Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

May 4, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Adam Rittenberg

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:00 PM)

Hey guys, I'm here. Hope you're enjoying the Big Ten spring wrap-up. Let's get started.

Sammy Jacobs (Bloomington,IN)

I see you rank Dusty Kiel higher than EWB. I disagree that e is the clear favorite on campus. Kiel has a solid arm but his decision making is suspect. Would IU start him just to get his brother to IU?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:01 PM)

Sammy, I don't think it's clear cut by any means. But from talking to some Hoosiers players during my visit, it seemed like Kiel had a slight edge. I doubt Kevin Wilson will start anybody unless the player has earned the job, regardless of who his brother is.

Ryan (Aurora, CO)

What do you make of the "Pistol" offense rumors making their way around Lincoln these days. Do you think that it is a viable offense in the BIG Ten? What are some strengths and challenges of the offense in the BIG??

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:04 PM)

Ryan, several Big Ten teams already incorporate the pistol into their system. Indiana has taken the most aggressive approach, hoping the pistol will spark its run game. So far, it hasn't worked. Ohio State has used some pistol with Terrelle Pryor, and the Buckeyes have had some success with it. Northwestern incorporated some pistol elements this spring. Nebraska seems to have the personnel to run the pistol well, as you need a mobile QB and the Huskers have several. The challenge in the Big Ten is the quality of defensive line play. Could impact a team trying to run the pistol.

Clint (Davenport, Iowa)

I have asked you this question a few times and you never respond, so hopefully...this will be my lucky day. Come on Adam give me a break here. Ok, Iowa's bend but dont break mentality..is this something that needs to be thrown out in place of a more aggressive defense? I know Iowa's D has been in the top 20 for a number of years, but bend don't break seems to be costing us a lot of games that come down to a late score for the win. Is it time to get Parker out? Or go on business as usual?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:06 PM)

I guess it's your lucky day. Several Iowa fans have asked this question, and for the most part I wouldn't fix what isn't broken. That said, Iowa/Norm Parker need to show more flexibility, especially against spread teams. I was surprised Iowa didn't use more DBs in the Insight Bowl against Missouri. Iowa relies heavily on its defensive line, and when that group isn't dominant, the unit can be beat. It seemed like the defense mixed things up more this spring as it can't be as confident the line play will be top notch.

Dustin (Marshfield, Wi)

So Wisconsin has "problems" reloading..... What do you think the Badgers have to change in order to become an "elite" team Do you think the changes in the coaching staff will improve how they recruit players

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:07 PM)

Dustin, Wisconsin has reached a point where it can reload at spots like offensive line and running back. The key for the Badgers is churning out capable quarterbacks year after year. Part of that stems from recruiting, and the team just landed a big-time QB commitment in Bart Houston. It's also important for Wisconsin to keep churning out elite defensive linemen. You saw that in the late 90s, early 2000s, and the past two seasons with Schofield and Watt.

Ryan Mullins (Columbia, SC)

What chance do the Wolverines have of winning the Big Ten Legends Division? And with the recruiting juggernauts, Greg Mattison and Brady Hoke; do you see them returning to national prominence in the 3-5 years?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:09 PM)

Ryan, the division seems pretty wide open, but several teams enter the fall with fewer question marks than the Wolverines. I think you can expect the defense to improve, but how much? And will it offset a likely drop-off in production on offense? I do think Hoke and Mattison will get the defense on track soon enough. They know what they want in recruiting, and they're off to a fast start for 2012.

rayshawn h (columbus,ohio)

even though there is no clear cut favorite for qb to replace terrelle pryor,who do you see emerging starter on opening day?? and who do u think feels in LB AND CB with them losing alot of production in the buckeye defense??

