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)
I'm here, everyone. Let's get started.
jason (atlanta, ga)
How soon will michigan feel the impact of the new DC and the coming staff? Will we finally see a punishing defense in Ann Arbor? please? lol
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
It will take a bit of time, Jason, but I think some of the players Mattison and his staff inherit will fit in well with the system. Mike Martin, for example, can be a stud next season. But the depth issues Michigan has remain, and a lot of the Wolverines' young players need to revamp their fundamentals. It will be a process, but Mattison is a very good hire for U-M.
Troy Stenstrom (Minnesota)
What is your take on Jerry Kill's possible soon success? I understand it should take at least 2 years if not more, but his Offensive scheme already works well with what we, the Gophers, have in MarQueis Gray as a movement QB. I know our Defense needs to get better, but do you think he will be able to possibly get to 6-6 this season. He is a smart man and him and his coaching staff seem to understand to not change too many things for the Offense. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg (12:04 PM)
Troy, the transition on offense for Kill and the players is the biggest key for Minnesota's season. I agree that Kill's offense can feature a guy like MarQueis Gray and get immediate results, especially if the offensive line makes strides. Although the Gophers don't have a running back like Chad Spann, they return some experience in the backfield. I think Gophers fans will really like the system Kill runs. I still have concerns on defense but if Gray adjusts well and Minnesota fortifies the rushing attack, it can win some games this fall.
nd (NE Ohio)
Adam, what are your thoughts on Purdue's new WR coach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
Good hire, nd. BYU obviously has produced several standout wideouts in recent years, Austin Collie among them. Purdue never lacks for good receivers, and if and when Keith Smith gets his sixth year, the Boilers should be loaded at that position.
Adam, thanks for all the work this year! What is your true thoughts on what Kirk will do regarding the A-Rob situation. I go back and forth on what my thoughts should be. In one thought, I think Kirk should stick to his words and leave him off the team. But how big would it be for Iowa and the program to have A-Rob come through all of this, staying at Iowa, proving himself to everyone, and coming back strong as ever (and clean). I cant decide so you decide for me, thanks
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Kirk has the right to wait and see what happens before making a decision on Robinson. In fact, that's what I would do if I were in his shoes. Let Robinson complete his drug counseling program. Let Robinson finish the academic year off right with good grades (not just the NCAA minimum). I'd hold him out for spring ball. If he continues to stay on the right track, I allow him back on the team this summer with a no tolerance policy going forward.
Nick (Ann Arbor)
Adam, Do you believe UofM's AD Brandon when he says Hoke was the #1 pick for the head coach all along? There is no solid facts which point to Harbaugh or Miles ever being offered the job. I believe Brandon knew Harbaugh was gone to the pro's and that Miles was too comfortable in Baton Rouge to give up that life and try to be Bo. He was going to appease the UofM fanbase and get their opinions of Hoke. Also, if Miles was his primary target after Harbaugh, why would he fly to the national coach's convention in Dallas the day before? He knows Miles very well and wouldn't have had to get an idea of what other coachees thought of him.
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
Well, some LSU officials say an offer was made, but I agree that Brady Hoke's name was at the top of Brandon's list all along. I know Michigan had serious interest in Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, but more and more people are realizing it's unlikely Fitzgerald leaves Northwestern. My thing with Brandon is if you want Brady Hoke, a guy who admitted he would "walk to Ann Arbor," just hire him in December and spare everyone from a miserable month.
Adam (New York)
You have zero credibility with me after that shank job on the 5 jrs leaving - how did you not know Tress would straighten that out - that he of all people would not let those 5 circumvent the punishment by bolting after the bowl game? He kicked Clarett off the team before the confetti stopped falling in Glendale in 2002. Your article this am does nothing but confirm you as a hack
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM)
That's your opinion, Adam, and you're entitled to it. I admitted I misjudged Tressel's influence on these players. I don't know many other coaches who could get them to give their word and stick to it as the NFL beckons. I also think Tressel has made mistakes in his coaching tenure. He's not a saint. No college football coach is a saint. But he deserves a lot of credit for how he handled the situation.
