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. I'll be here for the next hour answering whatever questions you might have. (This week's background music will be provided by Kendrick Lamar).
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Fire away with your best questions
Jay (Carmel, IN)
Wow.. This Urban Meyer Recruiting Class looks like it emphasized one thing. SPEED. any feedback?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Speed and a ton of skill, especially at defensive back. There was no secret that Urban Meyer wanted more speed, and the Buckeyes focused on the trenches with last year's class.
Thoughts on Tanner McEvoy committing to UW?Could he be the piece to push UW to elite status?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
Wait, wasn't Bart Houston the QB savior just last year? QB recruiting is an inexact science, and Wisconsin has a very crowded picture there right now. The great news is that McEvoy has three years of eligibility and looks to be very athletic with great size, something the Badgers haven't had a whole lot of at that position.
Max (New York)
Is Derrick Green Michigan's starting running back right now?
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I would think he'd probably have to, you know, enroll and start practicing before we could declare him that. But especially if Fitz Toussaint is slow to recover from his leg injury, Green will have a great opportunity for early playing time.
Hi Brian, LOVED the MVP link, I too was quite impressed. My question is do you think the SEC's scheduling may be driven in part by what the Big Ten does once expansion happens? I think it would be hard for them to justify playing the 3 cupcakes and a creampuff one the B1G (and Pac) are playing 9 or even 10 conference games but I'm wondering if there elitist attitudes will change.
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
It was a great performance by Marta, though I also liked what Sally and Chestnut did. (Yes, I love the Puppy Bowl). To your question: I think the SEC can do pretty much what it wants at this point with seven straight titles. Until somebody can stop that league when it matters most, the SEC will play by whatever rules it wants and won't feel pressure from anybody else.
FFX_Lion (Jim Thorpe, PA)
Brian, how important will Bill O'Brien's "run-on" program be towards the success of Penn State football in the upcoming years? Do you think the emergence of players like Zwinak last year prove that BOB can scheme and develop a few diamonds in the rough?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
I think it's absolutely crucial. With only 15 scholarships to offer and a total of 65 the next few years, the only way Penn State can have depth is to run a strong walk-on -- er, run-on -- program. O'Brien and his staff are searching far and wide for players in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They are sure to unearth a few surprises.
Brock (East Lansing)
What do you think of MSUs quartarback situation? I think you have to give the edge to maxwell because of the experience but giving a new person with a strong arm a fresh start might not be so bad. PS you just got catfished my name is trent
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Damn, and I had just started to fall in love with Brock. I think Maxwell starts the spring as No. 1 as he did, after all, start all 13 games in '12. But there will be an open competition and he'll have to perform much better than he did last year. My question is whether Connor Cook can be consistent enough or whether the youngsters are ready.
Brian, what do you think will be the outcome of the new conference breakdown with the Big Ten. Regionally aligned or some version of how they are now? With that, will we get to keep "The Game" with OSU/UM?
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
Oh, yeah, The Game will remain and stay on the final weekend. No worries there. I think U-M and OSU go in the same division and we see a geographic split in divisions. That seemed to be the prevailing thought among the ADs we interviewed.
Do you think Coach Hazell will be able to turn things around at Purdue? If so, how long do you think it will take? If not, why? Thanks!
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
I was very impressed with what Hazell did last year at Kent State. But he hasn't been a head coach long, so the jury is still out. Purdue isn't an easy place to recruit to, and I wasn't overly impressed with his offensive staff hires. I'm pretty high on Hazell and think he can build a consistent bowl team. Can he get the Boilers to the next level and make them a Big Ten title contender? That remains to be seen.
Buckeye alum but B10 fan hoping for a league-wide recovery. What, in your opinion, is the biggest difference b/w Nebraska's program in the 80s/90s & today? And if its better nationwide recruiting, can the current coach really improve that or does the new AD need to bring in someone new?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
Well, first of all, Tom Osborne was a pretty good coach, no? Nebraska had a huge walk-on program, and its best teams in the '90s got a lot of speed from the south. There is much more competition for those players nowadays. Nebraska has some obstacles with its location. But the facilities are top notch and no fan base is more loyal. Pelini has gotten close, but he needs some more high-impact players to get over the hump
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
With all due respect, scandals involving some extra practices or some free tattoos aren't even in the same universe as child rape. That scandal was simply too toxic for anyone to touch.