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:13 PM)

Rayshawn, I'd still give Joe Bauserman a slight edge at quarterback, but I think it'll come down to Bauserman and Braxton Miller for the starting job. Miller needs to make a lot of progress this summer, but he held his own for much of the spring. Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino have basically locked down two LB spots, but Ohio State needs a third starter to emerge. Travis Howard and Dominic Clarke exit the spring as the top two CBs, although I think Florida State transfer Dionte Allen also will be in the mix.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:12 PM)

Rayshawn, I'd still give Joe Bauserman a slight edge at quarterback, but I think it'll come down to Bauserman and Braxton Miller for the starting job. Miller needs to make a lot of progress this summer, but he held his own for much of the spring. Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino have basically locked down two LB spots, but Ohio State needs a third starter to emerge. Travis Howard and Dominic Clarke exit the spring as the top two CBs, although I think Florida State transfer Dionte Allen also will be in the mix.

John (Omaha)

Yesterday, you alluded to some big news that would give us plenty to talk about today.Did I miss something or are we still waiting?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:13 PM)

Haha, the big news is all the content I've posted today. 12 team wrap-ups, lunch links and plenty more to come. Give me a break! :-)

Jay (Mes)

Drop-off in production on offense for the Wolverines? Who did the maize and blue loose on O? It's essentially the same players coming back - yes, a new system - buy why would their offensive numbers drop?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:14 PM)

Because it's a new system, and you can't expect it to click right away. Most of these guys were recruited to the spread, and going to this type of offense will precipitate some growing pains. I'm not saying Michigan won't put up big numbers at some point, but we shouldn't minimize the impact of a system change.

Jim (Crystal Lake, IL)

I'm not loving any of Illinois' options at RB...No true workhorse like in the past. Can they succeed with a running back by committee approach?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:17 PM)

Jim, I hear ya. A lot of folks were hoping Jason Ford would take hold of the position, but his injury issues this spring create a more uncertain situation. Troy Pollard did some good things but also got banged up toward the end of spring ball. I think Illinois must take a long look at the incoming freshmen if Ford and Pollard don't step up early in fall camp.

Johnny (East Meadow NY)

Do you feel the sea saw beginning to tip in the UM-OSU rivalry? UM is definitely on the upswing and I feel like OSU is crumbling down . Maybe 2 unknown coaches (Brady Hoke and the poor soul who walks into Tressel's mess) is just what this rivalry needs. It definitely will seem like the old school Bo Woody days when the only thing that mattered was beating each other.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:19 PM)

Johnny, while I get the excitement around the Michigan program, let's actually see the Wolverines play a few games before saying the rivalry is starting to turn. I'd also disagree that whoever replaces Tressel will be what the rivalry needs along with Hoke. One of Tressel's greatest qualities is his ability to embrace the Michigan rivalry, play it up and get the most out of his players. With him and Hoke, you've got two coaches who really add to the rivalry.

Travis (KY)

Who win's between Nebraska and Michigan State play I think? Who wins and why?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:21 PM)

You're asking me to predict a game in late October, which is pretty tough. Nebraska would have an edge because the game is at home and Michigan State really lacks a signature road win under Mark Dantonio. I also think Nebraska's defense will give the Spartans' offense some problems. So I'd favor the Huskers now, but there's a long way to go between now and then.

Stanton (SD, CA)

If Jim Tressel served a year-long suspension, more/less paying his penalty, and Ohio State is handed sanctions, do you think in the minds of some he'd be given a second chance? It seems like for some columnists and analysts (a lot with ESPN, BTW) there's nothing Tressel can do now but quit. I guess they're not fans of rehabilitation?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:23 PM)

Stanton, that's an interesting point. What could be done to Tressel for him to earn a second chance? A lot of media folks want him fired because that's what has happened to pretty much every coach who did what he did. But what if he receives stricter penalties, serves his punishment and lasts in Columbus? It'll be interesting to see how he's viewed.

Nate (Alexandria, VA)

Adam, any word yet on the primetime games for the 2011 season? Typically, those are announced in mid-April.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:24 PM)

I've been told these will be announced either late next week or during the week of May 16. A little later than normal, but the wait is nearly over.