Jake (PSU Fan in Missouri)
Adam, what do you think will be the one area that Penn State will need to improve to be successful next year? I think that quarterback play and D-line production are the two most pressing matters. Thanks for your input
Adam Rittenberg (12:13 PM)
Jake, totally agree with you here. And I'd actually put the defensive line production ahead of the QB play, which might surprise some people. D-line play was Penn State's hallmark until this past season, when it slipped. I think the Lions will be pretty good in the back seven on D, so if they can get back to the line play they've shown for most of Larry Johnson's tenure, they'll be in good shape throughout the defense.
What do you see Nebraska's record being at the end of the season? Are the Big Ten Defenses better than the Big 12's? I think that the speed of NU's Def will surprise a lot of teams and it's more of a question of them staying healthy.
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Dan, Nebraska has a brutal schedule this year, so it's tough to see the Huskers going undefeated or losing only once. I see two or three losses this fall but a good team with an excellent defense. I see a lot of similarities between the Huskers' D and the top defenses from the Big Ten. The bigger adjustment will come on the offensive side.
Will we see Braxton Miller start the first 5 games next year? And if he plays well, will there be a "QB Controversy"? (for the record, I think Pryor has deserved the right to assume QB Starting role once he is eligible)
Adam Rittenberg (12:17 PM)
This is one of the big burning questions for the Big Ten in 2011 and one I'm sure I'll explore extensively in the coming months. Joe Bauserman brings experience to the table but might struggle in a starting role. Kenny Guiton showed some promise last spring. But Miller, like Pryor, comes in with all the hype. He seems like the real deal. Knowing Jim Tressel, I doubt there will be a controversy even if one of the other QBs plays well in the first five games. You still can't discount what Pryor has done in 30+ games as the starter.
Who do you think Northwestern will hire to replace Kevin Johns as WR coach?
Adam Rittenberg (12:19 PM)
Ian, there was some talk about former Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon coming back to Northwestern, where he used to serve as an assistant. Toledo assistant Louis Ayeni is a guy who could return to his alma mater at some stage, although the Wildcats might want someone with more experience. I know this: Kevin Johns leaves some big shoes to fill. He did an outstanding job in Evanston.
Any thoughts on the Big Ten moving a game to the day after Thanksgiving now that Nebraska-Colorado is no more? I think Iowa-Nebraska could start a nice Black Friday tradition.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
Very unlikely to happen, Matt, as much as some of us would love to see it. The Big Ten wants to own college football Saturdays, and it's resistant to moving games off of the traditional day. You don't see many midweek games in the Big Ten, and things likely won't change.
Tom (Hell, MI)
So, is the Big Ten going to take another look at the confrence names or did they think that it was a knee jerk reaction by the fans?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
The Big Ten will continue to assess the division names but won't make any changes before the 2011 season. The league hopes that with time, the names will resonate better and not create such an outcry. The reaction was somewhat typical to an out-of-the-box announcement like Legends and Leaders, but the almost universally negatively reception is something the Big Ten simply can't ignore.
What do we make of this MSU team going forward? It seems like they got a lot of lucky breaks this year, the defense loses key players and they have to replace the OC.
Adam Rittenberg (12:24 PM)
I still think the Spartans will be pretty good in 2011. They boast a senior quarterback, return most of their skill players on offense and should once again be good in the secondary and on special teams. Michigan State's ultimate success, however, will come down to line play. Can the Spartans become as good up front as teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa? If they can, they'll be one of the Big Ten's elite programs. If not, they'll struggle to go from good to great.
Rick (Louisville, KY)
Adam,What are the biggest hurdles that Nebraska will have to overcome when finally joining the conference? What do you think our chances of taking the Legends Division next year are? I am looking forward to this upcoming year. I can't wait that long. I think I will hibernate and wake up in August.... Go Big Red !!!
Adam Rittenberg (12:27 PM)
Rick, love the enthusiasm. I think the big hurdles for Nebraska will relate to adjusting to a new league and playing what appears to be an absolutely brutal schedule. There will be a feeling-out period between Nebraska and its new Big Ten brethren, which could both benefit and hurt the Huskers in 2011. The Legends Division appears to be more competitive entering the fall. Michigan State and Northwestern return good squads, Iowa could be extremely dangerous despite all the personnel losses and Michigan and Minnesota both could make some noise if things fall right. I'd list Nebraska as a slight favorite, but that schedule will make it tough.
How, if any, will the Big Ten's poor performance in this Bowl Season impact the future of the Big Ten? Do you believe, the addition of Nebraska and a conference championship game negate this year's poor showing?
