Fiu, Cirminiello, Mitchell on TV - Campus Insiders | Buy College Football Tickets

2011 Big East Preview - Team Breakdowns
Connecticut LB Sio Moore
Connecticut LB Sio Moore
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 2, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN Big East Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finishes


Preview 2011

Big East Team By Team



- 2011 Cincinnati Preview | 2011 Connecticut Preview
- 2011 Louisville Preview | 2011 Pitt Preview 
- 2011 Rutgers Preview | 2011 USF Preview
- 2011 Syracuse Preview | 2011 West Virginia Preview 

- 2011 Big East Preview | 2011 Big East Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN Big East Schedules & Picks | 2011 Big East Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Big East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 Big East Big Questions2010 Big East Preview

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

1. West Virginia
Predicted Overall Record: 10-2
Predicted Conference Record: 6-1

Offense: Buh-bye, Jeff Mullen. Hello, Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers are making a dramatic shift on offense, installing Holgorsen’s version of the spread. It’ll be fast-paced and lean more heavily on the passing game, yet still strive for some balance. His last production at Oklahoma State, for instance, ranked third nationally in scoring and total offense, but also averaged more than 174 yards a game and five yards a carry. The system will be built around QB Geno Smith, who delivered a terrific debut as a starter, earning second team All-Big East honors. Once he learns the nuances of a new offense, he’ll just keep getting better. The situation at the skill positions is far more fluid. While there are some safe bets at receiver, like Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the backfield is a toss-up that won’t shake out until August. West Virginia also needs improved play from a veteran line that underachieved in 2010 and a better grip on the ball. Last year’s squad lost 20 fumbles, which tied Georgia Tech for most in the country.

Defense: Jeff Casteel doesn’t need attention from athletic directors to validate his standing in the coaching ranks. He gets plenty of well-deserved recognition for the work he does as the Mountaineer coordinator. One of the best in the business and the architect of the program’s unique 3-3-5 stack, he continues to put forth a stingy and athletic defensive unit. His most recent version was one of his best, ranking in the top ten in sacks, run defense, total defense, and scoring defense. Reprising that performance, however, will require replacing seven starters, five who earned All-Big East honors. If Casteel can handle that challenge, he ought to have his salary doubled. The cornerstones of the rebuilt D will be DE Bruce Irvin and DT Julian Miller up front, Najee Goode at linebacker, and CB Keith Tandy and SS Terence Garvin in the secondary. They’re enough to keep West Virginia from getting soft, but a repeat of 2010’s dominance isn’t likely.

2. South Florida
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 5-2

Offense: Well, the good news is that the Bulls will have the same coordinator in successive seasons for the first time in four years. Todd Fitch is back, looking for much better results out of the pro-style attack he installed in 2010. After an opening day blowout of Stony Brook, the offense fizzled, ranking 105th nationally in total offense and 85th in scoring. The face of the struggles was QB B.J. Daniels, who failed to build on his rookie year, throwing more picks than touchdowns and waiting until the bowl game to explode. The program clearly needs him to be more prolific in order to have any chance of turning things around. Making matters worse, the receivers are ordinary and the line needs to replace three starters. Hope, however, comes from the backfield, where Demetris Murray is ready to evolve after playing well last season, and Colorado transfer Darrell Scott makes his highly-anticipated debut. He has every-down potential, but needs to prove he’s worthy of the touches.

Defense: After debuting with a unit that ranked no lower than 22nd nationally in scoring and total defense, coordinator Mark Snyder is hoping for even better results this fall. The coach proved he could adapt without the previous regime’s stars, encouraging news as five key starters depart. For years now, the Bulls’ personality has been carved out on defense, a talented and athletic group that flies to the ball and creates havoc. This edition will be no different, sporting talent and potential at every level. No, there aren’t any household names, but the collective group is outstanding and sure to get better as the season progresses. Up-and-comers, like DE Ryne Giddins, S Jon Lejiste, and linebackers DeDe Lattimore and Sam Barrington, have only scratched the surface of their ability, and are poised to erupt in 2011.

3. Pitt
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 4-3

Offense: It’s not the spread. That’s the message Todd Graham is trying to convey as his offense gets improperly labeled by casual observers. Despite what you’ve heard, Pitt is not about to become Western Pennsylvania’s version of Texas Tech, throwing the ball from the moment it gets off the bus. Up-tempo? Yes. No-huddle. You bet. However, Graham does not plan to abandon the running game. In fact, he craves balance, often running first and then burning defenses on play-action. His Tulsa team was No. 15 nationally on the ground, something you’ll never see in Lubbock. The staff’s top offseason priority will be making sure that QB Tino Sunseri is the right man to guide this offense into a new era. A starter in 2010, the new staff has different expectations and measurements of success. The two players to keep an eye on are RB Ray Graham and WR Devin Street, who both have high ceilings and will fit in nicely in the revised attack.

