Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

March 3, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Brian Bennett

Brian Bennett
  (3:00 PM)

Good afternoon, everybody. It's almost March Madness, but we're talking football. Hit me with your questions about the Big East or Notre Dame or whatever else is on your mind.

Alex (New Brunswick, NJ)

As of right now, who do you think are solid bets for first round draft picks for the Big East?

Brian Bennett
  (3:02 PM)

I would say Anthony Davis and Jason Pierre-Paul, for sure, with Devin McCourty a strong possibility for the end of the first round.

Brent (Pittsburgh)

Enjoyed your interview with Coach Wannstedt. Did he mention anything about expansion?

Brian Bennett
  (3:04 PM)

I didn't ask him about expansion. It's not really an issue for the coaches right now. This will be decided at the presidential and administrative level. The coaches will just react when they're told which league they're playing in.

Conner (Louisville, Ky)

Were you surprised with how well Scott Long performed at the NFL combine last week? I wasn't. Everyone in Louisville seemed to know how much talent he had except for Steve Kragthorpe.Where do you see him going in the draft?

Brian Bennett
  (3:06 PM)

You're talking to the guy who put Long in the top 20 of his preseason Best of the Big East list, so no, I wasn't surprised. I've long known about Long's abilities. In fairness to Kragthorpe, Long had trouble staying healthy. His durability issues could hurt him in the draft, but he's got a special combination of size, strength and speed

Rick (Cincinnati)

Just shoot me straight. What will Notre Dame's record be this season? 12-0? 2-10? Another 6-6 season? Thinking about this agonizes me...

Brian Bennett
  (3:08 PM)

If I could answer that accurately in early March, I'd be quite a prognosticator (and I'd be living in Vegas). But I see better than 6-6. Seven or eight wins, probably.

WannyIsKing (Pittsburgh)

Realistically, I believe that Pitt has two legitimate Heisman Trophy canidates in Jonathan Bladwin and Dion Lewis provided they duplicate their performances again this fall. If you were the Pitt Athletic Department, who would you be putting the effort behind?

Brian Bennett
  (3:11 PM)

I think Heisman campaigns have become irrelevant given how easily available information is these days. But if we're talking who has the better chance, it's Lewis. As great as Baldwin is, it's incredibly difficult for a receiver to win the Heisman. If Larry Fitzgerald couldn't do it in his amazing season, I'm not sure who will.

Greg P (Staten Island,NY)

Brian, when all is said and done will we know by kickoff of the 2010 season where all the teams and the talk of realignment ends up?

Brian Bennett
  (3:13 PM)

I think there will be a lot of movement by this summer, as the presidents and athletic directors have their meetings. I wouldn't expect a formal invite to come until the fall or winter, going by the Big Ten's official timetable of 12 to 18 months. But the tea leaves could be legible by the time the season kicks off.

Dan (NC)

With Geno Smith's foot injured again what are the chances some true freshman could push him for a starting position. I know he has some exp from last year but who knows.

Brian Bennett
  (3:16 PM)

It's not a major injury, and Smith should be good to go by the spring and is the clear leader for the starting position. The question is will he have continued problems with the foot, given that he's now had two injuries in two years.

Lance (Florida)

I read that Jerome Murphy could go in the second round and I don't get it. Did anybody watch him play. Most games I wanted Leavitt to bench him. Is there something I am missing?

Brian Bennett
  (3:18 PM)

Lance, I couldn't agree more. Murphy has all kinds of physical tools, and I hope he puts it all together and has a nice pro career. But if you just put the film on, I don't see how any team could draft him that highly.

Jim (Pitt)

Get any good Pitt traditions yet? We've got a couple of cheers, but nothing spectacular. I'm still cynical about "Sweet Caroline"--all the songs in the world and we pick one that is already sung other places?

Brian Bennett
  (3:20 PM)

"Sweet Carolina" and the lighting of the cathedral seem to be the two everybody points out. I've been very surprised by the lack of gameday traditions suggested to me by Pitt and Syracuse fans. Surely the two Big East teams with the most history have good gameday traditions, no?

Eric (Cincy)

Who coaches in a BCS game next Brian Kelly or Butch Jones

Brian Bennett
  (3:23 PM)

Now THAT's a fun question. While I think Cincinnati should have the stronger team next year, Notre Dame has an easier path to a BCS game. Cincinnati has to win the Big East. I'm going to say Kelly gets Notre Dame there within the next three years. I'll take him over Jones.

