2012 Spring Preview
Big East - Cincinnati to Pitt
2012 Big East Pre-Spring Preview
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- Big East Spring
Preview & Thoughts - Rutgers to Temple
Okay, Bearcats, are you rebuilding or reloading in 2012? Cincinnati delivered the bounce back season that it desperately sought, winning 10 games, but also lost an enormous amount of talent on both sides of the ball to graduation. Now what? When Brian Kelly was in charge, there was no retreat in the ‘Cats. However, Butch Jones has already had one rough campaign in the Queen City, going 4-8 in his 2010 debut. With fresh starters littered all over the depth chart, the coach and his staff need to show that they’re no one-hit wonders. Considering the extent of the holes in the backfield, along the offensive line and in the front seven, it will not be an easy task. Spring and summer drills are always critical for a program, but even more so this year for Cincinnati.
- It’s Munchie’s turn to take a bite out of the quarterback job. Munchie Legaux showed flashes of potential after Zach Collaros was injured last November, but now he has to turn it up a notch as the likely heir apparent behind center.
- Legaux will have access to a gifted coterie of receivers, but who’ll have his back in the running game? Isaiah Pead will be next to impossible to replace, robbing the Bearcats of their coveted balance on offense.
- Running on Cincinnati was fruitless last fall. The Bearcats figure to be a whole lot easier to navigate up the gut now that MLB JK Schaffer and tackles Derek Wolfe and John Hughes are pursuing careers in the NFL.
- Receivers Anthony McClung, Kenbrell Thompkins and Alex Chisum are going to entice the staff to call more passing plays this fall. The trio was good a year ago, but is likely to get much better in 2012.
- The program’s highest draft choice of 2015 just might be LT Eric Lefeld. He’s ideally-sized, moves well and is set to snatch the opening at left tackle on a full-time basis.
Head coach Paul Pasqualoni is eager to get a second chance to make a good first impression. As debuts go, his was a colossal flop, guiding the defending Big East champs to a bowl-less, 5-7 mark. Everyone involved with this program is eager to get back to work in an attempt to recapture the swagger and confidence it had when Randy Edsall was on the sidelines. As is always the case in Storrs, the Huskies will need to address their issues on the offensive side of the ball in order to approach their overall goals. Nothing went right a year ago for a school that ranked 108th nationally in total offense and 117th in sacks allowed. Above all else, the staff has to locate some semblance of consistency at quarterback, a position that’s frustrated Connecticut for nearly a decade.
- If defense was the only barometer of success, the Huskies might earn their second Big East crown in the last three years. Defensive tackles aside, the unit has very few holes to fill heading into 2012.
- Connecticut is in need of quality wide receivers. Connecticut is always in need of quality receivers. Help is on the way from a couple of transfers, Clemson’s Bryce McNeal and Boston College’s Shakim Phillips, who has go-to potential.
- No one in the Big East will throw on the Huskies this fall, especially now that West Virginia is a member of the Big 12. The secondary is going to be dynamite now that CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson is back at full strength.
- LB Sio Moore can’t possibly be overlooked for All-Big East honors again, can he? The senior got jobbed in each of the last two years, but has way too much talent to be passed over for a third straight time.
- Gone but not forgotten after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, D.J. Shoemate has a chance to be a major factor in the running game. Whether he’s carrying the ball or opening holes for Lyle McCombs, the former USC transfer will be a 5-11, 220-pound battering ram.
The 2011 Cardinals finished in a three-way tie atop the Big East Conference using a slew of wide-eyed underclassmen. Now that those players are a year older, the program is looking to take another step forward in head coach Charlie Strong’s third season on campus. Strong has revived Louisville the old fashioned way, amassing a war chest of talented newcomers, and coaching up the kids he inherited from Steve Kragthorpe. After appearing in back-to-back middling postseason games, might a BCS bowl invitation be next on the horizon for the Cards? It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. Heck, not only is Louisville in the midst of a revitalization, but the other two schools that earned a share of the league title, Cincinnati and West Virginia, won’t be nearly as threatening in 2012. The Bearcats are rebuilding, and the Mountaineers are now in the Big 12.
- As Teddy Bridgewater goes, so goes the Cardinals’ Big East title hopes. The offense needs the quarterback to take the next step in his evolution as a franchise quarterback.
- Louisville will be well-stocked with talent at the wide receiver position. Three of last year’s top four receivers were freshmen, and a pair of high-profile recruits from the SEC will provide a push in practice before becoming eligible in 2013.
- The upcoming season is a huge one in the career of CB Adrian Bushell. The former Florida Gator and JUCO transfer played extremely well in his Cardinals debut, but needs to excel—on and off the field—in order to allay the concerns of scouts.
- It’s great news when the offense is ahead of the D for a Charlie Strong-coached team. Louisville needs new defenders to emerge around Bushell, S Hakeem Smith and LB Preston Brown, a task Strong and his staff are capable of acing.
- The O-line may be a year older, but will it be a year better? Four starters return to a group that has to raise the bar considerably after ranking 110th nationally in pass protection, and floundering in run blocking.
Having called four different men head coach over the last 15 months, Pittsburgh is desperately seeking a little stability within its football program. Paul Chryst was pried away from Wisconsin to address that very issue. The former offensive coordinator arrives in Western Pennsylvania with an outstanding resume and reputation. In fact, he was so highly regarded in Big Ten circles that those closest to the Panthers feel that the abrupt departure of former coach Todd Graham will wind up being a long-term blessing. The offseason figures to feature a steep learning curve, not only for the players but also for a coach who has spent his entire career as an assistant. Considering Pitt’s struggles in pass protection in recent years, there’s cautious optimism that Chryst can share some of the O-line secrets he picked up while in Madison.
- A new coach could also mean a new quarterback at Pitt. Tino Sunseri has the obvious edge in experience, but Trey Anderson and Mark Myers will be given every opportunity to wrest the job away.
- Concerns about the line won’t just be an offensive issue in 2012. The D-line will have a new look as well. The shift of Aaron Donald to tackle will immediately upgrade the interior, but who’ll get to the quarterback from the edge?
- The Panthers are hoping to get a nice bump from transfers. WR Brendon Felder (North Carolina), OL Tom Ricketts (Penn State), S Ray Vinopal (Michigan) and CB Cullen Christian (Michigan) will all be bucking for a spot on the two-deep.
- If Dan Mason can make a successful return from a gruesome leg injury suffered in the fall of 2010, he’s capable of providing an emotional and physical lift to the D. The one-time future at middle linebacker has worked tirelessly to get this opportunity to once again compete for a job.
- Ray Graham can help make Chryst’s debut a whole lot more seamless by successfully returning from last year’s knee injury. When he was hurt, the junior was carrying the offense ranked No. 2 nationally in rushing.
- Big East Spring
Preview & Thoughts - Rutgers to Temple