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February 9, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Brian Bennett

Brian Bennett
  (4:00 PM)

Good afternoon, everybody. I'm here to take your questions on Big East and Notre Dame football. Fire away!

Nathan (Orlando)

As always.... Any new expansion news or at the very least uncredible rumors? Is the BE still sticking to that March/April timeline or do you think it will be sooner. It sure is amazing how the BE keeps secret info netter than the us government.

Brian Bennett
  (4:02 PM)

Marinatto told me the league isn't waiting on Villanova, but I think what he meant by that is that the conference is going ahead with all options and will be ready to go a different direction if Villanova decides not to join. That's still the main domino here

Conner (Louisville, Ky)

I know that judging classes by star ratings is usually worthless, especially in the Big East, but how excited should we be about UofL's class? Charlie definitely filled in some gaps in the roster, and got a potentially great quarterback as well.

Brian Bennett
  (4:04 PM)

You should be excited ... that's what this time of year is for. These guys are all completely unproven at the college level though. We'll see how good they actually are soon. Still, there's no reason not to be encouraged by what Strong is doing.

Chris (Bluffton, SC)

When is the BCS review period and is the big east in trouble this time around? Last time major runs by WVU and Louisville put the BE in front of the ACC..now 3 strait bad losses in BCS games..(of course ACC has still only won 1 BCS game since they expanded)

Brian Bennett
  (4:06 PM)

There is no current BCS review period for leagues that have automatic bids right now. The commissioners will meet in 2012 to decide how to set up the next contract for the BCS.

mike (cincinnati)

brian, is it me or is brian kelly becoming a defensive minded football coach?

Brian Bennett
  (4:07 PM)

Kelly cut his teeth on the defensive side of the ball, where he coached as an assistant before getting the head gig at Grand Valley State. If you look at the 2008 Big East champion Bearcats, that was a defensive-oriented team more than people realize. So it's not new.

Daniel (WV)

Who will WVU's starting running back be this year? Alston seemed to get several carries later in the season.

Brian Bennett
  (4:08 PM)

I think it will be Alston, unless Dana Holgorsen decides he wants Tavon Austin in the backfield. I'd also like to see what Ryan Clarke could do if he could just hang onto the ball better.

Jim (Bluffton, SC)

Althought last year was the worste big eas year in history how can we expect any better next year? The 2 Best Teams, WVU and Pitt have new coaching staffs and will be "adjusting"; the champion Uconn has a new coach and Rutgers has offense issues that a couple position coaches wont change in one year.. Does the big east have a top 15 team next year? UL, USF??

Brian Bennett
  (4:10 PM)

Well, there's a lot of truth to the whole adjustment angle, though I think a lot of the changes are for the better. Having more experienced quarterbacks return is a huge plus. Not sure there's a Top 15 team in the league in 2011, but I think it will be better and that 2012 could be a really strong season

Will (Durham, NC)

Will the coaching change at Pitt help or hurt Brandon Lindsey this year? He's supposedly switching to a rush linebacker in the 3-3-5

Brian Bennett
  (4:12 PM)

Lindsey's best attribute is his speed off the edge, and he's not big enough to be a great run stopper. So moving him around and letting him do his thing could be very beneficial for him.

LG (Columbus, OH)

BB,Your thoughts on ND's schedule this year? Some interesting games including the home opener, a night game at Michigan and a potential top 10 season finally at Stanford. Over/under 9 wins this year??

Brian Bennett
  (4:15 PM)

I think it sets up well for the Irish. Playing Michigan in Brady Hoke's second game is an advantage. They get USC, Michigan State, South Florida at home. Pitt will be early in the Todd Graham tenure. The only real menacing road game is at Stanford, and without Harbaugh who knows if the Cardinal will be the same. It's very manageable by Notre Dame standards.

Chris (Tampa)

Brian, have you heard anything about the RB transfers that we had come in last summer? Basically, how much of an improvement do you think it will be?

Brian Bennett
  (4:16 PM)

Skip Holtz recently raved about Darrell Scott, the Colorado transfer. Hoping to talk to Holtz soon and ask him that very question.

Derek (NYC)

Hey Brian. Who's your way to early favorite to win the Big East?

Brian Bennett
  (4:17 PM)

I don't think there's a clear favorite at this point, but my early co-leaders are USF and West Virginia.

Jon (Long Beach)

Does anyone else in the Big East have the accuracy to do what Johnny McEntee did in his trick shot video? and a better question why is he not starting for UConn?

Brian Bennett
  (4:20 PM)

McEntee sure threw down the gauntlet, didn't he? Good athletes with time on their hands can do amazing things. It's a great video, but there's much more that goes into being a quarterback than just being accurate.