Marc (Pensacola, fl)

Whats up Brian, what do you think will be the biggest difference we will see in UofL product on the field this year under coach Strong?? what expectations should i have this year?

Brian Bennett
  (3:25 PM)

Two words: More discipline. Louisville continually made dumb mistakes and looked disorganized under Kragthorpe. I do not expect that to be the case under Strong. Just by playing smarter, the team should win a couple more games, but the talent level is pretty low for 2010. A 6-6 season is going to require one heck of a coaching job, in my opinion.

Dave (New Jersey)

Is Ryan Nassib the starting QB for the Orange in the fall? Or might Marrone go with one of the true freshman, like Johnny Miller out of Colarado?

Brian Bennett
  (3:27 PM)

Nassib should definitely go into the spring as the starter, but he basically did that last year. He'll need to play well in the spring, because we saw last year that Marrone isn't afraid to roll the dice.

John (CT)

There's some buzz picking UConn to win the conference this season. Do you think they have a good shot? Do you think other teams have a better shot?

Brian Bennett
  (3:29 PM)

UConn was playing as well as anybody in the league at the end of last year and was in every single game. The Huskies bring nearly every player back. But they'll need to find some receivers and shore up the secondary. I've got them in my group of top four contenders.

Vince (Austin)

This may sound silly but could UC be more explosive this year on offense than '09? Collaros is ready-made for Jones' system, Pead will be the full-time starter & let's not forget Binns and newby Hazelton. thoughts?

Brian Bennett
  (3:32 PM)

It would be hard to be much more explosive than Cincinnati was in 2009. But the Bearcats still have a ton of talent, as you correctly noted. The key will be how quickly they pick up the nuances of Jones' system. Scoring points shouldn't be too much of an issue.

Dan (NC)

Based on the last few years drafts would it be safe to assume that USF has done less with more then any team in the league. Do you believe this was a depth or coaching issue. If its coaching can Skip turn it around. The talent is there.

Brian Bennett
  (3:34 PM)

I don't know about that. Other than Mike Jenkins, how many Bulls have made a big impact in the NFL? They had five guys go to the Combine this year, so the team probably should have been better. I still see this program as a sleeping giant for Skip Holtz to awaken.

Pete (Tupelo, Ms)

BB with the defense being the big question mark at ND, what about the o-line there is not going to be any experience there at all, can BK pull out 8 to 10 wins with that kind of experience?

Brian Bennett
  (3:36 PM)

There's still talent on the O-line, but they're going to have to learn how to block for a spread offense as opposed to an NFL style scheme. I'm not worried too much about the offense, because Kelly's teams always score. It's all about how the defense progresses.

Terry (the 'Burgh)

Rutgers' OOC schedule this year is even worse than last, in fact downright embarrassing, kinda makes the entire league look cowardly. With the Big East already fighting an uphill battle for street cred, for the greater good does the league ever weigh in / behind close doors tacitly suggest a future upgrade / set minimum standards?

Brian Bennett
  (3:38 PM)

It's not nearly as bad as last year's; for one thing, there aren't two FCS teams on the docket. It's still not great, but Rutgers is upgrading in the future with opponents like Miami and Penn State coming aboard.

Brent (Pittsburgh)

It seems that Dorin Dickerson is being considered almost exclusively as a tight end prospect. Given his freakish athleticism (4.4 40; 43.5 vertical) and smaller frame, why isn't he being considered seriously for WR?

Brian Bennett
  (3:40 PM)

Dickerson is kind of the classic tweener, which is why it took so long for Pitt to figure out what to do with him. I don't think he's a classic WR. However, if he puts a bit more weight on, he could be a Dallas Clark type.

Tran (Providence, RI)

How serious is the chance of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Syracuse leaving the Big East for the Big Ten?

Brian Bennett
  (3:42 PM)

It looks pretty likely that either Rutgers, Pitt or Syracuse could move on.

Dan (NYC)

Brian, it seems like the use of the spread offense, while exciting at the NCAA level, is hurting the players as they look to move to the pros (I'm thinking of Pat White and Tony Pike most recently). Do you think at some point the recruits (or NFL) push back enough to cut back on the schools running spreads?

