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. I'm here for the next hour to talk about whatever's on your brain today.
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Fire away with your best questions.
Johnny (East Lansing, MI)
Andre Rison was recently brought in as an assistant wide receivers coach at MSU, but there has been some commotion about the hire. Those for it say he is a superbowl champion and 5 time pro-bowler, those against it say his personal transgressions make him unfit for a coaching position. Dantonio has a history of taking gambles on people with red-flags, will this one pay off?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I think the fact that he'll be a student assistant coach makes this a pretty low-risk/high-reward situation. Rison's expertise certainly could come in handy with the young Spartans' receiving corps.
Samuel (Iowa City)
Brian, I'd like your take on this business at OSU with the sex offender creep reaching out to recruits. Do you think its a program's responsibility to insulate recruits and players from everyone that the program or parents might disapprove of? I'm a little concerned about this causing players to become a little more removed into a world that completely revolves around football with a small circle of parents and coaches.
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
The entire situation is weird, to say the least. A program can't shut off its players from the outside world 24 hours a day. But why does Ohio State seem to attract so many adult hangers-on/loser types who try to get close to the players? A program has to institute safeguards, but you don't want players living in a bubble.
With almost everyone in the B1G having a down year, can Neb capitolize and win the league? Their offense remains almost 100% intact and the D has some young kids stepping up. Most other teams have an exception, MSU has not qb for the time being, MU has to replace alot on their lines, UW will be down in all aspects, and OSU with their ban...Huskers year?
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
It's too pessimistic to say everyone will be down. Yes, some teams have to replace players at key spots, but that's the nature of college sports. I still think Michigan, MSU and Wisconsin will be strong. That said, Nebraska has a chance, especially with Michigan and Wisconsin coming to Lincoln. The question remains for me whether the Huskers can improve on last year's defensive effort.
I read the post on OPOY, do you see anyone other than those 4 challenging Ball for that spot?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
Sure. I think Braxton Miller could break out. James Vandenberg, Fitz Toussaint. Plus, there are surprises every year.
Little Weird (BIG)
Just wanted to remind you that "hanger-on" was from Kentucky, uh-oh
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
True. Though northern Kentucky is basically Cincinnati. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Why is everyone saying that McGloin easily looked like the best QB on the field during the Blue White Game.... did they not see Paul Jones look Cam Newton'eske out there....? Plus with 3 years of eligibility left... how could Jones NOT be considered the favorite?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Easy there, TK. Jones has a lot of potential, but he hasn't played a down of college football yet. He's very inexperienced and has trouble staying eligible. McGloin is clearly the safer choice right now, though Jones is the most intriguing.
As on Ohio State fan I am outraged at your comment "loser types"!!You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Brain!!! 1)OSU has the biggest following in college football, period!!2) Your talking about a few people and you just assume everyone is a loser.3) Everyone wants to be around a winner.4) The media today loves to hate Ohio State.5) The media loves sensationalism6) your a douche
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Take it easy, Joe. There have been several instances in the recent past where some adult males are spending way too much time around Ohio State players. Did you not read any of the NCAA investigative reports? It's a tiny percentage of Buckeyes fans but troubling nonetheless.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey Brian, can you assess Wisconsin's QB situation? Is there a player capable of picking up where Russell Wilson left off? Thank you!
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I'll assess it this way: Danny O'Brien is going to start. Wisconsin coaches insist there will be a competition when the Maryland transfer arrives, but I don't think Joel Stave or Joe Brennan did enough to inspire confidence, and neither has any significant experience. O'Brien is not as good as Wilson, but he should be solid enough to help the team win.
Did you pick I'll Have Another this weekend?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
I did not bet on him, but I did say that phrase a lot this weekend
Erik (Ann Arbor)
There are a lot of question marks about the Wolverine's D-Line, but how strong will their back seven be? Countess was impressive last year and Floyd will be solid on the other side at cornerback. The linebackers appeared to play well during the spring game. Do you think the back seven will be the strength of their defense?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I think the back seven will be improved, and perhaps the defense will be a bit more balanced because of it. Better pass coverage helps a pass rush. Still, there's no question that Hoke and Mattison will emphasize strong line play, and the D-line will have to play well. The linebackers are good but I wouldn't rate them among the elite of the league right now.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
I think with Jerry Kill in charge, Minnesota fans are getting hopeful for a return to a quality program. Is good coaching enough to win a B1G conference championship?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
It's enough to make you competitive. To win a championship, I think you have to have great players. That will be Kill's greatest challenge: to get top-notch talent to the Twin Cities.