Brett (Madison, WI)
It's seems as though the consensus pick for the B1G title game is Ohio State vs. Nebraska/Michigan. Who do see as a dark horse to play for the conference title?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Some dark horses: Wisconsin (lots of vets, good sked, except for having to go to Columbus); Northwestern (nucleus back from 10-win team, though sked is brutal); and Michigan State (much easier sked, still strong on D). Don't worry, though. I won't be picking the Spartans this time.
Hannah Simone > Zooey Deschanel
Brian Bennett (3:20 PM)
How dare you
Greg (Fairborn, Oh)
Who replaces John Simon leadership. Roby? or someone else
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
That's a key question. Urban Meyer said OT Jack Mewhort could take over Simon's role as the team's heart and soul leader. As far as defensively, I think Ryan Shazier could be become a real leader, as well as Roby.
AAwolv (Benton harbor, MI)
Love your blog, especially take two! As dominant as Lewan will be next year, just run Green his way, he might break Ball's record before he graduates. How do you see Green fitting in right away?
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Um, come on now. Green is talented, but do you realize just how impressive Montee Ball's record is? I think he'll get early playing time and could start right away. Remember, though, there's more to playing RB than just taking handoffs. How fast can he pick up blocking schemes?
Tyler (Louisville, KY)
Do you think Iowa will improve this comnig season?
Brian Bennett (3:25 PM)
Well, it would be hard to get much worse than 2012. QB is still a big question mark, as well as WR. The running back position is stocked (don't tell the AIRBHG I said that) and the OL should be pretty good. Not of ton of stars on defense. I can't imagine Iowa is going to be as inept as it looked down the stretch again, but I don't think this team is talented enough to contend in the Legends.
Steve (Grand Rapids)
What are the marquee out of conference games this fall?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
There aren't a ton. The three Notre Dame games have to count, as the Irish could be in the Top 10. Nebraska-UCLA could be really good. Wisconsin at Arizona State might be interesting. But there aren't a bunch of high-level nonconference games featuring Big Ten teams
Adam (not Rittenberg) (BoilerNation)
Purdue had a pretty weak recruiting class a month or so ago (understandably with the coaching change). However, since then, the Boilers have made a nice surge and picked up a bunch of 3-stars. ESPN had Purdue ranked in the 90's for the 2013 class a few weeks ago but now has them ranked 52nd:http://espn.go.com/college-sports/football/recruiting/scorecardThoughts? And also, will you do a recruiting class rankings after signing day?
Brian Bennett (3:29 PM)
Yeah, I think Hazell has done a pretty good job putting together a class. Never easy when you get hired in December. Our recruiting experts will be ranking the Big Ten classes. We'll have a ton of recruiting coverage this week.
Pomero Y. (Midland, MI)
Not sure if the B1G has a "most improved player" award but if did, which player that struggled last year do you foresee turning it around in 2013?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Some candidates could be Kyle Prater at Northwestern, Fitz Toussaint (if he's healthy) at Michigan and either Michigan State's Maxwell or Illinois' Scheelhaase.
Would it be correct to say "puppies are better than kittens?"
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
Is there even a shred of doubt about that?
Which program has the strongest returning OL in the conference next season?
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
I'd say Ohio State. Only lose Reid Fragel, and that line was playing really well last year.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Will the Manti T'eo fiasco make you guys (as a profession) reassess how you handle the human interest stories you come across? It must be a difficult line to cross to be able to do full due diligence while not getting scooped in an age where "Unnamed Source" is the only one who seems to know what's going on.
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
Absolutely I think it will make media organizations more cautious. I totally understand how it happened: it's not often the star player on the nation's No. 1 team has a fake girlfriend. The truth is we don't get a ton of access to players and everything is done at warp speed. But this case will make everyone do much more fact-checking, and that's a good thing.
