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2012 Big East Preview - Team Looks & Picks
Pitt RB Ray Graham
Pitt RB Ray Graham
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2012


Preview 2012 - CFN Big East Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2012

Big East Team By Team

 
- 2012 Cincinnati Preview | 2012 Connecticut Preview
- 2012 Louisville Preview | 2012 Pitt Preview 
- 2012 Rutgers Preview | 2012 South Florida Preview
- 2012 Syracuse Preview | 2012 Temple Preview 

- 2012 Big East Preview
- 2012 Big East Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Big East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
 
Predicted Big East Champion: South Florida

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.
 
1. South Florida
2012 CFN Pred: 7-5
2012 Big East Pred: 5-2

Offense: Is this the year, B.J.? South Florida has been waiting for its physically gifted quarterback, B.J. Daniels, to put it all together in Tampa, but he’s only been able to deliver in spurts. Consistency in the passing game has been an issue for the senior, who’s been a better runner than thrower throughout his career. If he was ever going to be a true dual-threat, now would be the time to do it. The Bulls’ receivers just might be a strength for a change. Leading pass-catcher Sterling Griffin is all the way back from an injury that cost him last November. Then-rookie Andre Davis played well in Griffin’s place, and has just gotten better throughout the offseason. Oh, and former blue-chip recruit Chris Dunkley is now eligible after transferring from Florida. With the early departure of Darrell Scott, the ground game will be in the hands of powerful senior Demetris Murray, who has primping for a starring role after pitching in more than 500 yards in each of the last two seasons. For a change-of-pace, USF will turn to jitterbug Lindsey Lamar, a dangerous third-down back. Up front, the Bulls will be experienced at tackle, and a little green on the inside. The unit was quietly effective in 2011, but maintaining that personality will require new C Austin Reiter and tackle-turned-guard Damien Edwards to run with their promotions.

Defense: The South Florida D is going to be fast, physical and athletic. What else is new? The Bulls have never had much problem attracting talented athletes to Tampa, as the current edition will attest. Sure, there are holes, but the program’s next-man-in persona pretty much ensures that a drop-off in production can be avoided. Junior defensive ends Ryne Giddins and Julius Forte give USF a dynamic duo of pass rushers, who get out of the blocks and into the backfield in a hurry. After flirting with his ceiling the last two years, Giddins, in particular, appears ready to explode into NFL scouts’ consciousness. The linebackers are a trio of heat-seeking missiles. DeDe Lattimore, Michael Lanaris and Sam Barrington are eager to reprise their roles as last season’s top three tacklers. Although the secondary must replace a pair of quality starters, no one in charge seems to be overly unnerved about the situation. At cornerback, Kayvon Webster was All-Big East in 2011, and JUCO transfer Fidel Montgomery performed in the spring as if he’d been playing at the FBS level for years. While the safeties will miss Jerrell Young, the group remains deep and talented. Mark Joyce is a favorite among the coaches, JaQuez Jenkins has had a stellar offseason and Jon Lejiste is expected to recapture his starting role once he finishes rehabbing an injury.

T2. Cincinnati
2012 CFN Pred: 8-4
2012 Big East Pred: 4-3

Offense: In order for the spread offense to click in the Queen City, the Bearcats will need a capable successor to star Zach Collaros. Although nothing has been made official, that player appears to be Munchie Legaux. Not only does the junior have the best physical skill set among the returners, but he also earned three valuable starters when Collaros was injured last November. Legaux will no longer have RB Isaiah Pead in his rear view mirror, a significant loss, but it’s not as if he’ll have to carry the team on his own in the fall. Cincinnati will have the numbers at the skill positions, even if it doesn’t harbor a bona fide star. The running game could be by committee, with George Winn, Jameel Poteat and Ralph Abernathy IV all vying for touches. Junior Anthony McClung is the front man of a receiving corps that returns three Bearcats who caught at least 19 balls in 2011. McClung hauled in a team-high 49 passes for 683 yards and six touchdowns. Up front, Cincy will be breaking three new starters, including the entire left side. The new veteran of the front all will be OT Sean Hooey. However, it’ll be worth monitoring the trajectory of the other tackle, sophomore Eric Lefeld, who has a tremendous future ahead of him.

Defense: It was extremely tough to run on the Bearcats in 2011. This fall? Not so much. The staff’s chief concern this offseason will be to fortify the middle of the unit, which loses prodigious DT Derek Wolfe, NT John Hughes and All-Big East MLB JK Schaffer. In their place will likely step Camaron Beard, Jordan Stepp and Solomon Tentman, respectively. The trio is young and upwardly-mobile, but is also inexperienced and unlikely to prevent opposing teams from running the ball right up the gut. Cincinnati, though, will be a lot tougher to beat on the flanks. Seniors Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart give the program a couple of hard-charging defensive ends capable of collapsing the pocket and tracking down ballcarriers from behind. Stewart, in particular, has the length and athleticism to really get pro scouts excited. The outside linebackers, Maalik Bomar and Nick Temple, are not very big, but they will go from sideline to sideline in a hurry, and will be deployed occasionally on the blitz. Three starters are back in the secondary, with none more valuable than SS Drew Frey. The returning First-Team All-Big East pick hits like a linebacker, but will also provide cover for a young and somewhat vulnerable collection of cornerbacks.

