Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Big Ten reporter 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, so fire away with your best questions.
Casey Michigan [via mobile]
Do you think Michigan State using Damion Terry next year could throw off Connor Cook and the rest of the offense?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
I don't think you want to disrupt what has turned into a pretty good thing with Cook and the MSU passing game. At the same time, Terry is too athletic and skilled not to use somewhere. Even if it's just a few snaps per game as a Wildcat QB type or slot receiver, he can give the offense a jolt.
Mike ((PSU Class of 13))
How good can PSU's offense be this coming year? They have all their RB back and a quadruplet of WR coming in (plus Geno Lewis). Lets not forget the best pro-style qb in the Big Ten!
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
It has a chance to be very good if -- and this is a big if -- someone or multiple players can replace the production of Allen Robinson. He was a huge part of that offense last year, and none of the WRs are proven. The team will also have to adjust to new coaches and a new scheme, so there could well be some growing pains, especially early.
Patty (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Who will be the Big Ten's best running back in 2014? Ameer Abdullah or Melvin Gordon are the favorites but i like darkhorse candidates like Derrick Green or Jeremy Langford.
Brian Bennett (3:05 PM)
I think we're going to be blessed with a deep and talented class of RBs next year. Don't forget Venric Mark is coming back, as well as David Cobb and Penn State's guys and Mark Weisman and Tevin Coleman. I'm not sold yet on Green. It's an Abdullah-Gordon race for me. Gordon has more room to grow still.
Brady Hoke (Ann Arbor)
If I don't get ten wins is this my last year in AA?
Brian Bennett (3:07 PM)
No, I don't think there's a 10-win mandate. Hoke still has the full support of AD Dave Brandon, and that's not going to change with, say, a 9-4 campaign. Now, if it's more like 7-5 or 6-6, then things would get a lot more interesting, but I don't believe Hoke is on the hot seat by any means.
seth, Liberty Center,OH [via mobile]
Marcus looked like one of the best players on the field in the Orange bowl. Why is there no buzz on him being a starter let alone a huge contributor next year?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
Jamal Marcus had a solid game against Clemson. There's a very good chance he starts the first two games while Noah Spence is still serving a suspension. He can definitely be a rotation guy next year, but I don't think he's nearly as good as Spence or Joey Bosa. Ohio State is loaded on the DL.
If Christian Hackenberg wasn't QB, would Franklin be having as much recruiting success as he is?
Brian Bennett (3:09 PM)
Having a star QB is appealing to other skill position guys and especially WRs. But this is what James Franklin does. He's one of the best recruiters in the game. When he has time to build a full class and no restrictions, watch out.
Is Michigan officially now a basketball school?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Pretty amazing run by the Wolverines on the hardwood. But we know where the Maize and Blue's bread is still buttered.
Lil Red (Lincoln)
How did Vanderbilt sell three times as many bowl tickets as me the last three seasons? Mr.C says it's because he has better and smarter fans.
Brian Bennett (3:12 PM)
So much of bowl travel is the hunger and enthusiasm of the fan base. Let's face it: Nebraska didn't end on a high note the past two seasons, and so fans weren't thrilled to make a pricy trip to Florida to see them. Vandy has had very little bowl success in its history and had a short drive to its postseason game.
Eric (Los Angeles, CA)
If a B1G team makes it to the playoffs and competes/wins a game, but falls short of the national championship, and say, goes .500 in the rest of the bowl games...would the season be viewed as a success for the B1G or another season without a national championship?
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
Yes, I think that would be a rousing success. Moving forward it will be all about getting into that four-team playoff. Remember that the Big Ten hasn't played for a title since 2007 so it's vitally important for the league to get back into that mix for championships.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Which would be a bigger non conference win for the Big Ten, UW on a neutral field against LSU or MSU @ Oregon?
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I'll say Michigan State, just because both teams should be in the Top 5 and that would be a huge road win that could really propel the Spartans on the national stage. Of course, beating an SEC power is also really good, and Wisconsin might not lose again for a long time if it won that game.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
As a PSU fan, I am thrilled with the energy and attention that the new coaches are putting into recruiting. But how are they as gameplan and game day coaches?