Brian, I can't but be extremely excited for the two things Gary Andersen has done. Keep the states best recruit, Alec James, from going to MSU and today getting a verbal from JUCO QB Tanner McEvoy. Picking up McEvoy puts says a lot seeing as Andersen has been there for not even two months. Do you think the Badgers can keep this type of recruiting up and stay close with Michigan and OSU?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
Everything I'd heard about Andersen indicated that he was a great recruiter. You can't really judge him on this class, because Wisconsin didn't have a lot of scholarships available and of course he got a late start. The Badgers are always going to be a little challenged because of their location. But if he can bring in some more blue-chippers and keep the program's tradition of developing talent alive and well, great things could be in store.
Chuck (Miami) [via mobile]
Okay, this has been bugging me since the AD's started talking about further expansion (past 16... ugh). Every expansion candidate has to be an AAU member, but how many good AAU candidates are there? If we go past sixteen is AAU membership still a pre-req, or do we have to settle for some less tangible "academically excellent" standard?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Not many. Here's the list of members: http://www.aau.edu/about/article.aspx?id=5476The Big Ten is limiting itself in regards to potential new teams if AAU membership is a requirement.
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
Brian, there is a lot of hype for the 2013 Ohio State team that needs to replace a bunch of players on defense. This reminds me of my Spartans having all the hype last year despite needing to replace a bunch of players on offense. Do you see OSU defenders rising to the occasion or do you expect similar growing pains that MSU dealt with on offense?
Brian Bennett (3:39 PM)
It's a legit question. The good news for Ohio State is that the guys who are stepping into bigger roles have a whole lot of talent. But the Buckeyes will need young players to really rise up on the DL and at LB. I think there could be some growing pains, but the offense should be really, really good and the defense talented enough to overcome the inexperience.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Speculate if you will on the impact of the Gophers expected signing of the tight end who is 6'10"? Do you think he stays at tight end?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
There aren't a lot of other places to stick a 6-foot-10 guy. He's not going to be playing DB, that's for sure. We'll see. He may be more a curiosity than anything else, as guys that tall have rarely made huge impacts. If nothing else, he's got to be valuable on the FG block team, right?
Tim (Columbus (OH))
Any chance the B1G is looking at Oklahoma and Texas as potential additions? Or is that just a pipe dream?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Pipe dream. The Pac-12 wasn't willing to take Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to get those schools, and the Big Ten certainly won't.
Chris [via mobile]
Why didn't we heat anything about Kyle prater this year?
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
He was still getting over injuries and had to learn a new system. He did provide some nice blocking. Next year will be the real test for him. He's got so much athleticism that you've got to think he can make an impact.
I know Nebraska is one of the top teams that has to recruit nationally every year. This year, they have recruits from AZ, CA, IL, IN, FL, LA, MD, MO, NE, NJ, OH, ON, SD, TX, and WI. Which team in the B1G comes close to having to reach out to the extent Nebraska does in terms of getting recruits. Obviously, recruiting for Nebraska has never been easy since they don't have the built in luxury of having lots of in-state talent. Who do you believe has to work as hard as Nebraska in the B1G?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
That's a good point. I think Wisconsin has some of the same issues, being the only D-I school in a state without many top prospects. Iowa to a certain extent as well. Nebraska's advantage is that it has a national fan base and a recognizable brand, but it certainly has to scour the nation for talent.
Tyler (Louisville, KY)
Hottest seat in the B1G this coming season?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
Even though it's only his second year, I think it's got to be Tim Beckman. Fans have already soured on him. Another 2-10 type year might force Mike Thomas' hand.
Mike (Manahawkin, NJ)
If you take away the AAU requirement, doesn't that (potentially) water the conference down/ I would tend to think so. Your thoughts??
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
That argument has legitimacy, and the Big Ten takes its academic collaborations very seriously. On the flip side: Nebraska is not in the AAU, and the Big Ten would take non-AAU member Notre Dame.
Austin (Cheeseburger West Side)
Hottest seat in the B1G has to be Fitzgerald... with those glutes, I can imagine he squats a ton of weight.
