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 3 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (3:00 PM)
Hey guys, I'm here. Happy Signing Day to all. Let's chat.
Which top tier B10 program disappointed most in recruiting and which historically less successful program positively surprised you this year?
Adam Rittenberg (3:01 PM)
Bernard, I'd definitely say Indiana positively surprised us with their recruiting efforts, especially on the defensive side. The chance to play right away definitely helped bring in some good athletes on D. I don't know if one top-tier program "disappointed" necessarily. Penn State definitely exceeded expectations. Michigan State's class isn't as decorated as it has been in recent years. Iowa's class isn't drawing high marks. But it's hard to say anyone really disappointed.
Ha Adam, Thanks for the blog. I was wondering if you think any of this year's wisconsin class could be starters or even getting some playing time? Thanks
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
Thanks, Stephen. I talked with Gary Andersen earlier today and he mentioned there's definitely an opportunity in the secondary, where Wisconsin loses three starters and could play 3-4 cornerbacks at a time under the new defensive scheme. Keep an eye on Sojourn Shelton, one of the early enrollees who will play in the secondary. Also, the addition of junior college quarterback Tanner McEvoy is a very interesting one. He's expected to compete right away.
Iowa wanted to address speed, do you think they were able to do that with this recruiting class?
Adam Rittenberg (3:03 PM)
Dan, time will tell, but I like the way Iowa recognized its need at wide receiver and piled up some recruits late in the process. It wan't easy, especially after WRs coach Erik Campbell left the program, but Iowa's numbers at receiver seem a little better now.
How did Indiana pull off such an impress class?
Adam Rittenberg (3:05 PM)
Kevin Wilson has some good recruiters on his staff, especially co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler. They also can offer the chance to play right away rather than wait around 2-3 years. Indiana hasn't had enough Big Ten-quality defenders in recent years, so it can sell playing time. The coaches also invested time both within the Big Ten footprint and outside of it.
Taylor (Omaha, NE)
Hey Adam, question for you regarding Nebraska's recruiting. Im pleased with the class Nebraska is signing today. Some really good athletes at skill positions like RB and QB. However I get discouraged when I see all the big time OL and DL recruits going to all these SEC schools and Ohio St and Michigan. What do you think the main reason for this is? Is Nebraska's problem mainly its location? Or is it that Pelini isnt the best recruiter? Or is it the fact that we havent won anything meaningful in a long time? And if thats the case would you see a lot more big time recruits coming in today if Nebraska won the league and the Rose Bowl this year? Thanks and keep up the good work
Adam Rittenberg (3:07 PM)
Taylor, a lot of it comes down to circumstances. Nebraska's offensive line depth looks pretty good right now, and the Huskers will return one of the league's top lines in 2013. So other programs can offer a chance to play early -- that could be part of the reason. The defensive line recruiting is a bit more puzzling since Nebraska has churned out some very good players there. I wouldn't panic too much, although the Huskers really need some D-linemen to develop.
Kevin (San Diego)
So I see Northwestern wants to play more games at Wrigley Field. While that may sound great on paper, do they not remember the field/end zone issues from last time? Or do they just not care?
Adam Rittenberg (3:08 PM)
Kevin, the idea is that Wrigley will be renovated so that the field can fit and both end zones can be used. Northwestern isn't going to play another game there if only one end zone is used. That's part of the agreement here.
Shazor (Findlay, OH)
adam, your link you posted yesterday to urban meyer's press conference is not working, i expect better from you...
Adam Rittenberg (3:09 PM)
Think that's Ohio State's problem, not ours. Hopefully, they'll get it to work soon.
Pete Simons (email@example.com)
Adam;Give a grade to Killer's class at Minny this recruiting season.
Adam Rittenberg (3:10 PM)
I want a little more time to study it, but as Brian Bennett just reported, the addition of juco LB De'Vondre Campbell is a big one for the Gophers. After losing so much at linebacker from the 2012 team, they need players who can contribute right away. They also got some help at QB to compete with Philip Nelson. Not a bad class.
With Michigan and Ohio State dominating the recruiting rankings, ss the B1G about to become the Big 2 and the little 12?
Adam Rittenberg (3:12 PM)
Mark, a lot of folks are making that assumption, and it makes sense as both Ohio State and Michigan are creating a gap in recruiting. I still look at the Big Ten in the past two decades and how much parity has existed. It's still about developing talent, but you have to be impressed with what Hoke and Meyer are doing on the trail. Whether it's Michigan beefing up on the lines or Ohio State improving its athleticism on defense, both programs are positioning themselves to compete for Big Ten and national titles most years.