Brian Bennett (3:16 PM)
After winning nine games in back-to-back years at Vandy, I'd say pretty good. The 'Dores did tend to beat the mediocre to bad teams in the SEC. Still, to do that with Vandy's talent and limitations says a lot about the coaching, if you ask me.
What will it take to get a better brand of quarterback to the B1G? More athletic weapons on the outside? More creative offenses? Upgraded coordinators? Just time, following the likes of Hackenberg, Wilson, etc?
Brian Bennett (3:18 PM)
It's a good question. First, the league probably needs more QB/offense gurus like Bill O'Brien, Kevin Wilson and Urban Meyer. Top QBs want to play in the most inviting offenses and for the best offensive minds. And let's face it: a lot of top QBs play in warm weather climates where they can throw and compete in 7-on-7s all year round.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Brian, Iowa's next superstar will play at what position?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
The guy on the roster who looks most like a future superstar to me is Desmond King. So I'll say CB. That's been a strong position for the Hawkeyes of late.
Nick (East Lansing)
Best D-lineman in the big ten next year? Bosa and Gregory are my 2 picks.
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Those are two good ones. I can't argue with those selections at all. Both are physical freaks with a lot of potential left.
In past articles and chat you and Adam arent high at this time on a specific team in the West.It 's so wide open , what will help make your decision..barb
Brian Bennett (3:23 PM)
Yeah, it's more that the teams are so closely bunched together, with no obvious favorite. Spring practice will be big, especially for a team like Wisconsin that will have to replace a lot on defense. How do the QB battles shake out? Does Northwestern pull out of its tailspin? Are there major offseason injuries? I doubt we go into the year with a prohibitive top contender. Right now, I lean toward Nebraska but a lot of time before I pick one.
I'm not buying the lack of QBs as a long-term trend for the B1G. Miller, Hackenberg, Wilson, Pryor, Robinson are/were household names. NFL has plenty of B1G signal callers. Heck, even Brian Hoyer looked decent for my Brownies before getting hurt this year. I think a lack of perimeter playmakers has hurt the QBs more than a lack of talent.
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
I'd agree with you to an extent, though this was a good year for receivers in the league and not a very good one for QBs. So it goes in waves. Bottom line is I think the offensive coaching and amount of playmakers has to improve overall. Lot more of those explosive playmakers in the south and west.
James (East Lansing)
Hey Again I have one more question. How do we get some of these fans to lay off some of the recruits? Why do people think they can threaten and yell at kids for making a choice to back off a commitment. Everyone makes mistakes and if people yell at the recruits won't that make that recruit and possibly other recruits not want to come to that place?
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
Unfortunately, it's hard to control some of that disturbing behavior because some fans let their passion outpace their senses. And social media makes it too easy to interact with kids. I wish people would settle down about recruiting hype in the first place. Let kids be kids and worry more about them when they actually get to campus. You'll be happier that way, I promise.
Zach (Chicago, IL)
Brian, I'm not sure how you can have a best D-Lineman list and not have Calhoun on it...the dude was an all american in his first year of consistant action (and I believe won B1G d-lineman of the year last year)
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
I love Shilique and think he's a beast. Same for Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Frank Clark. Deion Barnes, if he can get straightened out. But the two guys with the biggest wow factor, for me, were Gregory and Bosa.
Do you think the Badgers have the ability to coach-up Stave or are we going to see a couple good throws offset by a horrible, game-changing decision again in 2014 (assuming he beats out Houston and McEvoy)? His success/failure could be huge for future recruiting at the position for UW, don't you think?
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Sure. I mean, he was just a sophomore this past year. There's no reason Stave can't improve his accuracy and decision making. You have to wonder how high his ceiling actually is, but he's got a good arm. Houston and McEvoy have no experience in big-time college football, so they've got a lot of ground to make up, even if they might be better athletes overall.
What type of message would it send the Big Ten if MSU flipped top 100 recruit Jamarco Jones from OSU and ended up getting 5* Malik McDowell who was long presumed to be UofM's for the taking? A lot of other Big Ten fan bases don't think MSU's sucess is sustainable because of lack of success "recruiting".
