Big Ten Blogger Roundtable: The Off-Season is so Very, Very Bleak

As you've probably gathered, things are quiet around these parts. With the conclusion of the basketball season and only a couple of football drills to report on there ain't much to cover. Thankfully, someone else came up with a means of occupying our time until Friday rolls around. Our Penn State friends over at Linebacker U decided to wake the Big Ten Bloggers from their slumber (i.e., playing World of Warcraft), and ask some questions about the state of our respective football programs and our incoming recruiting classes. Basically, they're spying and link whoring, but dammit, that's what you do in the off-season. (RESPEK!)

A compilation of answers will be up at LBU tomorrow, so don't forget to check it out. But, for the meantime, let's get into the

Big Ten Bloggers' Off Season Roundtable

How did your team do this recruiting class, impressed or disappointed?

I'm pretty pleased with our recruiting class. A lot of people have been down on it because the class lacks star power (meaning gobs of 5 star recruits), but this class may well be the most important recruiting class Michigan has brought to Ann Arbor in the last five years. Rodriguez got just about everything he wanted and needed in this year's class. Uber-system-athlete-quarterback? Check. Devin Gardner was the offensive crown jewel of the class and the highest rated dual threat quarterback available this year. Hopefully, he'll redshirt this season and have a year to develop on the sidelines, as Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson should be able to hold down the starting job this season. Michigan picked up scads of fleet footed receivers and backs, but they also picked up a 6 foot wrecking ball in Stephen Hopkins out of Flower Mound, Texas who has been awful impressive as an early enrollee and could be the next Owen Schimdt. I can only pray. (turn off your volume for the you tube, it's annoying). 

Looking at our defensive recruiting, Michigan (hopefully) plugged a lot of holes. Rodriguez signed three outstanding DTs, brought in a pile of reallinebackers, and seven defensive backs. On the Defensive Line, I think Richard Ash will help add depth to a suddenly deep rotation. At linebacker, look for Jake Ryan, Josh Furman, and Ken Wilkins to see some time this season. Most importantly, Marvin Robinson and Demar Dorsey may help stop the bleeding at safety and Cullen Christian may start at Nickleback this season. I think this a solid B-plus class for overall personnel. In terms of plugging many of Michigan's gaping positional holes, is a A-plus class.

The media regressed a bit into their Big Ten bashing habits of the last few seasons. Many dogged the Big Ten for it's supposed inability to translate the bowl season success into a conference-wide monster recruiting haul. Warranted criticism, or not?

I don't get that at all. Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan all pulled in pretty good classes. Frankly, Northwestern is adding a lot of depth on their roster with solid positional recruiting and a consistent coaching staff. Iowa always recruits better than the numbers indicate. Is bowl success going to translate into an instant Big Ten recruiting advantage? I don't think so. Conversely, will down years hamper recruiting? I don't think so either. Want proof? Look at Michigan. Look at Notre Dame. Look at UCLA, Oklahoma, Washington, or Florida State. A lot of the recruiting hype is built up around the instate advantages big programs like Florida, FSU, Texas, USC and LSU have protecting their turf. Many of the best classes in the country are made up of elite players from Florida, California and/or Texas. Unless a player wantsto leave home, they're more likely than no going to stick with a home state program. Bowl success for the schools up north won't change that to a severe degree. In short, I think it's a stupid criticism.

Surely you've already addressed this, but we'll ask anyway. Do you support Big Ten expansion?

Oh hells yes.

More after the jump.......

If so, 12, 14, 16 teams? Which ones?

Ahem. In order? Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Pitt, Rutgers, Miami (OH) [strictly for making a Big Ten Hockey conference], and maybe Missouri.

As for adding more than one? Hell yes. Add them all. Make it a super conference of Herculean proportions. Make it so large it blots out the sun. Well. No. Never mind. My initial thought was just add one more team and balance the schedule. However, I'm coming around to the thought of a 14 team conference. Lets say Pitt, Rutgers and Notre Dame are extended invitations and accept (just accept this for purposes of the argument, I'm not saying it'll happen). That breaks the conference into two divisions with seven teams each. You get six divisional games. You get two cross divisional games (preserving rivalries). You still get your four OOC and in this case it allows many of the current members the flexibility to schedule new OOC games because traditional rivals are folded into the conference. It also divies up enough low end, football patsies between divisions for play to be even in those divisions.

I think it could work, but I'd be happy with expansion that included one team only too. Just not if it's Rutgers solely for the it's presence in the New York media market. THAT would be inexcusable.

Every Big Ten team lost at least one star from 2009. For your team, what's the toughest hole to fill this spring?

Cornerback Donovan Warren. I know we just lost Brandon Graham, but Michigan is pretty deep at defensive line this season, so while production will obviously drop off, it's not like we're staring down the abyss. Warren's departure, however, is potentially crippling. Michigan was already thin at DB to begin with, and losing a three year starter with a year of eligibility to go, especially one that would've been a First Team All Big Ten corner, scares the hell out of Michigan fans. What it comes down to is players from an awful defensive backfield last season are going to reach a level of play they haven't shown the ability to reach at this point. It's also going to take some of the Freshmen and red-shirt freshmen being as good as advertised. Warren at least took the pressure off one side of the field.

What will be the most intriguing position battle to watch this spring, across all the Big Ten teams?

Terrelle Pryor v. Himself. Ohio State comes into the year as the most talented and deepest team in the conference. The big question for that team is which Terrell Pryor is going to show up. Is it going to be the Pryor we saw in the Rose Bowl or the Pryor we saw against USC? Pryor's mechanics and penchant for throwing off his back foot when he gets in trouble were his calling card in close games, and it's what cost OSU the USC game. He seemed to correct those issues as the season ran to a close, but one game does not a career make. If he can learn to stand in the pocket under pressure, take the hits to deliver the pass, and be the quarterback he's been reputed to be since high school the Buckeyes could be a legitimate BCS contender. But if he takes a step backwards this season, OSU could be one of the more disappointing teams in the conference based on their expectations going into the season.

Bonus Time:

Urban Meyer... your thoughts.

Yeah. He's a d-bag. He's always been a d-bag. He will continue to be a d-bag. But until people start beating him on a regular basis, we're stuck with him in the media. 

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