Justin (Baltimore)

Who do you think will be the face of the big east next year?The big problem is not only did the teams under perform but the "Players" did as well. I think if Dion Lewis and Noel Divine did good last year you say the big east at least has talent or a far back heisman guy. Like a DJ Woods or a Tavon Austin stepping into the national spot light. So once again who do you think is going to be the Face for the BE

Brian Bennett
  (4:23 PM)

That's a good question. My choice: Geno Smith. He's smart, is a good interview and will be primed to succeed in the new offense.

Bill (Louisville KY)

Does Charlie Strong plan to recruit a JUCO QB, or does he really plan to enter the 2011 season with only 2 quarterbacks? Also, could Michigan transfer Tate Focier possibly end up at Louisville given their glaring lack of depth at QB?

Brian Bennett
  (4:25 PM)

I haven't heard any plans to recruit a JUCO, and if he's not already enrolled, a new player will have a hard time making an impact anyway. Remember that Dominique Brown can play QB if necessary. Forcier is not coming to Louisville, or any other BE school

Joe (Morgantown)

Hey BB, after seeing what Charlie Strong did with Louisville's recruiting class do you expect the same thing from The Dude (Holgs) next year? And do you think this is the start of a big turn around for the BE? It seems like everyone is cautiously optimistic about what looks like a bright future for the league. P.S. that video of UConn's QB was sick

Brian Bennett
  (4:26 PM)

I don't see a great comparison between Strong and Holgorsen. Strong was already an ace recruiter with excellent ties in Florida, while Holgorsen hasn't been known as a great recruiter in his career thus far.

John H (Los Angeles )

Will the success or failure of BYU's independence venture have any impact on ND's ability to remain independent in the future?

Brian Bennett
  (4:28 PM)

Nope. Two completely different situations. Notre Dame's independence is well established, and the Irish attract a much different audience than BYU

Duck Michaels (Dallas)

Do you see more Big East teams starting to recruit Texas this upcoming season or will most of the teams wait another year for TCU to start playing in the Big East before they start to heavily hit the Texas recruiting trail?

Brian Bennett
  (4:29 PM)

It's already happening, as Pitt and West Virginia got some players from Texas in this recruiting class, thanks to their new coaches' ties to that state. I think it will be another avenue, but not anybody's main source for talent.

George (Raleigh, NC)

BrianWith the advent of Savon Huggins and the pleasantly surprising freshman year of Jordan Thomas at RB, do you think it might be possible to see Joe Martinek move to more of a fullback role...doing more run blocking for RU? Also will we see the wildcat take more of a secondary role with Sanu and Deering moving back to WR roles where they belong?

Brian Bennett
  (4:31 PM)

Martinek is a little slender for a true fullback ... he's listed at 215 pounds. I think he'd do whatever to help the team, though. I think the Wildcat will be going away. Cignetti never used it at Pittsburgh.

Steve (SLC)

I have heard rumors that Nate Montana from ND is transfering. Any word on if this is true? And if so, do you know where he may be heading?

Brian Bennett
  (4:32 PM)

He's already transferred once, and then back into Notre Dame, so it would have to be to a lower-level school. But there's no doubt in mind he'll be the odd man out in the Notre Dame quarterback derby.

Matt Rob (Pittsburgh, PA)

Brian;Are there any updates/rumors on Big East players in this year's NFL draft? How long do potential draftees have to show off their skills before the draft?

Brian Bennett
  (4:34 PM)

Not a whole lot to update at this point. The all-star games have been played, and the next big things are the combine and pro day. We'll have a better sense after those happen.

sam (tampa)

are there any new bowl tie-ins the big east might be exploring

Brian Bennett
  (4:35 PM)

The league would like to have another one when TCU joins in 2012, perhaps in Texas. But getting seven bids in a nine-team league may be asking a bit much.

Jerome (Bronx)

Does Savon Huggins have a realistic chance to be BE Freshman of the Year? Could he do a 1200-1300 yard, 12 TD season? People rave about him and his video's are sick.

Brian Bennett
  (4:36 PM)

Sure, it's realistic. I think he could be a Dion Lewis type. The problem: Can Rutgers' offensive line open any holes for him?

Conner (Louisville, Ky)

What's the history of true freshman quarterbacks starting and doing well their first year? Any former Big East QB's do well starting their first year?

Brian Bennett
  (4:38 PM)

Recent examples that come to mind are, of course, Savage and Dodd at Rutgers and Pat Bostick at Pitt. (I guess we could sort of count Greg Paulus as a freshman, too). Savage and Dodd did well but had offensive line problems. Anyone I'm missing?

Jeff P. (Syracuse)

Do you think we'll see Syracuse rely less on the run this year? We've got a more experienced quarterback, more wide outs, and our 1,000 yard rusher will hopefully be playing in the NFL this fall. What do you think?

Brian Bennett
  (4:39 PM)

No question Syracuse needs to get better in the passing game. That should be a big focus all offseason.

La La La Bearcats (Cincinnati, OH)

Back from vacation and already sick of the snow. Do you know when the league office will get out the '11 schedule... so I can plan my football trips? Seems like most leagues have their basic schedule out years in advance. What gives Big East???