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Probably the last hurdle for MSU to clear now is to really be a player on those elite recruits. But Dantonio and his staff have never really concerned themselves with star ratings and know how to recruit to their system and develop perfectly. How many stars did Darqueze Dennard have? He was pretty good.
Fred (in the frozen plains)
So Purdue played a 4-3 and a 3-4 last year. Any idea what their base defense will be this year? What would you play?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I have not heard a whole lot of rumblings about a full time switch to a 3-4. Purdue has lacked talent at linebacker the past few years, in my opinion, which makes it tougher to play a 3-4.
seth, Liberty Center,OH [via mobile]
Ezekiel Elliot is the biggest dark horse as far as BIG running backs because no one knows him outside of ohio state and Missouri. Agree?
Brian Bennett (3:34 PM)
He showed a lot of ability in short stints in 2013, and the opportunity for lots of playing time is there with Hyde gone. Lot of competition there, too. But I really like his potential.
Gordon v Abdullah may be a tossup but can any team bring a back like Corey Clement off the bench? Despite the timeshare, he has to be among the top soon-to-be-known-guys-that-no one-knows now, right?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
He has the chance to be quite a weapon, and Wisconsin's running game shouldn't really miss a beat. It's important that Gordon really improves in pass pro, though. That kept him off the field at times in B1G play, and as a young guy, Clement will likely still need time to learn it.
Dennis (Airville, PA)
Mitch Sherman's article about Nebraska's needed improvements was accuate but I think he left one area out and that is special teams, especially punt returns. Pelini has always had adequate punters & place kickers, ranging from good to great. But his punt returns have never gotten beyond the fair catch stage, leaving a lot of yardage left on the field. Is this a point of emphasis for Pelini this offseason?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
It certainly needs to be looked at and evaluated, because Nebraska has enough speed to do good things in the return game. Is it a main emphasis or major reason that's holding Nebraska back? I don't think so.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will win Super Bowl XLVIII?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Give me the Seahawks, with that defense in that weather. Should be a great one, though.
Ghost of Wide Receivers Past (Downfield)
Is 2014 going to be another down year for the Big Ten at wide receiver like 2012? Or will the return of so many starting quarterbacks help that position thrive again?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
Much like in 2012, a lot of talent is leaving the league at WR, including Robinson, Gallon, Abbrederis, Enunwa, Philly Brown and Latimer. I think there are some good young receivers still around and some strong veterans like Kenny Bell. But if you asked me right now, for instance, who will be the leading WR at Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State, I wouldn't have great answers. So it is a concern heading into '14
Everybody acts like Michigan getting Nussmeier was a coup, but he was essentially run out of Alabama - missed detail by the media covering the Big Ten.
Brian Bennett (3:42 PM)
"Run out of Alabama" is a bit strong. Sure, it seemed like Saban had his eye on Kiffin (for some reason). But the Tide did average 38.2 points per game this season and won a national title last year. Nussmeier must have been doing something right.
SpartanNation (We're Everywhere)
Will we ever find out what kept Bullough out of the Rose Bowl? He was the ever-present media voice of the MSU team, and suddenly he disappeared off the face of the planet. Though we understand that he doesn't OWE us an answer, it sure would be a nice showing of respect to a fan-base that supported him through thick and thin.
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
Good question. Since it doesn't appear to be a legal situation, there are no public records to access. I would imagine it will leak during the combine. Bullough will have to answer that question for every prospective NFL team, and it might behoove him just to come out and be done with it.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Is Bo Pelinii poised for an early exit if the Huskers get off to a slow start? The handwriting has to be on the wall when people start leaking tapes, and diehard fans, aren't showing up for bowl games, right?
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
I'm not reading too much into the bowl attendance, but no doubt this is a vital year for Pelini. A slow start would only bring back all the old questions and chatter and make life pretty miserable in Lincoln. I think the Sept. 20 home game against Miami is pretty big because of that.
Kawann Short (Somewhere)
I'm still upset you somehow left me off the Top 25 list last year but included Hankins. I clearly had a better year and it wasn't even close. How many complaints have you received so far this year with respect to the Top 25 player countdown?