Hey Adam, just a question about Toronto joining the B1G. Got ya! Can we expect Ohio State to lose some assistants in coming years? I'm assuming Tom Herman, Everett Withers, and Luke Fickell are going to be looked at extensively. Is Meyer going to be able to keep reloading with assistants like he is with recruits.
Adam Rittenberg (3:14 PM)
You had my blood boiling for a second there, Trasch! I think both Herman and Fickell will be head coaches in the near future. Herman especially has the personality for it, and Fickell handled himself well in a tough situation at Ohio State in 2011. Withers is a bit older, but he also has been a head coach in a tough spot at North Carolina. I think he'll eventually have another opportunity if he does well at Ohio State. Bottom line: I don't expect Meyer to keep his staff fully intact for 2014, as he did for 2013.
matt (ann arbor)
With the pac-12 schedule alliance falling through, do you think it would be possible to have a smaller "challenge" between 2 conferences. Say every year, 6 schools from the Big Ten play schools from the Pac-12. Half at home, half on the road. It has the feel of an alliance between conferences and also allows flexability for teams in scheduling.
Adam Rittenberg (3:15 PM)
Matt, if it happens, it won't happen with the Pac-12. That ship has sailed for Jim Delany. He'll be very cautious to enter another scheduling partnership, and I think the Big Ten would rather have all schools on board, as difficult as that may be. Remember, all the Big Ten schools were on board with the Pac-12 partnership, but four Pac-12 schools couldn't make it work schedule-wise.
OSU guy (OH)
Hey Adam, what is your take on the Ezekiel Elliot situation? Attention grabber or legitimate reconsideration?
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
I think he'll still sign with Ohio State, but we'll find out in a bit. I think high school seniors are, by nature, fragile and fickle. This isn't a huge surprise.
Adam Rittenberg (3:16 PM)
I think he'll still sign with Ohio State, but we'll find out in a bit. I think high school seniors are, by nature, fragile and fickle.
Mochila (Grand Rapids, MI)
Adam, you say Michigan State's recruiting class isn't as decorated as in recent years, but that's just because the class is smaller than it's been. If you look at the average recruit ranking on this class, it's the highest it's been since the 2009 top 20 class. Do you say that because they didn't have any huge name recruits like Gholston, Lawrence, or Burbridge? Terry's stock has risen quickly.
Adam Rittenberg (3:18 PM)
Mochila, you make some good points here, and I really don't want to fall into a trap that I hate -- saying a class isn't as good because it's smaller than other classes. I guess we're not hearing as much buzz about MSU this year, in part because Michigan is recruiting so well and Ohio State has elevated itself to a new level under Urban. The big-names factor isn't there as much for MSU since Rich Rodriguez left Ann Arbor. Terry certainly fits that category. I still think MSU is recruiting well.
Hey Adam, my mom just came in and stole my question....
Adam Rittenberg (3:19 PM)
Love it. Would love to know what Bret Bielema thinks of all this.
The Pirate (Ocean)
Have you ever considered linking anything aside from football in our Lunch Links? Guns are always a popular topic atleast once a day with the regular bloggers. I think you should try and link some state laws with each schools state. Maybe some of the less interested bloggers could learn a few things about each school's surrounding area's and laws. It's certainly insightful. (No, i'm not joking...just an idea)
Adam Rittenberg (3:20 PM)
Pirate, I think you've come down with scurvy. Yeah, we're not touching that topic in lunch links.
10 of the BIG coaches (?BIG?)
VANDERBILT???????VANDERBILT??????VANDERBILT???????? They have 11 4 Star recruits??????? How are we ever going to compete with the SEC if VANDERBILT can outrecruit us?????????
Adam Rittenberg (3:21 PM)
Although I'm not the biggest James Franklin fan, you have to respect the way he recruits, especially to a program that has historically struggled as much as Vanderbilt's. It's certainly something to note from a Big Ten standpoint. Can Northwestern or another academically oriented Big Ten school match up? We'll see. But remember, it still comes down to talent development. When I saw Vanderbilt in Week 2, I saw a team that didn't maximize the most out of its talent.
bm5forheis (The Pit)
Hey Adam, really love the blog! Anyways, Braxton Miller has to be the leading Heisman favorite in the B1G. But what do you think his biggest obstacles are in taking the trip to NY and claiming the award that is rightfully his?