Will (State College)

Adam, call me delusional but I actually think PSU has a good shot of starting the season 8-1 before heading into their bye week and then the tough finish of Nebraska, @ Ohio State and @ Wisconsin. What do you think? For reference, here's the first 8 games for PSUIndiana State, Alabama, @Temple, Eastern Michigan, @Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, @Northwestern and Illinois

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:25 PM)

Will, it's certainly possible, but Alabama isn't the only tricky game on Penn State's early schedule. Iowa has dominated the Lions in recent years, and Illinois won convincingly last year in State College. The Northwestern trip might not be easy, either. I will say it's important Penn State starts strong because the finish is so tough.

Malcom (Cleveland)

@Johnny: I think people need to take a step back on the OSU situation and look at what's being alleged. The NCAA had no language in its notice about "lack of institutional control." Instead, it focused solely on one man, Jim Tressel. If/when Tressel leaves or is fired, I expect OSU to have its pick of college coaches. I also don't expect to see if effect the play on the field as the program should escape major punishment.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:27 PM)

Malcom, this is an interesting point and one that speaks to how Ohio State might approach its hearing before the Committee on Infractions. If the thinking is Tressel soon will be gone, should Ohio State do all it can to protect the program/the football brand before the committee? It'd hard to imagine the Buckeyes brass throwing Tressel under the bus, but you're right about the notice of allegations -- Tressel was targeted and Ohio State might escape major penalties.

Oliver (New Albany, OH)

Pat Fitzgerald had no head coaching experience, took over Northwestern after the tragic death of Randy Walker, and the Wildcats are in great hands. Does the situation for Luke Fickell resemble Fitzgerald's (no HC experience) and could the Ohio State machine continue under Fickell, or would OSU have to get a guy with HC experience after Fickell is on the job for a year (2011)?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:30 PM)

Oliver, that's an interesting comparison. Both Fitzgerald and Fickell are coaching for their alma maters, too. I just think when you're dealing with a true national powerhouse like Ohio State, you do a disservice if you don't conduct a national search and really open up the job. Guys like Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops and Bo Pelini won't think twice about an opening at Northwestern, but Ohio State is different. So many great coaches have ties to the school and/or the state. While Fickell looks like he'll be a great HC some day, I'd feel more comfortable going with a more proven candidate.

Matt (Nebraska)

Adam, how long do you think it will be till we have Nebraska/Colorado Rose Bowl?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:31 PM)

Ha, that'd be something. Let's put it this way: the team from Lincoln is a lot closer to reaching Pasadena than the one from Boulder.

Chris (Dallas)

How come no photos, video or write-ups about the students at Ohio State and Penn State after the news of Osama bin Laden was announced in the Big Ten blog? I mean Adam, do you realize how much duck "blank" is in Mirror Lake at OSU? And they jumped in (it's not even a TSUN game).

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:32 PM)

Chris, I linked to stories/videos about the celebrations, but I'm not going to go over the top with coverage on that stuff. People know it happened. But I'd prefer to keep the focus on Big Ten football.

Dave (NJ)

I'm sure $$$$ trumps all else, but would Nebraska have been invited to the Big Ten if the conference knew they were getting bounced from the AAU? They're so righteous about that.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:33 PM)

Dave, I'll say this: it would have been a harder sell to the Big Ten presidents if Nebraska wasn't an AAU member last June. The presidents really value the AAU tradition, and they ultimately call the shots in expansion. I'm not saying they wouldn't have ultimately given the go-ahead, but there likely would have been more resistance.

Brian (Denver)

Hey Adam - Where does the MSU defensive line stand in comparison to other B10 squads? Many are picking Jerrel Worthy to be a top ten draft pick next year. Does MSU finally have a dominant line?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:35 PM)

Brian, there's a real chance for Michigan State's line to take a step forward. I'm a huge fan of Jerel Worthy's, and I like the potential at defensive end with William Gholston, Tyler Hoover and Denzel Drone. There also seems to be increased depth at defensive tackle. I'd like to see the Spartans play a few games before putting a label like "dominant" on them, but there's a lot of optimism the line will take a step this year.