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
Frank, the bowl performance reinforces the perception that the Big Ten is a mediocre league, a few steps behind the SEC. The only way this changes is if the Big Ten wins a national championship. The league can help it cause with a strong nonconference showing and a good bowl performance. Nebraska should help as well, providing another potential powerhouse program. But ultimately, it comes down to winning the national championship.
Adam (New York)
My probs with your initial articles was that, at least based on how it was written, you were implying that 1) OSU was a dirty program and Tress a push-over coach and 2) that its players were liars... someone that re-negs on a verbal promise is a liar - and that is exactly what you called them. I hope you get pancaked by Mike Adams in the near future and that you remember that The OSU tries its hardest to keep good kids on the field - look up how many highly ranked recruits have been kicked off the team since Tress took over. If I wrote something that egregiously wrong and mean-spirited at work, I'd be fired - feel lucky you're just a blogger and not a real analyst
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Keep ripping away, Adam, if it makes you feel better.
Les (Erie, PA)
Adam, are you planning on doing any B10 team 2011 recruiting rankings or do we have to wait until after signing day? Wondering your thoughts on the verbal commits so far.
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Les, check back later today for an updated recruiting post from our ESPN recruiting staff. While I'll post recruiting stuff from time to time, I'd encourage you and all Big Ten fans to check out the content on the ESPN recruiting page. Those guys are all over the scene year-round.
JayPa (State College)
What's your take on how Joe handled the Robert Bolden transfer request? And how does something like this affect his public perception especially with potential recruits in the future?
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
First off, this isn't really Jay for those wondering. I didn't like that Joe wouldn't grant the Boldens' wish for a release. I realize their decision came right after a bowl game where Bolden didn't play and arguably should have played, but both Rob and his dad seemed adamant about wanting the release. Ultimately, Bolden is back, and this could go one of two ways. He could remain committed to the team and his craft and go out and win the job, or he could get discouraged and unhappy if things don't go well this spring. It's a bit of a risk for Penn State, but it could pay off as Bolden brings something to the table. I don't know if there's much of an effect on recruits.
Stephanie (Denver, CO)
Why is there still a stereotype of the Big Ten being slow when it was clear that Ohio State was faster and/or stronger than Arkansas? why is it when Ohio State wins a bowl game, the media says the team they played was overrated (it's happened two years now)?
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Speed certainly wasn't an issue for Ohio State against the Hogs. The Buckeyes took control of the game with their speed in the first half. I think a lot of the perception has to do with Ohio State's typical style of play, TresselBall. A lot of my media colleagues are so in love with coaches like Chip Kelly and Gus Malzahn, and Tressel bores them. I'll admit it's hard to watch Ohio State get so conservative at times, but you've got to give the Buckeyes credit for their past two bowl performances.
Joey (Ann Arbor, MI)
Adam, what style defense did Mattison run in Baltimore? I heard Hoke wanted to keep the 3-3-5 but I can't see an NFL D-coordinator running that style...will we finally see Michigan return to a 4-3??
Adam Rittenberg (12:38 PM)
You're seeing more 3-man fronts in the NFL these days and the system is working in places like Green Bay. I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan runs a 3-man front but I'd expect Mattison to mix things up and do what best fits his personnel. I'm looking forward to chatting with Mattison in the near future about his plan for Michigan.
Any chance a school like Ohio State, with its large alumni base, could split off and create its own TV network like Texas? Or does the Big Ten Network deal kind of prevent that (legally)? You have some big alumni bases in the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Oliver, this is a really good question. If any Big Ten school had the athletic clout to follow Texas' lead, it likely would be Ohio State, one of the nation's true mega athletic departments. But don't bet on this happening. Ohio State is on board with the Big Ten Network and understands the need to share with its Big Ten brethren. While I'm sure Ohio State will monitor what happens with Texas, it sees itself in a good position with the Big Ten and BTN.
Ed (Atlanta, GA)
In regards to the Ohio State players who "kept their word", how much do you really think falls on Tressel's influence? Couldn't part of their decision be based on not being rated very high in the draft forecast, so "might as well get 7 more games in"?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Ed, that's a good point, but I'd look at a case like Dan Herron's. I'd heard he was pretty much out the door before the suspensions came down. He had a terrific junior season. He would face some serious competition at running back in 2011. And he plays running back, a position with a short shelf life in the NFL. So why not make the jump now? I think Tressel's influence and how he handled things really resonates when you look at a guy like Herron, regardless of where Herron was projected in the draft.