Defense: Whether it’s offense or defense, the new Pitt program will be governed by the same buzzword—attack. Operating out of a three-man front, but mixing up their looks, the Panthers want to create turnovers and take quarterbacks out of their comfort zones at all times. Employing positions with catchy names, such as “Panther” and “Spur”, the D will get its 11 best athletes on the field and turn them loose. While at Rice and Tulsa, Graham’s units had a penchant for big plays, both making and yielding them. However, he and his staff never had this much talent in Conference USA. The Panthers welcome back eight starters and a robust 28 lettermen, enough to form an impressive two-deep. Even without all-star ends Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus, Pitt will be stout up front, headed by sack specialist Brandon Lindsey and tackles Chas Alecxih and Myles Caragein. The approach will be different in 2011, but the results are going to be similar for a stingy Panther defense.

T4. Cincinnati
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 3-4

Offense: Yeah, Cincinnati led the Big East in scoring and total offense, but anyone who’s followed the program recognized that the attack wasn’t quite the same. The Bearcats lacked the same punch and crispness as when Brian Kelly was calling the shot, producing 11 fewer points a game. The program gets a second chance with Butch Jones’ spread attack, looking for far more potency than in 2010. Everything will revolve around the conference’s best backfield, which is led by QB Zach Collaros and RB Isaiah Pead. The seniors are headed back to the all-league team, as is WR DJ Woods, giving Cincy a dynamite trio at the skill positions. However, the line is iffy in pass protection, turnovers have to be eliminated, and the receiving corps needs playmakers to step in for WR Armon Binns and TE Ben Guidugli. One possible rising star is JUCO transfer Kenbrell Thompkins, a former Tennessee commit, with the skills to bloom into an overnight sensation.

Defense: No program in the country brings back more starters than Cincinnati, promising news for a unit that struggled badly a year ago. In fact, not only is everyone returning, but 15 players who started a game in 2010 are still on campus. The Bearcats have no choice but to be better this fall. The strength on this side of the ball will be the defensive line, which boasts next-level DT Derek Wolfe and last year’s leading sacker Brandon Mills. Mills, however, might not start if converted LB Walter Stewart remains at end, testament to this group depth and underrated talent. The leader of the defense, though, is actually a linebacker, tackling machine JK Schaffer. The biggest reclamation project is in the secondary, a group that got burned all season and was a microcosm for the defense’s ability to manufacture turnovers. While the front seven ought to be fine, the defensive backfield is the key that unlocks the fortune of the 2011 D.

T4. Louisville
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 3-4

Offense: Louisville made huge strides in coordinator Mike Sanford’s debut, leading the Big East in rushing and finishing second in scoring. How in the world do the Cards keep the momentum flowing this fall? A program that already has modest talent must find replacements for its entire backfield, last year’s top two receivers, and four-fifths of the offensive line. All eyes will be on the quarterback competition, a study of contrasts. Junior Will Stein is a former walk-on. True freshman Teddy Bridgewater is one of the most decorated quarterback recruits in program history. There’s decent skill position talent, like WR Josh Bellamy and backs Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson, but it’ll be devalued if the line is consistently getting driven backwards.

Defense: The impact of head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford in Louisville was immediate. Sans any scary talent, the Cardinals were better coached, tougher navigate, and generally feistier than at any point during the Steve Kragthorpe era. The goal is simple—attract outstanding athletes to Kentucky and coach them into disruptive weapons. Strong now has two classes of recruits on campus, which should heighten expectations. Surrounding seven returning starters is a handful of wide-eyed freshmen and sophomores itching at an opportunity to impress the coaching staff. The top priority will be to mine a couple of capable corners out of a mix of marginal talent. If that can be achieved, the Cards will be every bit as stingy as they were a year ago.

T4. Syracuse
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 3-4

Offense: Progress is a relative thing. The Syracuse offense achieved some a year ago, but not quite what the coaching staff had in mind. In fact, it was hardly perceptible from a statistical standpoint, yet the Orange still found a few positive strides to rally around. A traditional system, featuring a fullback, tight end, and two receivers, was installed, a young quarterback earned his stripes, and the offensive line took baby steps. A big chunk of that group returns to Upstate New York, though 1,000-yard rusher Delone Carter does need to be replaced. Ryan Nassib enters his second season as the starting quarterback, surrounded by all of his top receivers and both of his starting tackles. The ground game, so pivotal to the offense’s success, will be in the hands of veteran Antwon Bailey, a mighty-mite who’s played plenty for the program. Syracuse needs to remain on a northern trajectory, bettering modest numbers, like 322 yards and 22 points a game.

