Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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 Thursday at noon ET!
Adam Rittenberg (12:00 PM)
Hey everyone, I'm here. Let's chat!
Shawn (Minneapolis, MN)
If MN goes 8-5 for each of the next 1-3 seasons, does that consistency represent a step forward for the program over the last 25 years, or is it largely regression to the mean? What would it mean psychologically? How likely do you find such an event?
Adam Rittenberg (12:02 PM)
Good question, Shawn. It would basically show that Minnesota's ceiling is 7-8 wins, which is what we learned for much of Glen Mason's tenure as coach. A lot of people felt Minnesota never should have dumped Mason, so while it would be nice for the Gophers to go to bowls every year, I don't know if it would represent an upgrade over Mason. The Gophers are in the more favorable division, so it's important for Kill to have a breakthrough season relatively soon and make a run for the division title.
Hi Adam, what did you think of Michigan calling a press conference to introduce a coordinator? How often do you see that? Do you think they did that because MSU has been getting so much attention and they haven't? I thought it just showed their arrogance again.
Adam Rittenberg (12:03 PM)
No, I don't think it had anything to do with the Michigan State attention. Michigan doesn't do much media, much to my dismay, largely because it doesn't have to. But we often see news conferences or press gatherings when top new assistants are introduced. The Nussmeier hiring is a big deal, so I didn't see anything wrong with the news conference.
Johnny Stryker (Antigua)
We know Franklin can recruit, but what is his track record of developing talent? Hackenberg went to Penn State to learn under BOB; defensive studs are starting to pay attention to MSU because of Narduzzi and Dantonio. You may be able to charm my mother and I into signing a letter of intent, but if you can't help me get to the NFL, why should I go to State College?
Adam Rittenberg (12:05 PM)
I think that's a fair question, Johnny. Franklin helped develop some NFL prospects at Vanderbilt, but whether he can take a QB prospect as talented as Hackenberg and take him even further remains to be seen. O'Brien had a stronger track record of developing quarterbacks, but I also could see Hackenberg continue to thrive under Franklin and his staff. It will be very telling. I'm always a little leery of recruit-first coaches, but Franklin certainly could be just as strong with talent development.
Charlton Warren as D-backs coach at Nebraska....Go!
Adam Rittenberg (12:07 PM)
Not official yet, Nate, but it's looking like that. Warren is an interesting hire. He could help Nebraska's recruiting efforts in Colorado with his ties there from Air Force. I like the fact he comes from Georgia and could help in the South, where Nebraska could really miss Terry Joseph. He looks like a solid hire and developed some good players at the Air Force Academy.
Tim (Chesapeake Va)
With the 4 team playoff starting next year and the 16 man panel deciding who makes it, how big of a factor do you see SOS being. And will it hurt the BIG.
Adam Rittenberg (12:09 PM)
Schedule strength will play a significant role, Tim, as will winning league titles and other factors. The Big Ten SOS could be hurt a bit by the perceived weakness of the league, but I also see Big Ten teams challenging themselves more in non-league play with games like Wisconsin-LSU and Michigan State-Oregon. Those games will only help the SOS.
How in the heck was MSU able to(seemingly) hold on to Narduzzi?
Adam Rittenberg (12:10 PM)
He really loves working there, for starters. He had an opportunity to go to UConn but feels he can hold out for a better head-coaching job perhaps next season. There could be a few openings in the Big Ten where he'd be a good fit. But he loves Mark Dantonio and what they have going in East Lansing right now. He's realistic about head-coaching jobs and knows they don't always come around, but he wants to take the right one.
Adam (Orange County, New York)
Hi Adam. So far it seems as though Franklin is going to be just what Penn State needed to take Penn State to an Ohio State level. He is going to bring in some very talented players from all over the country in my opinion. Do you think Franklin will make PSU a ten win team in the next two years or do you think it could be closer to 3-4 years and this is more of a rebuilding project?.
Adam Rittenberg (12:12 PM)
Good question, Adam. I agree the overall talent level will go up at Penn State with Franklin and his assistants on the recruiting trail. I also think there are some significant depth issues on defense that might not go away for a while. I think Penn State could win 10 games in 2015 and maybe compete for league titles after that point. But like Bill O'Brien, Franklin can't afford to miss on too many players or afford many injuries to starters.
Jake (Michigan )
Do you think Michigans O line can really improve this year?
Adam Rittenberg (12:14 PM)
Absolutely, Jake. There's no substitute for experience, and another full offseason to get bigger and stronger certainly could lead to better overall play from the Wolverines' line. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield are big losses, but if Michigan can develop other linemen, the overall group should be improved in 2014. It will be a major storyline for Michigan, which can't expect to improve on offense if it can't execute basic run plays.
