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2011 Big East Preview - Unit Rankings
Pitt DE Brandon Lindsey
Pitt DE Brandon Lindsey
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 2, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Big East Preview - Unit Rankings


Preview 2011

Big East Unit Rankings



- 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

Big East Overall

Based on how good each team is and NOT the predicted finish

1. Pitt
2. West Virginia
3. Connecticut
4. Rutgers
5. South Florida
6. Cincinnati
7. Syracuse
8. Louisville

Offenses

1. West Virginia
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.

2. Cincinnati
3. Pitt
4. Syracuse
5. Connecticut
6. South Florida
7. Louisville
8. Rutgers

Quarterbacks

1. West Virginia
For the first time in four years, West Virginia returns its starting quarterback, an ideal situation as the program begins installing a very different style of attacking. However, while the starter is set in stone with Geno Smith back and a top candidate for national honors, the backup situation is far from certain. When last year’s backup Barry Brunetti decided to transfer to Ole Miss, it left the program with zero experience coming off the bench. Smith throws such a nice, soft ball, especially for a quarterback with just a single season as the starter. He makes life easier for his receivers, completing more than 64% of his passes to lead the Big East and rank among the Top 25 in the country.

2. Cincinnati
3. Syracuse
4. South Florida
5. Pitt
6. Louisville
7. Rutgers
8. Connecticut

Running Backs

1. Cincinnati
Cincinnati had four players rush for more than 100 yards in 2010, all of whom are back on campus for another season. Only John Goebel, who carried the ball just 33 times and fell on the depth chart, has graduated. Now, one of those ballcarriers was QB Zach Collaros, but the other three are running backs who’ll help form a deep and talented backfield to complement the passing game. Isaiah Pead is the poster child of an ensemble of backs that can break off a long run with even a hint of daylight. All are quick to the hole and have the shifty hips to make defenders miss. The Bearcats averaged a healthy 4.7 yards a carry, a number that balloons up to six yards when quarterbacks sacks are removed from the equation.

2. Pitt
3. South Florida
4. Connecticut
5. Louisville
6. West Virginia
7. Syracuse
8. Rutgers

Receivers

1. Cincinnati
D.J. Woods is an underrated star and Kenbrell Thompkins has a high ceiling, but this offense needs more than just two sure-things. It’ll be incumbent upon the third receiver, the tight ends, and the backups to contribute as well, giving QB Zach Collaros the targets he needs to spread the ball around and keep defenses on their heels. However, in Woods and Thompkins alone, Cincinnati has gamebreakers who can turn a quick hitch into a 25-yard gain. Even beyond the starters, the Bearcats are loaded with quality athletes and as much speed as any receiving corps in the Big East.

2. Pitt
3. West Virginia
4. Syracuse
5. Rutgers
6. Louisville
7. Connecticut
8. South Florida

Offensive Lines

1. Connecticut
The Huskies are becoming known for their offensive lines, no-name, blue-collar groups that excel in run blocking. The latest edition is determined to keep that trend going. Three starters return from 2010, but both guards have graduated. This isn’t a perfect line, but tackle Mike Ryan and center Moe Petrus form a terrific foundation to build around

2. West Virginia
3. Pitt
4. Syracuse
5. Cincinnati
6. South Florida
7. Rutgers
8. Louisville

Defenses

1. Pitt
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.

2. West Virginia
3. Connecticut
4. South Florida
5. Cincinnati
6. Louisville
7. Syracuse
8. Rutgers

Defensive Lines

1. Connecticut
With eight lettermen, four starters, and a first team all-star back, Connecticut could boast the Big East’s deepest defensive line; and one of the more underrated groups in America. Only Alex Polito graduated, meaning the Huskies will have the luxury of both talent and depth. The rotation is flush, which will be a particularly huge plus to a corps of linebackers that’s rebuilding. Kendall Reyes is the star on the inside, while Jesse Joseph should shine as a star on the outside.

2. Pitt
3. West Virginia
4. Cincinnati
5. Louisville
6. South Florida
7. Syracuse
8. Rutgers

Linebackers
 
1. South Florida
DeDe Lattimore and Sam Barrington give the Bulls plenty of hope for now, and the potential is there to be terrific going through to next season. They’ll be the catalysts of the middle of the D and two of the rising stars in Tampa. On the fast track to postseason honors, they’ll also help deflect some of the attention from strongside, which could be an issue this fall.

2. West Virginia
3. Rutgers
4. Pitt
5. Cincinnati
6. Louisville
7. Connecticut
8. Syracuse

Secondaries

1. Pitt
Despite the loss of two valuable starters, Pitt will be just as stingy against the pass as it was last year. The two returning starters, FS Jarred Holley and CB Antwuan Reed, are good ones, and depth shouldn’t be an issue. Whether or not the Panthers can maintain a high standard in the secondary will depend on Hendricks and Williams, sophomores itching to deliver breakout years.

2. West Virginia
3. Connecticut
4. South Florida
5. Syracuse
6. Rutgers
7. Louisville
8. Syracuse

Special Teams

1. Connecticut
Everyone of significance is back for another year. Senior PK Dave Teggart is coming off an all-star year, hitting 25-of-31 field goals and all 36 extra point attempts. More important, he was clutch, hitting a couple of game-winners and nailing both attempts beyond 50 yards. Sophomore Cole Wagner was solid in his debut as the punter, averaging 41.3 yards and dropping 26 of his 79 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Huskies took three kickoffs back for touchdowns in 2010, two from junior Nick Williams. An All-Big East selection, he led the nation with an average of more than 35 yards a chance.

2. Louisville
3. South Florida
4. Cincinnati
5. Syracuse
6. Rutgers
7. West Virginia
8. Pitt

- 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