Hi Brian, if you had to put money on one team to win the Big Ten this year who would it be? The three best teams might be in the Legends Division, but would a team like Wisconsin be a safer bet because the Leaders Division is weaker this year?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
Well, I think the winner is coming out of the Legends, so I'd rather take the 1-in-3 shot there. I'd put my money on Michigan State. Then again, if you've seen the way my handicapping works at the track, you'd know not to bet the same as I.
Nick (Big Ten Country)
Brady Hoke clearly made some noise winning 11 games, ending a 7 year drought over Ohio (yes, I?m a Michigan fan) and clinching a BCS bowl victory in his first season in the Big Ten. To top it all off he starts off with the most aggressive recruiting effort in the nation, including commits from 11 of ESPN?s top 150. On the other hand, Urban Meyer is a recruiting guru (not that Ohio ever needs help in that dept.) and an offensive mastermind, demonstrated by his success everywhere he?s coached and sporting two national championships. So, my question is who will be the first coach to win a big ten and national championship, Hoke or Meyer?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
That's a fascinating question and arguably the main storyline to follow in the Big Ten over the next several years. If I had to pick one to win a national championship, I'd take Meyer simply because he's done it (twice) before. But Hoke is definitely capable. Hoke could easily get a Big Ten title this year while the Buckeyes are on probation.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Is it wrong that I wish Lane would punch Pete every week? I didn't think it was possible to dislike Pete more than I did in season 1, but here we are.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
True, though Rory Gilmore delivered a pretty solid emotional smackdown, no?
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Brian, what's your read on the conference ADs in terms of their thoughts on the playoffs on campus vs. "neutral" sites or bowls? I know Adam spoke to Nebraska's last week, but wanted to know if there had been other thoughts publicized. I know they are meeting in Chicago next week, and I plan to ask Dave Brandon when I see him speak next Monday at an alumni event.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
The AD's we've talked to, like Barry Alvarez and Gene Smith, seem to favor home sites. And why not, as it potentially helps the conference. Presidents, like Harvey Perlman, seem more interested in saving the bowl system and even a plus-one model, which is unfortunate.
MarQueis Gray (Dinkytown)
Brian, I think you need to include me in the Big Ten offensive POY discussion. I am the most freakish combination of size and speed at the QB position in the conference this year, am in my second year in Matt Limegrover's historically prolific offense (see Harnish, Chandler), and most importantly we have the best Defensive Line and Defensive backs Minnesota has had since at least 2008.I am gonna put up 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 more on the ground. Book it.
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
You definitely have the potential and put up some big games last year. Still, Gray would have to really improve and become more consistent to be up for a POY award. And I just wonder if he has a strong enough supporting cast.
Tyler (Columbus, OH)
Do you foresee Luke Fickell taking a HC job in the next two years? I think he is wasting away in Columbus. Urban learned that even an 80-something walking corpse can be a football head coach if you delegate enough stuff. Go figure, that Urban hired two former interim coaches on his staff. I don't want to see Urban get the credit for winning when really it is his staff doing all the work.
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Fickell is very loyal to his alma mater, but I don't think there's any question he will get head coaching offers if the Buckeyes win big and his defense plays well. And that would be good for Ohio State, allowing him to get some more seasoning before potentially taking over for Meyer. I don't know anyone who thinks Meyer is going to coach for 10-to-15 years.
Steve (Lafayette, IN)
Where does Kain Colter fit in your predictions for OPOY? I think he can be pretty electrifying, and this year being the #1 guy could really increase his numbers.
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Absolutely dynamic runner. The question is whether he can become a reliable passer. If he can get to 60 percent or better in completion percentage with what looks like a pretty strong WR group, he could put up some very big numbers.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Without speaking negatively about any coach, who is your favorite to cover in the conference?
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
There aren't any that I don't find interesting in some way. I love Jerry Kill's brutal honesty. Bret Bielema is the best for good one-liners and treating every question, even dumb ones, with respect and thoughtfulness.