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Hmmm, I'd rather not think about his glutes
Go Husker8069 (Lincoln)
Love the blog!!! Huskers have to be the prohibitive favorite to win this fat slow league. Are you guys going to do a way too early projection for next season?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
We already put out our way-too-early power rankings. We'll do another round when spring practice keeps off. Those "prohibitive favorites" of yours didn't look too fast against Wisconsin in Indy.
Do you think we'll ever get to see conference games in week 1? I think something like UW v MSU or NU v UM would be a blast on opening weekend and give the league early exposure. Do you think we could be headed in that direction with the changes we're expecting and the playoff era?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
If the Big Ten takes the radical step of going to 10 conference games, it almost has to happen. Even a nine-game schedule, which is far more likely, means September games. I'd rather see league games in Week 2. League games are too important to have in Week 1 when teams are just coming out of the gate.
axiom62 (East of Lansing)
Since we're requiring AAU for membership, let's just take U of Chicago back. They were original members and would add an immense amount of tradition to the B1G. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:51 PM)
Wait, I thought Northwestern was "Chicago's Big Ten team."
Speaking of Nebraska, people around this place still act like we're the team from the '90s. If you take a step back, you have to accept that some recruits weren't even born when the 'Skers were a powerhouse (94/95). And once again, we have a mediocre recruiting class. Is it safe to say that Nebraska is now a second (or *gasp* third) tier program?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
True. Depends on where you're putting the tiers, but Nebraska hasn't won a conference title or played in a BCS bowl in well over a decade. The Huskers certainly aren't in the upper tier of football powers right now.
Lou (Gaithersburg, MD)
Do you think the Super Bowl will ultimately result in more night games for the B1G? More night games mean a better chance at power outages, which means more concession revenues. No brainer right?
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
I find your theories intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter
Is there any hope for Illinois?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
The hope is it's Year 2 for Beckman, so there should be some progress. The Illini also are bringing in some juco players for immediate help, and new OC Bill Cubit has a good track record with the spread. Still an uphill climb.
It's funny how Husker and Big 12 fans have been saying how Nebraska will dominate the plodding, slow Big 10 since Nebraska was announced as the 12th member. Hasn't happened yet and probably won't.
Brian Bennett (3:54 PM)
There have been Big Ten games when Nebraska's speed on offense has looked imposing. But the defense hasn't risen to the occasion enough in big games, and the offense has shot itself in the foot too many times.
Georgia Tech and Virginia are the only real options considering untapped geography and consideration for AAU membership, right?
Brian Bennett (3:55 PM)
I'd throw North Carolina in there as well, though I don't know if there's any appetite for the Tar Heels to leave the ACC. Jim Delany has thrown us for a loop before.
As a Gophers fan, I realistically see Minnesota's ceiling under Jerry Kill as what Iowa has been for the last decade or so; consistently make bowl games and every few years surprise people with a 9-10 win year. Is this accurate, in your opinion?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I think that sounds about right. The talent in Minnesota was not very good in this class. There will be better years, and the Gophers have to capitalize. Every few years, they could have a veteran team with some great homegrown talent and make a run. Thinking Minnesota can compete for the Big Ten title every year is probably a bit much.
Max (New York)
Michigan's OL will have a weird dynamic next year. Both tackles Lewan and Schofield will be very good. However, they may be the bookends for possibly 3 freshman. What kind of strengths and weaknesses would that give Michigan's offense? I assume better in pass protection thn run blocking
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Isn't that kind of what we saw last season? I mean, Michigan's run blocking was pretty bad in '12. Change at those positions might not necessarily be a bad thing, because the young guys might be more talented, if they figure it out.
Kevin (San Diego)
You think there is any truth to what Bernard Pollard was talking about last week, about how we won't even have football in the future and someone realistically dying on the field? Could college football also come to an end? High school? Pop Warner?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
No. Football is far too popular and makes too much money. I think the game will go through some major changes but won't go away by any means.
Doug (East Lansing)
Will there be a UM/MSU guaranteed crossover starting in 2014, or are we going to be in the same division with UM, OSU, PSU?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Impossible to say what the ADs are going to do. I think your first scenario is more plausible, though. I think a division with those four teams in it is just too top heavy.
Brian Bennett (4:01 PM)
That's all my time for this week, folks. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy signing day madness.
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