Which O & D B1G units do you think were the best in the BCS era? Does this season's MSU D make the top of the list?
Adam Rittenberg (12:16 PM)
Wow, good question, Marc. I'd certainly put the Michigan State defense up there with the 2002 Ohio State defense and a few others as the best in the BCS era. As far as offense, I'd have to look at the numbers a little closer. Purdue had some dynamic units with Drew Brees. The 2006 Ohio State offense was pretty good. Same for the 2008 Penn State offense.
Wisconsin won nine games, but they also lost to the four best teams they played (Arizona State, Ohio State, Penn State, and South Carolina). Now they must replace a mostly senior laden defense and fix the quarterback position. How should we view Wisconsin?s 2013 season and how do they project in 2014 in a wide open West Division?
Adam Rittenberg (12:18 PM)
Bryan, I'm pretty down on Wisconsin after the way it ended the season. The Badgers looked off their game against Penn State and displayed a ton of sloppiness in the bowl against South Carolina. It's a pretty soft 9-4, to be honest, and pretty disappointing after the way things looked in mid November. We're going to find out how good Gary Andersen and his assistants are next season, as they have to replace so many multiyear starters. It really starts with the QB spot, as you note. QB play has been holding back Wisconsin for two years.
Why did LJ leave? Was it cause he wasn't the HC? It looks like a lateral move at best.
Adam Rittenberg (12:20 PM)
I think it was just time for something else, Uriah. Not getting the head coach job again must have been a little disappointing (while not surprising). Johnson is likely getting a significant raise at Ohio State, where he'll be assistant head coach in addition to D-line coach. Penn State fans wanting a coach to remain just because he hasn't left aren't really being fair to that coach. Johnson served Penn State for a long time. He was under zero obligation to stay for another new head coach.
In my opinion, the competition level of college football is too top-heavy. And the reason for this is summed up well by the Jeff Jones situation. I don't expect Minnesota to keep him because top HS players are more interested in getting to the more "elite" programs if at all possible. If the trend continues, fans of middling programs like Minnesota's might as well throw real expectations out the window, right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:23 PM)
I don't think you should lower your expectations that easily, Steven. That said, it has to be discouraging for Minnesota to keep losing top in-state players to name-brand programs. Jeff Jones would be an excellent addition if Minnesota keeps him, but few would be surprised if he signs elsewhere. Minnesota has to make its program as attractive as possible for local prospects to stay home. That includes upgrading the practice facilities, which are outdated in the Big Ten.
Whats your take on Chris Ash?
Adam Rittenberg (12:25 PM)
I really like the hire. Ash is an intense coach and a very smart Xs and Os guy who will focus on the secondary, the unit that struggled the most in 2013. He's seen as a rising star in the business. I think both of Ohio State's staff additions -- Ash and Johnson -- make the defense better.
Flo (Progressive Ins.)
With Michigan State recent success and now with high expectations, do you see a step back this year because of the challenge to maintain that success? What would you consider as a step back? Not making the B1G Championship? A 9 win season? It's difficult for me to say what should be considered the MSU norm now.
Adam Rittenberg (12:28 PM)
It's always tough to maintain such a high level, but Michigan State has won 11 or more games in three of the past four seasons. I'd say a step back is missing the Big Ten title game and going 8-4 or 9-3. Michigan State has elevated the expectations, brings back most of its offense and has a defense that has been really good for an extended period. The Spartans have a tough Week 2 matchup at Oregon but get Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska all at home.
Bryan (Fairfax, VA)
Assistant Head Coach? Is that what you call a DL coach that's not qualified to be a Defensive Coordinator? Kind of like assistant to the head coach
Adam Rittenberg (12:29 PM)
It's a title that gets the assistant more money, kind of like co-coordinators who don't call plays. Johnson has had opportunities to be a defensive coordinator elsewhere (Illinois, Maryland), so he certainly could get a DC job if he wanted one.
where do you see Allen Robinson ending up in the draft? late first rounder potentially?
Adam Rittenberg (12:30 PM)
Robert, Mel Kiper Jr. has Robinson at No. 32 (final pick of the first round) in his first mock draft. I see Robinson as either a late first-round or early second-round guy, depending on how he works out. He's a very good receiver, especially in the red zone, but there are so many good receivers coming out this year. It's such a strong class.
Jake (San Diego)
I told you guys a couple months ago that MSU was as good as Stanford, but Brian dismissed it. What chances would you give MSU against Florida State right now? Also, do you think they have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs next year? For us Spartans, it seems our timing is always off one year...