Mick (Columbus, OH)
Does it make a big difference that Urban Meyer will be facing his old defensive coordinator when he plays Michigan, or is that a non-issue?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Non-issue. There are fewer secrets than you think. Everybody knows the Meyer offense by now. But can you stop it when he has great players?
Everyone is questioning how long Urban will stay at OSU. The guy is only 48. I know he has jumped around and not stayed anywhere too long, but OSU is a destination job. If he has success why couldn't he stay 20 years?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
It's not that he jumped around, it's that he burnt himself out at Florida. He may have changed some, but Meyer is still a really intense guy. It's hard to keep up that pace, particularly at a place with such intense scrutiny. Plus, Meyer has shown that he's pretty good at TV if he wants to go that route in the future.
Chris (Santa Monica, CA)
Do you think the MSU OL will be a strength in the fall? This group returns 4 starters and MSU averaged 170 rush yards a game its last 4 B1G games vs the likes of Iowa and Wisconsin.
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
It should be. Terrific experience and depth. And the Spartans are going to lean a little more heavily on the run game while Maxwell and those young WRs learn on the fly.
What is the possible impact of the playoff system on the Big Ten? Will this bring about more "killer mentality" for Big Ten coaches and teams than the usual brotherly love we are used to? People want to see destruction on the field.
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
I don't see why it would change anything. Are you suggesting that coaches aren't trying to win a national championship now?
Just saw on twitter that Purdue WR Antavian Edison was arrested over the weekend in Florida for a concealed weapon. Already thin at WR, if the report is true, could hurt the Boilers this season
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Yep. We're following up on that now and hope to have more info later. But if it leads to a suspension/dismissal, that is potentially a big loss for the Boilers. Stay tuned.
Being a Big 10 fan and a Ball State Alum i am torn on who to root for during this game. Do you think my Cardinals can beat the Hoosiers again?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
If you're a Ball State alum and not loyal specifically to IU, then you absolutely have to root for your alma mater.
Brian, after spending time in Madison, how much better or worse do you see the Badger's D being this year. Personally, I think the loss in Henry and Fenelus isn't going have as much impact as people think; Though they were very solid, I don't think either of them deserved their All-Big Ten awards. I think if the D-Line is stout, they can be the best defense in the Leaders division. Do you see a great pass rusher actually emerging from the group?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Yeah, I'm not too worried about the safeties. Johnson and Southward should be good there. The linebackers we know will be good, and I like the interior defensive line. I still want to see a good edge pass rusher, and coaches think David Gilbert can be that guy. But he was hurt all spring. Wisconsin's D should be very solid but needs some explosive players on the edge.
Casey (Columbus, Ohio)
Come on Brian! This recruit was at the spring game and it wasnt an official visit so the coaches and even players arent really around these kids that come for un-official visits. How is that the universities fault for letting this guy take a picture with them?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Well, I'm not sure how you gathered that from my answer. I never said it was Ohio State's fault, and in fact I said programs can't keep players sheltered 24/7
Does tomorrow ever know?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Everybody is comparing this year's Michigan defense to last years, but few have compared it to other B1G teams. How would you rank the B1G defenses (top 6 maybe) this year and specifically Michigan's defense.
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
I don't think Michigan's front seven will be as good as Penn State's or Michigan State's. It may not be as strong as Ohio State's if those freshmen can develop. I'd definitely put the Wolverines in the upper half of the Big Ten, though, along the lines of Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin.
I think one of the overlooked aspects of the Ron Brown story is that public sector employers have a much more difficult time disciplining/terminating employees over speech issues than private sector employees (a public employer is much more strictly required to protect an employee's First Amendment rights). With that said (and as someone who disagrees with Brown emphatically), do you think there could be future fallout, especially given the very mocking/sarcastic tone his letter took (i.e. signing it as a private resident of Nebraska)?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
It's quite possible there could be some fallout, especially if there are protests/outrage on campus. Would it hurt in recruiting? Tough to say. Tricky issue, because you want people to be able to say what they believe, but when it's such a discriminatory message at a place where discrimination shouldn't be tolerated ... Brown would be wise to not say much more about this if he wants to stay employed, in my opinion
BB, The thing I find just a s weied is this kid is not Not going to Ohio St but he is considering PSU? REALLY PSU? Hello they are all over the news and in court. Dont add up. Thoughts
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
There is that, yes. Odd situation all around.
