Mailbag: Top under-the-radar B1G assistants?

I have time on the bus to wade through your cards and letters. Keep them coming. I enjoy hearing from you. Now, onto the correspondence. Have a question for me? Use the submission box at the bottom of the post. Also, don’t forget to follow all of our football tour coverage.

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We’ve all heard about Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi, but who are some of the under-the-radar Big Ten assistants that are on the rise? – Charging Tiger

Good question. The Big Ten is filled with many good, up-and-coming assistants. I will stick to coordinators. To wit:

  • Nebraska OC Tim Beck
  • Minnesota OC Matt Limegrover
  • Penn State OC John Donovan
  • Ohio State OC Tom Herman
  • Maryland DC Brian Stewart

Also, keep an eye on: Penn State DC Bob Shoop; Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda; Minnesota DC Tracy Claeys; Iowa DC Phil Parker; Ohio State co-DC Chris Ash; Ohio State DC Luke Fickell; Michigan State co-OC Dave Warner.

You saw Ohio State and now you have seen Michigan State. Which is the better this year? Who do you expect to win the East? Is it still too early to tell? – Mike V.

I have seen both Ohio State and Michigan State on this trip. And I like the Spartans. Each team will have a good offense. The difference: Defense. MSU has fewer apparent concerns. Plus, the Buckeyes have to play at East Lansing.

How does Michigan State compare to Ohio State? I know our team very well, but Ohio State is always so loaded with great talent. Do we compare to that, or is there a difference? – Matt

I think the Spartans compare favorably to the Buckeyes from a talent standpoint. Yes, Ohio State has more “meat on the hoof.” But Michigan State is also physically impressive—especially on defense. Each of these clubs has an array of talent on the d-line that is stunning. OSU has more skill than Michigan State on offense, but not by much. Mark Dantonio is drawing closer to Ohio State from an overall talent standpoint each season.

What is your key to Michigan State’s Week 2 matchup versus Oregon? Do you see this being a high-scoring game? Or can MSU’s defense have a Stanford-like presence in slowing down the speed of the Ducks? – Kikesadr

Michigan State’s trip to Eugene is one of the nation’s top non-conference games of 2014. If the Spartans can bring a win home, you have to like their chances to perhaps running the table. The key for Michigan State will be to slow the game down. Yes, the Spartans have a good offense, but they don’t want to try to trade points with the high-flying Ducks. MSU needs to shorten the game by running the ball and controlling the clock. That also will protect a Spartan defense that is breaking in six new starters.

How does the O’Bannon case affect non-revenue sports and Title IX? Will we see schools eliminating sports like we did when Title IX came in? Can you pay men and not women? – Alan Nolt

Many good questions. First know this: The O’Bannon case will be appealed by the NCAA. Jim Delany thinks this case ultimately will make it to the Supreme Court. Lots of speculation/conjecture on how this landmark case would impact the landscape. No doubt, dropping sports is a possible option as schools look for ways to fund stipends, etc. And no doubt a lawyer will file a case on behalf of women athletes. Not sure I see women being compensated like men’s basketball and football players beyond what they already are receiving. Stay tuned.

What record will Penn State have at end of season? And what is your outlook/thoughts on upcoming years for Penn State football? – Thomas Sheppard

This could be a tough season for the Nittany Lions, as scholarship limits finally may prove too much to overcome after Bill O’Brien went 8-4 and 7-5. Depth is sketchy at several spots, as the offensive line looks especially dicey. While there may be some pain and suffering in 2014, the future is bright under James Franklin, who is recruiting as well as almost anyone in the nation. It’s only a matter of time—and getting off probation—before the Nittany Lions become a Big Ten contender.

Here’s my game-by-game look at Penn State’s schedule:

  • UCF at Ireland W
  • Akron W
  • At Rutgers L
  • UMass W
  • Northwestern W
  • At Michigan L
  • Ohio State L
  • Maryland L
  • At Indiana L
  • Temple W
  • At Illinois W
  • Michigan State L

6-6 overall, 2-6 Big Ten

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (7 Comments)
huskerfanbb on 8/15/2014 @ 10:59am EDT Said:

I agree that Penn State could struggle against the top flight B1G teams, but Hackenberg is the real deal. I don’t see them losing to Rutgers or Maryland.
Still, UCF won’t be a pushover and Northwestern is far from a guarantee, but I think 7-5 is more accurate if they split those games, maybe 8-4 if they can get them both.

hadley smith on 8/15/2014 @ 12:22pm EDT Said:

I thk your a little off base with p st’s record…I see them goin 8-2..5-3 big ten…

Loyal Son on 8/15/2014 @ 1:32pm EDT Said:


Big Ten Fan on 8/15/2014 @ 3:51pm EDT Said:

Why the heck does BTN even employ this know nothing dope. Has he even bothered to look at the talent on hand? Does he assume half the starters are going to be out due to injury? Look at the starting lineups. I would take Penn State’s starting 22 over every Big Ten team not located in East Lansing. Period. The next 22 are better than most of their opponents as well. Looking at the starters.

Quarterback – Hack was the best QB in the Big Ten as a freshmen. Most Big Ten teams including several this dope has them losing to would trade their starter for PSU’s backup.

Running back – Three headed monster. Only Nebraska and Wisconsin are better.

Receiver. Top deep threat in the Big Ten and the most raw talent in the Big Ten and the best QB throwing to them.

Tight End – Top two tights in the Big Ten and plenty of depth.

Offensive Line – Lost on most is the fact that State has a solid two deep filled with good talent which is a lot more than Ohio State, Michigan and Maryland have.

Defensive Line – This unit is better than Ohio State’s. Penn State goes three deep at all four positions. No Big Ten team has that kind of depth.

Linebacker – Linebacker U should reclaim its title after a one year hiatus. Mike Hull is the top player in the league at his position. Wartman, Bell and Wooten have a ton of speed. They have three good situational players before even getting to the freshmen.

Secondary – Another deep talented position. Should challenge Michigan State for top honors.

Like I said, this dope is clueless.

akble on 8/15/2014 @ 5:56pm EDT Said:

Wow Big Ten Fan you must be a homer par excellence- PSU will run the tables in your mind. Make sure to check back in each week to these lofty projections.

John on 8/15/2014 @ 10:53pm EDT Said:

This is an exact reason that the BIG needs another correspondent. Dienhart continues to show he has zero clue about anything PSU. LOL at the losses to Maryland and Rutgers. Tom, you are as bad as OSU gurus on 247 … delusional.

Gurndogg on 8/16/2014 @ 1:26pm EDT Said:

BIG fan is always like this & shows no to very little Football knowledge. Plus John you sound like a homer or hater as well the 24/7 is very good & very unbiased. I don’t think PSU will lose to RU or maybe even Mary. but should NW (unless the loss of Mark is too much). If you (big ten fan) would take your line up over OSU’s your crazy (unless MSU’s cause their’s fits them well) & also think your Oline & Dline is better than OSU’s you need to be Hospitalize.