Adam Rittenberg (3:23 PM)
Completely agree that Braxton is the Big Ten's top Heisman candidate. He has to show continued improvement as a passer, and he'll need to lead Ohio State to some dramatic victories, the types of wins that get noticed nationally. Ohio State's weak schedule in 2013 doesn't exactly help Miller, and he might need to lead the Buckeyes to another undefeated season to win the Heisman. It's a tough award to predict because so much hinges on what the other contenders do or don't do.
Adam, I know you've said you and Brian will revamp your power rankings after the spring games - anything in mind with post-recruiting day rankings?
Adam Rittenberg (3:24 PM)
We'll cross that bridge when we get there. Let's get through signing day first. But yes, there will be some small changes.
For the first time I can remember the Badgers are bringing in some JUCO guys. Is this going to be a new trend with Anderson running the show? Also will we see more recruits coming from West of the Mississippi?
Adam Rittenberg (3:26 PM)
Jason, I noticed that trend as well. Although several Big Ten programs take jucos most years, Wisconsin hasn't been one of them. I think Andersen is trying to fill some immediate needs and won't repeatedly go to the juco well. McEvoy is a little unique because he has three years of eligibility left and plays the most important position on the field. I do think Wisconsin continues to recruit more prospects from the Western part of the country. This coaching staff has roots and contacts in Utah, California, etc., and will use them.
Is Darrell Hazell's move to Purdue a step for him to be back on the sidelines in Ohio Stadium once Meyer leaves? I'm not naive enough to think Meyer is going to be here for a long time. I'd give him 5 more years at the most. Would Hazell be a top candidate? Surely the Athletic Department has their eyes open.
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
Every athletic director has to keep his or her eyes open about a potential change with the football coach. Let's see how Darrell Hazell fares at Purdue, which hasn't been an easy place to win aside from Joe Tiller's run. He'll have to prove himself there, but his Ohio State roots certainly make him a potential candidate down the line. The same holds true for a guy like Luke Fickell, a fan favorite who already has held the job. Bottom line: Ohio State will never have a shortage of good candidates for the top job. The bigger question, as you mention, is how long Urban stays.
Maybe you could make a poll where us blog followers could choose if we feel more or less confident about our teams after NSD?
Adam Rittenberg (3:28 PM)
Like the thought, David, but we'd have to do 12 different polls for each fan base, which makes it a little difficult. Maybe we'll do a mailbag instead where you can share your thoughts.
Andrew (San Francisco)
How bad is it really going to be for the Big 10 if they can't reach 16 teams? They have 14 now and now they have big markets with Baltimore/DC and the New York market. Shouldn't they be fine now?
Adam Rittenberg (3:30 PM)
They could be, Andrew, but the sense always has been that the Big Ten eventually will go to 16. You can get a bit more creative with divisions or pods, and you can truly strengthen yourself on the East Coast or South, depending on who you add. I don't subscribe to the bigger-is-better model, but none of us think the Big Ten is staying put at 14.
So how big of an impact do you think Hackenberg signing with PSU will have on their program in the future?
Adam Rittenberg (3:32 PM)
It's huge. To gain a commitment from arguably the nation's top quarterback at a time when the program is facing heavy sanctions, including three more years without league titles or bowls, shows how appealing Penn State remains to recruits and how appealing Bill O'Brien is to these prospects. Hackenberg wants to play in the NFL and feels O'Brien can help get him there. If he pans out, he could solidify Penn State's offense for multiple years and move the program closer toward a period without sanctions. Can't overstate the significance of adding a player like Hackenberg.
Adam Rittenberg (3:33 PM)
Speaking of O'Brien, I'm awaiting a call from him in the next 15-20 minutes, at which time I'll have to end the chat a little early.
If I'm a head coach in the B1G right now I'm hiring at least one coach who's spent his entire career recruiting Florida. Same with Texas and same with California. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (3:34 PM)
Billy, I couldn't agree more. While I understand the need to focus close to home and recruit well within the state and the region, you can't be blind to the national trends. You have to focus your time and energy where the top recruits are, and there are more of them in those states. Having assistants with ties there is an absolute must.
OSU guy (OH)
Is it just me or is Ohio State's D line production/growth going to make or break whether or not this team graduates from conference favorite to national contender?
Adam Rittenberg (3:36 PM)
Completely agree, OSU guy. There might not be a position group I'll watch more from now until Aug. 31 than Ohio State's defensive line. The offense should once again be powerful, and Ohio State returns experience in the secondary. Although linebacker is a little thin, I love Ryan Shazier. The line really is the key to the season for the Buckeyes, who lose so much up front.
Who's the long term solution at QB for the Boilers, Danny Etling or Austin Appleby?