Brian Bennett
  (3:44 PM)

No. College coaches are paid to win, and they'll keep running the spread as long as it's successful. What interests me is A) whether the spread becomes viable in the NFL because of the lack of pro style QBs and B) if programs with pro-style offenses like Pitt and Rutgers can use that to their recruiting advantage.

Tim (Cincinnati)

Was it just me or did UCONNS offense look alot better with Endres as the QB???

Brian Bennett
  (3:46 PM)

Don't forget that the offense was clicking pretty well at the end there under Frazer. The Huskies had huge offensive days against Cincinnati and Syracuse near the end of the year.

Brian Bennett
  (3:48 PM)

DePaul? Never. Georgetown doesn't have the money nor the inclination to play at the FBS level. Villanova remains intriguing, but they don't have a ton of fans and Temple has the Linc booked along with the Eagles. Plus, the Owls have had just one decent year, so let's not get carried away by their resurgence just yet.

Brian Bennett
  (3:49 PM)

Interesting question. I'd look for Collaros to put up monstrous numbers in that offense. Savage is clearly the most pro-style QB of the three.

Conner (Louisville, Ky)

With Scott Long gone, who do you see having a breakout year at receiver for Louisville? Will Victor Anderson return to form (and full health) and be a consistent threat this year?

Brian Bennett
  (3:51 PM)

Maybe the new coaching staff can get more out of the 6-foot-9 Josh Chichester. Troy Pascley has long been an intriguing guy because of his physique but hasn't really produced. It may be that Louisville really relies on the running game, especially if Anderson is healthy to go along with Darius Ashley and Bilal Powell

Bob (PA)

Obviously you have a vested interest in the strength of the Big East, but what are your feelings (unbiased if at all possible) of a PITT move to the Big 10. Keep some of the following in mind...Pitt/PSU rivalry would be back in full swing....Joepa can't prevent it.....Pitt would have a better recruting draw being in a better conference, Pitt would have a better bowl draw, Pitt's style of play fits better in the Big 10, and Pitt's basketball team would suffer but not much as the Big 10 is decent in basketball. If you were the AD of Pitt, would you go to the Big 10 if they offered?

Brian Bennett
  (3:53 PM)

Understand one thing right away: any Big East team that gets invited to the Big Ten will jump on it right away, because there's too much money involved. I think Pitt would be a great fit for a lot of reasons. My question is how does this really help the Big Ten? The league already has that market because of Penn State and Ohio State. Doesn't seem to fit into their idea of adding new markets for the Big Ten network.

Walt (DC)

With the former BE commissioner's ties to Memphis and his recent comments about Memphis needing to win more games, could that be an hint at a front-runner for expansion? They do have a solid basketball program, which the BE was built on.

Brian Bennett
  (3:55 PM)

As Tranghese apparently told Memphis (and I could have done the same for half the price), the program needs to get better at football. It's a long way away from the BCS level at this point.

janet (Panama City Beach, FL)

Given your definition of why Pitt isn't a good fit, what about USF? A wild choice for sure, but Florida's Tampa Bay as a future Big 10 market...??

Brian Bennett
  (3:55 PM)

Too far out of the footprint, and USF doesn't really fit in with the types of schools the Big Ten has.

Chris (DC)

Which Big East team would have the most affect on the Big East by leaving for the Big10?

Brian Bennett
  (3:57 PM)

Just sticking to the schools most frequently mentioned, I'd have to say Syracuse or Pitt. Both are so closely associated with the Big East in both football and basketball that it would be a huge image hit. The Big East could survive the loss of Rutgers if it found a decent replacement or two, in my opinion.

Jimmy (MA)

They said UConn couldn't replace Donald Brown. They did with Andre Dixon and Jordan Todman. With Dixon's graduation, can they repeat that feat this year?

Brian Bennett
  (3:57 PM)

The Huskies are always going to be able to run the ball. They've got a good line and are committed to it. Not worried one bit about their running game.

andrew (california)

Here is something interesting about expansion: dallas (tcu and smu) is closer to louisville then every single team in the mtnwest except new mexico. And Dallas is the same distance to Hartford as it is to Boise. UC is also as close or closer to Dallas than SU, Uconn or USF. How is this for a west division TCU, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Lville, UC.

Brian Bennett
  (3:59 PM)

Starting to sound like Conference USA all over again. I doubt that happens, but the Big East needs to keep all options on the table.

Brian Bennett
  (4:00 PM)

That's all my time for this week, folks. Thanks for all the questions and enjoy the rest of your week.