Defense: Smoke and mirrors. That might be one way to describe how Syracuse was able to piece together some of the best defensive numbers in the country without a lot of top-rate talent. Heck, just one Orange defender was drafted in April, which is one more than might get selected next spring. Puffing the smoke and tilting the mirrors was coordinator Scott Shafer, who arrived determined to get the program’s best athletes on the field and allow them to roam with few limits. It worked. Syracuse ranked in the top 20 nationally in total defense and scoring D. Maintaining those numbers, however, will require the staff to search a little deeper up its sleeve. The Orange will be breaking in two new starters at defensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback, a daunting task for a unit with limited overall depth. There’s talent, such as DE Chandler Jones and safeties Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas, but this group will continue to rely on teamwork, good fundamentals, and a mindset that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

T7. Connecticut
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 2-5

Offense: Gone is Joe Moorhead and his up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Enter George DeLeone and a return to a more conservative, familiar approach to moving the chains. Consistent with their past, the Huskies want to rely on the run to set up the pass. It’s going to be a practical approach to the upcoming season since they’re breaking in a new quarterback out of an inexperienced group that includes Michael Box, Scott McCummings, Johnny McEntee, and Michael Nebrich. The strength of the unit will be a line that welcomes back all-stars Mike Ryan and Moe Petrus at left tackle and center, respectively. However, who runs behind them? The early departure of workhorse Jordan Todman has the program pinning its hopes on former USC blue-chipper D.J. Shoemate. With so many question marks, it should be another busy year for PK Dave Teggart.

Defense: Whatever hurdles coordinator Don Brown faces will be lowered by the talent he inherits in his first season at a new school. Save for a few holes, namely at linebacker, Connecticut is absolutely loaded on defense. There’s next-level talent at every unit and enough depth to guard against an injury or two. Led by DT Kendall Reyes, the Husky D-line will be fantastic, with multiple players capable of landing on the All-Big East squad. The linebackers will be young, but have a leader and future star in Sio Moore. And the secondary is nasty, bringing back four starters, including CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, from a unit that picked opposing quarterbacks’ pockets all year. Brown is capable of picking up where Todd Orlando left, rolling out an athletic defense that attacks and is very difficult to solve in the fall.

T7. Rutgers
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 2-5

Offense: In an attempt to find an identity and more production, Rutgers has overhauled its toothless offense in the offseason. Gone is the spread in favor of a pro-style, more traditional attack that’ll be administered by new coordinator Frank Cignetti. Basically, the Scarlet Knights want to rediscover the ground-oriented formula that worked when Ray Rice and Brian Leonard were the mainstays of a two-man backfield. Playing the role of Leonard will be beefy Joe Martinek, while the feature back is a question mark that could be answered by converted wide receiver Jeremy Deering or even blue-chip recruit Savon Huggins. Chas Dodd is back at quarterback, a year after Tom Savage’s wrist injury thrust him into the spotlight as a first-year freshman. He’ll get plenty of help from an imposing corps of receivers that’s led by Mohamed Sanu and Mark Harrison, but not from his blockers. The Knights were last nationally in sacks allowed, and could be breaking three sophomores into the lineup.

Defense: The Scarlet Knight defense isn’t what it used to be. In order words, it’s a microcosm for the entire program heading into 2011. One of the constants under Greg Schiano is that Rutgers was going to be feisty on D, taking no-name talent and churning it into one of the Big East stingiest units. However, everything changed last fall, when the team ranked last in the league in run defense, total defense, and sacks. Hope for a rapid turnaround is not very high. Yeah, there’s a decent mix of talent, like DT Scott Vallone and linebackers Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene along the front seven, but who gets after the quarterback? Or bats away his passes? The Knights must replace three starters from a secondary that underachieved in 2010, and locate a pulse from the pass rush. It could be another difficult year for the defense, another disturbing sign that the program is mired in a funk.

- 2011 Cincinnati Preview | 2011 Connecticut Preview
- 2011 Louisville Preview | 2011 Pitt Preview 
- 2011 Rutgers Preview | 2011 USF Preview
- 2011 Syracuse Preview | 2011 West Virginia Preview 

- 2011 Big East Preview | 2011 Big East Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN Big East Schedules & Picks | 2011 Big East Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Big East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 Big East Big Questions2010 Big East Preview