Alex (Chicago, IL)
Can we stop with the Ohio St. questions? If Illinois gave improper benefits to its players, maybe we'd play better to. Any insight on Illinois' 2011 season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
Haha, you're probably right, Alex. Illinois is a very interesting team. The early departures to the NFL really sting, especially Corey Liuget. It will really come down to whether coordinators Vic Koenning and Paul Petrino continue to foster improvement with their groups. Koenning loses his top two players in Wilson and Tez Wilson, while Petrino tries to reload one of the nation's top rushing offenses without Mikel Leshoure. I really liked what I saw from QB Nathan Scheelhaase in the bowl game. If he continues to make strides and Illinois fills gaps on defense, it can be a good team in 2011.
Matthew (Cambridge, MA)
There are a lot of rumors that Wisconsin's Chris Borland, with the injuries and surgeries he's had, will have a hard time staying healthy and returning to his 2009 form. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:48 PM)
Matthew, this is a legit concern. Shoulders are tricky and you know Borland will put his body under stress hitting people from the linebacker position. Wisconsin must hope his last surgery stabilizes the area and prevent recurring injuries. Having Borland on the field is a must for Wisconsin after losing a guy like JJ Watt.
can we answer a question about iowa? there's been one question about robinson. can i get a little insight on how iowa is going to do next year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:51 PM)
Mark, my take on Iowa is that the Hawkeyes are in a perfect spot, under the radar, where they typically do best. James Vandenberg isn't foreign to the big stage after an impressive performance at Ohio State in 2009, and he'll have some good weapons around him (Coker, McNutt). The big questions are at D-line and safety and whether groups like the linebackers and the offensive line can take another step. Iowa has no shortage of question marks, but the team returns some exciting playmakers.
Mike (Columbus, OH)
Hey, Adam! Me and the drinking buddies are taking a road trip to Nebraska for the OSU-Nebraska game. Do we need to stop in Chi-town to get you. We could use a DD!! :-)
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Haha, sounds like a plan, Mike! I'd expect I'll be attending the game. Should be a great one in Lincoln on Oct. 9.
Is Northwestern a legit contender to win it all in the B10 next year? Whole offenseive line is back and most of the defense, plus they have a favorable schedule.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
Mike, I know the Wildcats coaches have very high expectations, but the issues on defense make it tough to label Northwestern as a title contender. The defense simply let down at the end of the season, and Northwestern didn't have enough skill or, quite frankly, leadership to get over the hump. I have a ton of questions on that side of the ball, so I wouldn't include the Wildcats in the contender mix.
Chris (Boston, MA)
Is the division name thing that big of a deal, because if you win it, I'm sure schools don't care? Have you seen some bowl sponsors? I'm sure people wouldn't care if they won the Rose Bowl presented by Cialis.
Adam Rittenberg (12:56 PM)
Chris, you and I agree on this, but we're in the minority. The division names really struck a chord with Big Ten fans, most of whom remain quite ticked off. To me, they're just division names. I'd much rather discuss the division breakdowns, the rivalry games, the scheduling, etc. But the Legends and Leaders thing just won't go away.
J.Schnauzer (Kansas City, MO)
Colorado-Nebraska played a conference basketball game last night, but in a few weeks it will be a traditional Rose Bowl matchup. Do you have a hard time digesting this too?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
I admit that would seem pretty unusual. At least there would be a rivalry component. I also think Nebraska has a much better chance of reaching Pasadena before Colorado, a program that has really fallen on hard times.
do you see nebraska sticking with Watson or go with someone else? Go Big Red
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Justin, Watson was in the mix for several vacancies but didn't get them. Although Bo Pelini expressed support for him in December, he could still make a change. Is there still a job for which Watson would leave? We should find out something definitely soon.
Adam Rittenberg (1:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Craig (St. Paul, MN)
As a Hawkeye fan I put aside rivalry to cheer for the Badgers, Buckeyes, Illini, etc. in bowl games, but I've always been able to relish seeing the Huskers humbled by teams like Washington. Am I going to have to start rooting for them? I don't think I can do it.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
It depends on whether you want the Big Ten's reputation to improve. Nebraska is part of the league now, so it's time to get used to Big Red.
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
OK, guys, had a good time today. Let's do it again soon.