Adam Rittenberg (12:33 PM)
Jake, I think Michigan State absolutely would have a decent shot against FSU. I was stunned at how Auburn's defense, which I watched Georgia shred on Dec. 16, slow down Jameis Winston and FSU for much of the title game. MSU's defense is a lot better than Auburn's. If Connor Cook stepped up the way he did in the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten title game, MSU would have been right in the game at the end. ... As for next year, it might take a win at Oregon -- no easy task -- to get in the Playoff, but I've learned not to doubt MSU after it overcame every obstacle this past season.
Adam, if all the changes made in the Big 10 these last few weeks are successful, could we be looking at something like the SEC, where the Big Ten East is like the SEC West and the Big 10 West is like the SEC East? The SEC East teams always have good records, but those are built up because they don't always play the top West teams.
Adam Rittenberg (12:35 PM)
GBK, I think there's additional concern that the divisions will be unbalanced after Michigan State's Rose Bowl run. It'll be important for programs like Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota to help balance things things out. The odd thing about the SEC East is that there are enough traditional powers there (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, even South Carolina) to create more balance than we've seen.
Alec (Iowa City)
Whats the deal with Brian Ferentz's job situation? All the reports seem to be of the less than official variety.
Adam Rittenberg (12:36 PM)
Yeah, it looked like he was gone and then he wasn't. The NFL assistant hiring season is far from over, so we'll have to see what happens. But for now, he's still working for the Hawkeyes.
Rob NitLion (Morristown, NJ)
Adam, expanding on the ARob question, do you have a list of all of the underclassman receivers coming out in this draft, seems like an incredibly large number of junior receivers declaring for the NFL draft...and most of those are projected early rounders right?
Adam Rittenberg (12:37 PM)
Here's an updated list, which is rather large: Davante Adams, Fresno StateOdell Beckham Jr., LSUKelvin Benjamin, Florida StateChris Boyd, VanderbiltMartavis Bryant, ClemsonBrandon Coleman, RutgersBrandin Cooks, Oregon StateBruce Ellington, South CarolinaMike Evans, Texas A&MAustin Franklin, New Mexico StateJarvis Landry, LSUCody Latimer, IndianaMarqise Lee, USCDonte Moncrief, Ole MissPaul Richardson, ColoradoAllen Robinson, Penn StateWillie Snead, Ball StateJosh Stewart, Oklahoma StateSammy Watkins, Clemson
Ryan (Cincinnati, OH)
With the talk in the East for next year revolving around Mich, OSU, MSU and PSU competing for the chance at the title game, how do you see Rutgers and Maryland fitting into the mix? Potential trap games? Potential surprise contenders? Or will they be slotted as bottom feeders?
Adam Rittenberg (12:40 PM)
You can't look past teams, especially somewhat unknown teams like Maryland and Rutgers, but I think it will be tough sledding for the Big Ten's newcomers. Rutgers likely will replace both coordinators and coach Kyle Flood enters a make-or-break year in 2014. The same can be said for Randy Edsall at Maryland. I doubt either squad will contend in the division, but maybe they'll surprise one of the top four (MSU, OSU, Michigan, PSU).
Chuck (Bloomington, IN)
When IU hires a new DC will there be a chance that the defense could make a big improvement for next season, or is it more likely that improving the D will take a few years to get to anything approaching mediocrity?
Adam Rittenberg (12:41 PM)
Chuck, the coordinator hire is certainly important, but if you look at Indiana's defensive depth chart for 2014, you see a lot more experience than in previous years. Playing all of those freshmen in 2011 and 2012 could finally pay off for IU, which only needs to become mediocre on defense to win more games.
I saw a list of possible DC candidates for IU, which among others included each MSU defensive position coaches. Wouldn't that be great for IU? Think they can pull any away from MSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:44 PM)
Greg, Michigan State's defensive staff would be an excellent place for IU to start. Harlon Barnett (DBs) and Mike Tressel (LBs) would be the likely candidates for a DC opening, as Ron Burton is a new addition to MSU. I spoke with Indiana athletic director Fred Glass this week and he said IU plans to pay the next coordinator more than Doug Mallory. It will take a nice offer to take Barnett or Tressel away from a good situation in East Lansing.