Brandon (Never never land)
Wolverines have lots of questions at WR this year, however, Denard is 2 yrs into this offense now. Will passing progress, or regress?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
I think he progresses. He looked good throwing the ball this spring. The big thing is he sometimes tries to make miracles out of nothing, and there are times when he actually summons those miracles. But he needs to use better footwork and fundamentals on his throws, and I think he will.
Brian, what a great Derby weekend it was. Nothing like coming down to see all the action live. I keep hearing UM and OSU fans asking who will win the NC first, but don't you think that is a bit blind? With O'Brien around, and the group of recruits coming in, wouldn't you put PSU in the mix for the next B1G team to win a NC?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Glad you made it down. Penn State definitely has the potential to win a national title and has been a bit of a sleeping giant of late. I still think the Nittany Lions need some more offensive talent and O'Brien will need a couple of years to get his style of players to mature in the system. That's why I think Michigan and Ohio State are a little bit farther ahead.
Garbage Man (In Front of Your House)
What do you think about Ohio State and Michigan having to play potentially 2 weeks in a row if it were to decide who wins each division and then the conference? I have heard a lot of people saying it might take away some of the intensity as both teams might play very vanilla if they knew they would be playing the next week. I tend to disagree but I wanted your take.
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I hate the idea. Playing twice in two weeks isn't good for anybody. Big Ten fans who hated the LSU-Bama rematch need to stay consistent on this point.
LeVeon Bell (East Lansing, MI)
Will I have a breakout season in the Big Ten next year similar to that of Montee Ball in 2011 with the increase in carries and Kirk Cousins graduating?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
I was very, very impressed with what I saw from Bell during spring practice. He's so big and yet fast. Health is about the only thing I could see standing in the way of a huge year.
If you could go to any regular season BIG game this year, which one would it be?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
I did a video post on this earlier this spring and picked Ohio State-Wisconsin. I just think there will be so much hype around that game. I'm also really fired up for Michigan State-Michigan, Michigan-Ohio State, Michigan-Nebraska, Ohio State-Nebraska, Wisconsin-Nebraska ... dang, is it September yet?
Brian, had to follow up on my last question. You state "O'Brien will need a couple of years to get his style of players to mature in the system. That's why I think Michigan and Ohio State are a little bit farther ahead.", but isn't the same true of Meyer needing to get his style of players? I think we put too much emphasis on PSU's coaching changes and not enough on OSU's.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
Except Meyer already has a QB who's perfect for his system, and a boatload of top-notch linemen on the way. All he really needs is one or two burners on offense, and those players can often be plugged in right away.
Tim (San Diego)
With next years recruiting class in view, what are the chances michigan lands more big time talent to their already impressive class? considering meyer considered Mattison a recruiting GURU
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
It's only May, so it would be silly to think Michigan doesn't add at least one more player to this class. It also would be unwise to assume all the current commits sign in February. That's just recruiting.
The Nebraska coach that spoke out against treating gays as a seperate legal class is receiving a lot of criticsim from the national media (both sports and mainstream). College professors and officials take out of mainstream positions every day yet don't suffer from nearly as much media backlash as in this instance. Is it simply b/c this coach was not taking a "pro-PC stance"?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
It's because football coaches are a heck of a lot more well-known and bigger public figures than professors, for better or worse.
Phil (Rochester, MI)
No love for MSU-Wisc? C'mon. They produced the 2 best games last year in the B1G and next year will certainly produce similar outcomes
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Well, that was kind of my point. I could go on and on. There are three great games the day of Wisconsin-Michigan State alone. With the parity in this league and some good new rivalries, there are tongs of great games.
MBall's incident over the weekend even a blip compared to what's happening with other athletes?
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
I don't think so. He got a ticket because he was on somebody's porch? Really? There was no mention of alcohol or not cooperating with police. Not much to see here.
Ryan Drake (Dayton, OH)
Weapons and weed.... Why are these kids so talented, yet so damn stupid? You would think that they would be coached that this is their opportunity to impact life, not look cool while doing it! You thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Ryan, were you ever 18-to-21 and in college? Not an excuse, but kids make dumb mistakes.
The other difference with Ron Brown vs. professors is that he listed his address as Memorial Stadium. That certainly implies that he is representing, if not the University, at least the football program.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Yep. And whether true or not, sports are usually seen as a place where everyone has access based on ability alone.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
Well, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great questions, and see you next week.