Brian Bennett (3:47 PM)
Not many complaints yet, but then again we're only halfway through it. They will come. And for the record, I always liked Short's game but thought that injuries and the fact that he took too many plays off contributed to a less-than-stellar 2012 season. Purdue got dominated up front too much.
Eric (Los Angeles, CA)
Which teams have the "top units" in a way to early look to 2014? On offense I'm looking at OSU? Defense...I'm assuming MSU (which probably will be the top unit in the league again.) As for special teams...I have no clue. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:49 PM)
Yeah, I think even with some superstars gone, that MSU defense will once again be the best unit in the league. They're just reloading at this point in East Lansing. Ohio State should once again be explosive on offense with Braxton Miller, though losing 4/5th of the offensive line and Carlos Hyde can't be dismissed. Indiana's offense should continue to put up a bunch of points, and I like the potential of Nebraska's defense with all those young guys
For $1 million, who would you guess starts at QB for the Badgers to open 2014?
Brian Bennett (3:50 PM)
I'd still pick Stave. Hard to see the Badgers going with a truly untested guy against LSU to start the year.
Matthew (Richardson, Tx.)
Is Year 3 the year where the Kirk Ferentz/Greg Davis marriage FINALLY gels? Iowa's offense in 2013 was "clunky" to say the least and they seem to lack a true identity when it comes to what they want to accomplish on offense. Hurry-up offense? Pound-the-rock offense? 3 TE? I also think Beathard has a higher ceiling than Rudock, but that's just me.
Brian Bennett (3:52 PM)
We saw some definite improvement there and a real identity. Getting Scherff back is a big boost. To me, it's still about the receivers. It's just hard to put together a well-rounded offense without playmakers at WR, and I don't know that Iowa has gotten a lot better there still.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
As a Northwestern fan, where's our biggest sign to be hopeful that 2014 is more like 2012 (10-3 with Gator Bowl win) than 2013 (ugh)? Is it health/better depth? Better luck? Improved recruiting? A return to the Bacher-Kafka style of pass-first offense with Siemian? Or a return to dual-threat running and passing with Matt Alviti?
Brian Bennett (3:53 PM)
For one, I think it would be impossible to have all the bad luck Northwestern experienced in 2013 for a second straight year. That includes injuries and all the ridiculously close losses. Getting Venric Mark back is huge, and the recruiting has been on an uptick, so there should be plenty to work with. The Wildcats could easily be the Big Ten's most improved team in 2014.
Ignorant, mouth breathing fan (Philly)
So wait....if Nussmeier was not run out of Alabama, does that mean Michigan actually has a shot at success this year? Would you pick them to lose at OSU and MSU this year?
Brian Bennett (3:56 PM)
I've got to think the young offensive linemen will get better, though losing Lewan of course is significant. Devin Gardner is back, and though he'll need to find a favorite target to replace Gallon, there is talent on hand. I think Nussmeier will figure out a clearer identity. And yes, I'd pick Michigan to lose both those games. Probably no better than 3rd in the East at this point.
Brian, any chance that the NCAA allows PSU to become postseason eligible after they submit their report in September?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
I think there's a very good chance of that happening. Worst case, PSU is eligible in 2015
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Which program is doing better Minnesota with its better record and better defense or Indiana with its higher rated recruits and elite offense?
Brian Bennett (3:57 PM)
Don't think there's any question it's the team that won 8 games this year and has been to back to back bowls
Pre Spring Ball..?OPOY.......DPOY.......
Brian Bennett (3:58 PM)
Hard to pick against Braxton Miller and the three-peat for offensive player of the year. I'll go with Randy Gregory on defense.
What's your take on Avery Moss being banned for a year by Nebraska? Fair or harsh?
Brian Bennett (3:59 PM)
Sounds like a university decision and not a football one, but it does seem harsh. What he did was incredibly stupid, but we all do dumb stuff when we're young.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa)
Brian, what program is going to have a scandal in '14?
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
Hopefully none. Those stories are not much fun to write about.
Brian Bennett (4:00 PM)
OK, folks, that's all my time for this week. Thanks for all the great questions and enjoy Super Bowl week.