Jake (Bolingbrook, IL)

I've heard that the PSU coaches have a pretty good idea of who will be the starter this coming season and that gives me the feeling that Bolden will be the starter (which I support). Who do you think is the frontrunner in the race right now?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:37 PM)

Jake, the feeling I got from being in State College is Bolden will remain at Penn State. Does that mean he's moved ahead in the QB competition? Tough to say. But let's remember that Bolden was the clear No. 1 choice just weeks after arriving on campus last summer. The fact that he's healthy and, by all accounts, made progress this spring is a promising sign than he's the guy.

Marky Mark (SoCal)

Why did the tatted5 get 5 games and Aj Green got 4 for the exact same violation, Marcel Dareus got 2 for taking agent money, and Cam Newton got the Heisman and yet there are cries for more?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:39 PM)

Mark, the best comparison is the Ohio State players and A.J. Green. My understanding is that the Buckeyes players received an extra game for not coming forward about their violations after receiving the necessary education about NCAA rules on memorabilia selling. Again, if Tressel comes forward last April, the Buckeyes players get the same punishment as Green (four-game suspensions) and, most important, Tressel avoids this mess himself.

Grant (Gurnee, IL)

Adam - is there any reason to be excited about Hoosier Football this year, or should we wait and hope for improvements in basketball?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:41 PM)

Grant, any time there's a coaching change, it should create some excitement among the fan base. How will the new systems look? How will the players respond? Indiana has some talent on both sides of the ball, and I think you'll see several guys elevate their play. Will it translate to a winning record? Hard to say. But Indiana fans should be intrigued by their new coach and his vision.

Andy (Boston)

Adam - Kevin Newsome came to PSU with great hype...it's clear that his future there is not going to be at the QB position. What's their plan for him?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:43 PM)

Andy, the Penn State coaches really like Newsome and appreciate the way he's handled a difficult situation. Ultimately, I think he transfers to play quarterback elsewhere, but you never know how things things turn out. I would agree that unless Rob Bolden leaves, Newsome's chances of playing QB at Penn State are very slim.

Matt (Nebraska)

Should it matter if Nebraska got Ousted from the AAU Seeing that Nebraska has one of the richest Football Histories? I mean Nebraska is on par with Notre Dame and it shouldn't Matter after they see what the Huskers bring to the table...

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:45 PM)

Matt, we're talking about two different things here. No one has questioned Nebraska's football tradition, and many outsiders (including me) would say it's the primary reason why the Big Ten added the Huskers. But the league and its presidents made a huge deal last spring about the AAU and the tradition there. The academic prestige component means something to the Big Ten, more so than leagues like the Big 12 or SEC. It's on par with how the Pac-12 views academics. So it's not like people don't see what the Huskers bring from a football standpoint, but the AAU ouster is a little embarrassing.

Sam Camobell (st. paul MN)

Is Jerry Kill the right guy of the Gophers? I understand his success at SIU and NIU, but Minnesota is known for jumping the gun when it comes to looking for a long term coach. Can somebody win in the twin cities?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:47 PM)

Well, Sam, I think we can both agree Minnesota didn't jump the gun in hiring Kill, who might have been the school's sixth or seventh choice. But after an almost comical search, the Gophers might have stumbled into the perfect guy to restore their program. Kill drew rave reviews from the coaches I talked to this spring around the Big Ten. He knows how to turn programs around, and I think he'll do a good job in Minneapolis.

Emily (Rhode Island)

Adam- Northwestern seemed to pick it up at the end of last season before Dan Persa went down with his injury. Any update on where Persa is in his rehab and if they are healthy do they have a chance at surprising some people next year?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:49 PM)

Persa remains ahead of schedule in his rehab and should be fully cleared in the next month. He'll then lead the team's summer workouts. Although he's coming off of a serious injury, I think he'll be OK. The bigger question is whether Northwestern boasts enough on defense to improve after a lousy finish to 2010. I'd keep my eye on the front seven and who emerges there.