Adam Rittenberg (3:38 PM)
Gregg, the Boilers' QB competition should be fascinating, not just this year but possibly in future years. Purdue certainly has piled up players at that spot. I've loved what I've read about Etling's potential, but let's see how he does at the college level. Appleby's size certainly jumps out to me. He's got the build to succeed in the pro-style system Hazell and Shoop will implement at Purdue.
When you speak to Coach O'Brien, please tell him thank you for not bolting to the NFL for all of us PSU fans!
Adam Rittenberg (3:39 PM)
Will do, Ned.
Iowa has found a new TE coach in DJ Hernandez, brother of New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, where our latest new o-line coach Brian Ferentz coached TE's, and is son of Iowa head coach kirk ferentz....Most of that is just non-sense, but I am intrigued to know what you think of the Hernandez hire?
Adam Rittenberg (3:40 PM)
Will do, Ned.
Adam Rittenberg (3:41 PM)
The DJ Hernandez hire makes sense, especially with Iowa moving some staff around for 2013. I think he can help a guy like C.J. Fiedorowicz reach that next level. But with Iowa, it's all about QB development and a better grasp of the offense in Year 2 under Greg Davis.
Hank (Washington DC)
Which recruit do you think will have the biggiest impact in 2013 at Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (3:42 PM)
Derrick Green. Michigan really needs help at running back right now, and to sign a back like Green could be huge, especially if Fitz Toussaint can't get back to full strength.
matt (ann arbor)
Another conference has 14 teams(SEC) but I only hear about the Big Ten possibly moving to 16. Also, with the division allignment looking like it will be East and West, do you see the Big Ten possibly doing something like the SEC with Missouri being in the East. Could we see a team like Iowa or Minn being in the East division if it makes the divisions balanced?
Adam Rittenberg (3:44 PM)
Matt, it's all on the table, but from talking to ADs in recent weeks, they're really stressing the geography component and sound like they can make things work competitively. They don't seem to want scenarios like Wisconsin in a division not with its traditional rivals. So I'd be very, very surprised if Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin aren't all in the same division.
Adam, which new guy will most likely start this season at Ohio State? My money's on Eli Apple at DB or Corey Smith at WR, possibly Trey Johnson at LB
Adam Rittenberg (3:45 PM)
I'm going to go with Corey Smith, as Ohio State still needs some help at wide receiver, a little more so than DB. It's tough for linebackers to start as true freshmen.
Does Wisconsin currently have the most intriguing QB competition in the history of football? The only way I can imagine that it's not is if GA intends to give the edge to McEvoy because he fits his offense.
Adam Rittenberg (3:47 PM)
Billy, I'd be surprised if he does that. He just wants another option, one he recruited. But he recognizes he has three players with starting experience, plus a decorated recruit in Bart Houston who sat out last year with injury. Does McEvoy have an edge because this staff recruited him? Maybe a little, but I wouldn't consider him the frontrunner ahead of Stave and Houston.
Dan (North of Canada)
Serious question. Why does Canada make your blood boil? Or is just U of Toronto does not give out football schollies.
Adam Rittenberg (3:49 PM)
I love Canada. I try to attend Blackhawks games featuring Canadian teams so I can sing "O, Canada" before the best rendition of the national anthem in sports. I visited Vancouver last year with the wife and had a great time. Even spent a weekend in a place called Sarnia in June. But I don't like the University of Toronto to the Big Ten talk. Just not happening.
Please stop perpetuating the myth that OSU needs to overhaul the entire defensive line. Spence and Washingotn got a lot of reps towards the end of the season, on both running and passing downs; the staff is clearly comfortable with both guys. OSU needs a replacement for Hankins to show they can stop the run.
Adam Rittenberg (3:50 PM)
Marco, I'm not denying that Ohio State has the talent to survive these personnel losses, but Spence and Washington weren't full-time starters. Ohio State loses John Simon, the BIg Ten Defensive Player of the Year, as well as guys like Goebel and Williams who played a lot of football. It's not easy to overcome all those losses in one year, no matter how well you've recruited. Does it mean Ohio State will struggle up front? No. But that group is a question mark right now.
Bren (Berkeley, Ca)
As a long time B1G fan it was tough to watch last season as the conference took a noticable dip among the big 6. What early games can help the B1G on the national stage to improve perception and bring some credibility back to the B1G?
Adam Rittenberg (3:51 PM)
The three Notre Dame games should help after the Irish reached the national title game. Some others as well, but I'm sorry guy, gotta run
Adam Rittenberg (3:52 PM)
Coach O'Brien just called. gotta run. thanks for the chat.