With the ACC pushing for changes so the conference championship doesn't have to be the top teams from each division, what do you think of this? The positive I see is that the B1G could get rid of divisions completely and have each team play 3 or 4 rivalry games they play each year and then randomly rotate teams so they're playing all teams on a more consistent basis. Then you simply take the two best teams at the end of the year for the CCG meanwhile eliminating divisions that aren't necessarily equal. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg (12:47 PM)
It's very interesting, Jerome. I know the BIg Ten doesn't want long gaps between certain matchups, so I'm not sure every team could play four rivals and still have a strong enough rotation. But anything to get the best teams in the title game is a good idea. I'd be interested to get Jim Delany's thoughts on what John Swofford had to say. It might be an option for the Big Ten if the East division is as strong as some think it will be.
It seems that the Big Ten is losing a lot of good receivers this year. If there is one area where Big Ten teams can improve, it is in the passing game. Whether it is due to QB play or the lack of play makers at the receiver position, it seems to me that Big Ten teams, when compared to top tier teams from other conferences, do not have explosive passing attacks. Which Big Ten team returns the best receiving corps and has the ability to have a dynamic passing game?
Adam Rittenberg (12:50 PM)
Bryan, I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the lack of explosive passing attacks and top-level receivers in the Big Ten. You watch Big Ten bowl opponents like Clemson and South Carolina and realize what the Big Ten is missing. Looking at the league next year, I like the receivers from Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana (even without Latimer) and Northwestern. The groups from Iowa, Minnesota and Penn State certainly could take a step forward. Michigan State's receivers really have made a dramatic turnaround.
Brian (Portland, Ore)
Hey Adam - Any thoughts on some of the new reported assistants following Franklin to PSU?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM)
Well, he's definitely taking a lot of the guys from Vanderbilt and bringing them to Happy Valley. From a recruiting standpoint, they all look like good additions. I'm interested to see what offensive coordinator John Donovan can do with Christian Hackenberg at QB. Donovan's offenses at VU were good, but not great, although Austyn Carta-Samuels definitely improved last season.
Adam Rittenberg (12:53 PM)
I also like that Franklin is bringing assistants who have ties to Pennsylvania and the region. Will really help in recruiting.
What would it take get Hoke on the hot seat this year? Do you see him recovering from another 7 loss season?
Adam Rittenberg (12:55 PM)
Another 7-loss season? You mean a 6-loss season? No, I don't see him surviving another season like this one. The "It's Michigan" motto wears thin if Michigan keeps losing four or more games. That's not the Michigan that Dave Brandon wants to be. Hoke has made the expectations clear -- Big Ten title or bust. If Michigan can't get to the league title game in 2014, the school has to consider a change. But it would likely take another 4- or 5-loss season for Brandon to pull the trigger on Hoke.
Jonny (long island)
Al Borges got A LOT of flack for the offense's struggles this year. In games against Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio State, however, they looked great. The defense is young but they didn't stop anybody this year. Does Greg Mattison get a pass because his resume is what it is?
Adam Rittenberg (12:57 PM)
It definitely was a hit-or-miss season for Borges and the Michigan offense, Jonny. Michigan had record-setting performances against Indiana and Notre Dame and record lows against Michigan State and Nebraska. But your point about Mattison is valid, especially after the bowl game. He did a poor job of preparing that group for Kansas State, which moved the ball at will against the Wolverines. I just don't see enough star power with the Wolverines defense. There are some nice pieces like Countess, Ryan and Clark, but who is the guy who really scares you with that unit? I don't know if it's far to say Michigan couldn't stop anybody, but Michigan fans should expect more from Mattison in 2014.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Adam, going off Bryan from Atlanta's question, break it down? What's to blame for the lack of explosive passing attacks in the B1G? 50% lack of talent, 50% coaches obsessed with the run game? 40/60? 10/90?
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Samuel, I think it's something we'll break down more extensively in the offseason as it's a fascinating topic. I would say a large percentage is the Big Ten's culture as a running league. The league has had no trouble producing elite running backs. That relates to the coaches, too, as many B1G coaches love to the run the ball. How many true QB gurus are there in the Big Ten? The league just lost one in Bill O'Brien. Talent also has something to do with it, not just at WR but at QB.
Adam Rittenberg (12:59 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Grant (San Francisco)
Will the "No Fly Zone" be able to continue in East Lansing with Darqueze Denard shutting people down on Sundays? Aside from Trae Waynes, which MSU underclassmen DBs will have the biggest impact next season?
Adam Rittenberg (1:01 PM)
RJ Williamson is a guy who should take on an even bigger role as a junior safety. Demetrious Cox is another intriguing prospect at safety, and Jermaine Edmonson and Darian Hicks could be bigger factors at CB. Should be an exciting group to watch as Dennard definitely raised the bar.
Adam Rittenberg (1:02 PM)
OK, guys, time is up. Thanks for your questions!