Randy (Lincoln, NE)

Being a student at Nebraska, I want to go to every game. Of course due to being a college student, my funds are quite limited. The top away games that we have are Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State. Any of those would be amazing to attend. If you had to choose one of those to attend, which would it be?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:51 PM)

Randy, I'd try to get to Madison. It's the closest of the three, it's Nebraska's first conference game as a Big Ten member, and the stadium/town are amazing. I guarantee you'll have a blast. Michigan and Penn State also are great choices, but from a financial perspective, I'd get to Mad-town.

Bob (Warsaw, IN)

Hello Adam,As the PSU staff gets older do you foresee any of the assistants leaving before Paterno? It is hard to believe that only Bradley (and the brief Larry Johnson saga last year) has publicly shown interest in coaching elsewhere.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:53 PM)

Bob, this is an interesting question. A guy like Galen Hall looks at Penn State as his final coaching stop. The same could hold true for Dick Anderson. Ron Vanderlinden is a coach who might make a jump eventually. It definitely seemed likely one of the assistants would leave this past offseason, but they all stayed. The continuity in State College is really unbelievable if you think about what happens with most programs.

Jim (PA )

Adam - Do you think Darrell Hazell is kicking himself about taking the Kent State job right now? Do you think he would've gotten the nod over Fickell for the temporary head coach job? Would you rather have 5 weekends driving a Ferrari, or a year driving a Civic?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:55 PM)

Jim, I know what you're getting at, but I doubt Hazell regrets the chance to run his own program at Kent State. So he coaches the first five games and then gives way to Tressel. The future at Ohio State still remains very uncertain. While Hazell has his hands full trying to get things on track at Kent State, at least he can control the direction there as the head coach.

Herbie (Dallas, TX)

Adam, why is no one discussing the University of Texas connection to Nebraska's ugly (for the AAU) ouster? While I'm sure Texas claimed they voted in favor of Nebraska, it's ingrained in their DNA to be disingenuous. Add in all of the 'favors' the Big XII bestowed upon UT and A&M in '09 and 2010, the lone unwarranted suspension, and it all points to Texas acting like the crazy girlfriend hell bent on keying your ride before you leave town.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:56 PM)

Herbie, you're making a ton of assumptions here. I know it's tough for a lot of Husker fans to forget Texas and the bad blood between those schools, but I'd encourage them to focus on the future, the Big Ten and new rivalries that will spawn in the coming years.

Kalvis (Indy)

Greg Heban was playing baseball for the Hoosiers this time last year, now he's the football team's starting CB. Is this more about Indiana's weak secondary or is he really a Big Ten caliber defensive back?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:57 PM)

Kalvis, we both know Indiana needs help in the secondary, and Heban certainly seemed to provide a spark late last season. I think we'll get a more complete read on him this fall as he likely steps into a bigger role. But I like Heban. He brings some good things to the back four.

Renee (Milwaukee)

I am worried about Wisconsin's QB situation. I still don't know how to feel about Budmayr. Anything you may know that can reassure me?

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:59 PM)

Renee, one thing to keep in mind is Wisconsin had very little depth at receiver this spring. Plus, several starting offensive linemen were out with injuries. Nick Toon returns to the mix this summer, and Budmayr has the benefit of what should be one of the league's top O-lines to protect him. He certainly needs to show greater consistency, but I'd say be patient and see how preseason camp goes.

Adam Rittenberg
  (2:59 PM)

last one for the day ...

Josh (Itasca, IL)

What do you expect from PSU's offensive and defensive lines this upcoming year?

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:01 PM)

Great question and it's tough to know at this point. I expect Penn State to be solid at the defensive tackle spot with Devon Still, Jordan Hill and others. But defensive end is a big question mark. On the offensive line, I like the experience at tackle but have questions about the interior positions, especially center. So right now the picture with both groups is a little incomplete.

Adam Rittenberg
  (3:01 PM)

That's all for today. Thanks for your questions!