Brian Bennett
  (4:41 PM)

It should be out this month. Remember there are a couple of NFL stadiums to worry about, not to mention all those midweek games to sort out.

Bearcatvol (Dalton, GA)

You said you think UC has one of the top 2 offenses in the league. So is it as "simple" as becoming just an average defense to be in the league title hunt?

Brian Bennett
  (4:42 PM)

Nothing's ever that simple. I mean, Cincinnati has to not turn the ball over so much, have better health and get breaks. But with all 11 returning starters back, that defense has to be improved.

Bob (New Brunswick)

Didn't Pat White start as a freshman?

Brian Bennett
  (4:44 PM)

Redshirted

Wayne (South Jersey)

Brian, jumped on a little late, but earlier while blogging from yesterday's mailbag, several Big Easter's were talking about tradition in the Big East. The almost unanimous agreement was this is a sore spot for the Big East. Do you think the addition of TCU and potentially Villanova or UCF could change that?

Brian Bennett
  (4:45 PM)

You think Villanova and UCF have tradition? TCU has some decent history, at least.

David (CO)

Why should I believe the hype around ND heading into next season after a so-so year and a big recruiting class? This has happened so many time before in the past and the team wouldn't live up to the hype. Why would this year be any different?

Brian Bennett
  (4:46 PM)

I hear what you're saying, and I think Schlabach's way-too-early No. 14 ranking is too high. I will say, though, that the Irish finished stronger in 2010 than they have in a long, long time and the defense was on a roll. Brian Kelly is a winner. That's what makes this, potentially, different.

Go 'Cats! (Loveland, Ohio)

How long before you can fairly call for a coach to be fired. We saw some really troubling things last year at Nippert. There are a lot of excuse makers out there. But there (in my view) is no way that you should fall from 12-0 to 4-8 with all that was coming back. Not ready to throw the guy under the bus yet. But I got the Metro schedule in hand.

Brian Bennett
  (4:48 PM)

You don't jump ship after one year, unless there are major off-the-field problems or scandals involved. Give Butch Jones some time.

Ryan (WV)

Brain, I haven't heard anything from Ivan Mccartney. Is he still with the team and if so, would he be a major impact for WVU in 2011?

Brian Bennett
  (4:49 PM)

He's definitely still with the team, and he's got the skills to be an impact guy. It's up to him to work hard this offseason and make that happen.

Eric (Philadelphia)

What incoming Notre Dame recruits will make a impact freshman year

Brian Bennett
  (4:50 PM)

I think Ishaq Williams has the most potential for immediate impact. Dude is a beast, physically, already.

Brendan (Connecticut)

Do you think that Pasqualoni is a good fit for UConn, and with Jordan Todman now being gone what are the Huskies chances to compete in the Big East next year?

Brian Bennett
  (4:52 PM)

He's a good fit as far as being a Connecticut guy who knows the area and the state. Will he win big there? It's anyone's guess. The Huskies might not be as strong running the ball in '11 but should be better at passing it. They bring a ton of starters back and have a pretty easy nonconference schedule, too

Chris (Bluffton, SC)

2011 Football Prediction Time: Big East Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year? Who you got? (What are Bruce Irvin's and Geno Smith's Chances)

Brian Bennett
  (4:54 PM)

I've got Smith as offensive POY. I think the defensive POY will be a surprise. Not ready to anoint Irvin yet.

Scott (Buckhannon, WV)

Why can't it just be August already?

Brian Bennett
  (4:56 PM)

Amen, brother. Plus, I'll take the August heat over this snow and cold any day.

Barry (CA)

Do you see the BCS adding a "UConn" rule anytime soon, where to get the auto bid a BCS team has to be ranked in the top 20 or top 15?

Brian Bennett
  (4:56 PM)

It certainly could be on the table. That situation does not help ticket sales or TV ratings, not to mention the message it sends to non-AQs.

Bleeding Scarlet (Atlantic City, NJ)

Brian, what is your vibe on the Frank Cignetti hire? Is he going to be boom or bust in Piscataway?

Brian Bennett
  (4:57 PM)

I've always liked Cignetti and think he's a good fit. Ultimately it depends on whether they can fix that offensive line. Talent is there now at RB and WR.

Baseball Question (Ohio)

Reds fan or Cardinal fan? You live in Louisville and it sort of falls on those lines there typically.

Brian Bennett
  (4:58 PM)

Redbirds, all the way. Very nervous about Pujols right now.

Tim (New Brunswick)

Hey Brian should I be worried about Rutgers monumental defensive collapse at the end of the season, or do you think there are players coming in who can improve it?

Brian Bennett
  (4:59 PM)

I think physical and emotional fatigue had a lot to do with it. Schiano's defense is almost always going to be pretty good, though they will need some people to step up on the defensive line this year.

Brian Bennett
  (5:00 PM)

OK, that's all my time for today. Thanks for all the great questions, and enjoy the rest of your week.