adding a trophy.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks. That's all my time for this week. Thanks once again for all the questions, and have a great rest of your week.