T2. Louisville
2012 CFN Pred: 8-4
2012 Big East Pred: 4-3

Offense: At long last there’s hope on offense in Louisville. Ever since QB Brian Brohm graduated at the end of the 2007 season, the Cards have been among the feeblest of the Big East attacks. QB Teddy Bridgewater was lured out of Miami to change the trend in the ‘Ville. After laying some groundwork as a rookie, he’s poised to begin building on it, with lots of help from an exciting collection of receivers. Louisville plans to start three sophomores in the passing game, DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers and Michaelee Harris, whose ceilings are all very high. The Cards are going to be more potent in 2012, but by how much will depend heavily on the ground game, a collaboration of the backs and the linemen. The staff has yet to anoint a feature runner, though Jeremy Wright might have the best set of skills. And the line, which returns four starters, needs to play with far more consistently than it did a year ago.

Defense: Head coach Charlie Strong’s expertise is on defense, as if that wasn’t patently obvious in his first two years on the job. His Cardinals have overachieved with average talent inherited from the Steve Kragthorpe era, finishing 17th nationally in scoring D a year ago. Now that Strong has been able to attract a better caliber player over the last three years, expectations are higher than ever in Louisville. The Cards are going to be aggressive, hard-hitting and fundamentally-sound, trademarks of this staff’s units over the years. While some key players from a year ago, like LB Dexter Heyman and linemen Greg Scruggs and William Savoy, need to be replaced, Louisville feels it has enough up-and-comers and proven veterans to fill the voids. S Hakeem Smith, CB Adrian Bushell and LB Preston Brown are the established upperclassmen. DE Marcus Smith, NT Jamaine Brooks, LB Deionterez Mount and FS Calvin Pryor are just a few of the young players preparing for their breakout years.

T2. Pitt
2012 CFN Pred: 7-5
2012 Big East Pred: 4-3

Offense: After one year in an up-tempo, no-huddle attack, Pittsburgh is going back to its roots. New head coach Paul Chryst is installing a physical and balanced pro-style system that accentuates the ground game. The Panthers want to run the ball to set up the pass, wearing out defenses, while limiting mistakes. The program believes it has the ingredients to carry out the new plan. The offensive line, while miserable in pass protection, has tremendous size to go along with enough brute force to establish the line of scrimmage. And now that Isaac Bennett has grown up, the backfield will have options, especially if star RB Ray Graham can make it all the way back from last year’s knee injury. Tino Sunseri is on target to start at quarterback for a third straight year, hopefully with more help from the supporting cast. The senior will access a veteran corps of pass-catchers headed by budding star Devin Street.

Defense: First-year defensive coordinator inherits a defense that returns just four starters, and is shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The front seven, in particular, is getting an extreme makeover with six new regulars in the rotation. The lone returner is a good one, DT Aaron Donald, who’s just disruptive enough to vie for All-American recognition. The cornerstone on this side of the ball just might be a secondary welcoming back three starters, including all-conference contenders Jarred Holley and K’Waun Williams, and two talented Michigan transfers, Cullen Christian and Ray Vinopal. The Panthers’ ability to rebuild on the fly will hinge on the new defensive ends and linebackers. Up front, sophomores Bryan Murphy and T.J. Clemmings are itching to contribute after sitting out 2011. And at linebacker, there’s cautious optimism that Dan Mason can make a triumphant return from a wicked knee injury that has shelved him for almost two years.

T2. Rutgers
2012 CFN Pred: 8-4
2012 Big East Pred: 4-3

Offense: With more “ORs” on the post-spring depth chart than the Scarlet Knights crew team, there’s sure to be a climate of competition on offense this summer. New head coach Kyle Flood will be particularly judicious as he decides on his backfield combination. Much like a year ago, when the two were virtually interchangeable, there isn’t much separation between quarterbacks Chas Dodd and Gary Nova. While Dodd has an extra year of experience and better playmaking ability, Nova has a higher ceiling as a pocket passer. Sophomore backs Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins are in a nip-and-tuck battle as well, though both are going to get their touches in the fall. The latter is one of the highest-rated recruits to sign with Rutgers, while the former was a pleasant surprise in 2011, rushing for 897 yards and nine scores. Although no one will come close to filling the void left by the departure of go-to WR Mohamed Sanu, sizable targets Mark Harrison and Brandon Coleman will attempt to do their best impressions of No. 6 in the fall. While the line has been a headache for years in Piscataway, there’s cautious hope that the current edition might buck the trend. Yeah, the interior could be vulnerable, but the tackle tandem of emerging star Kaleb Johnson and Maryland transfer R.J. Dill ought to keep the quarterbacks safe and sound.

Defense: Rutgers is getting talked about as a strong contender for its first-ever Big East crown in large part because the defense is good. Real good. Only two starters are gone, neither of whom was among the three Scarlet Knights to appear on the 2011 All-Big East team. Under former head coach Greg Schiano, the program had a personality rooted in physical toughness and solid fundamentals. The new regime under Kyle Flood will be preaching the same principles. DT Scott Vallone is the leader of the D-line—if not the entire defense—but Rutgers really needs an end or two to step up and ignite the pass rush from the edge. The linebackers will be without holes, provided all-star Khaseem Greene can make it all the way back from injury. He was a revelation in his first year after shifting from safety, but broke his leg in December’s Pinstripe Bowl, and did not participate in spring drills. Throwing on the Knights ought to be just as difficult as it was a year ago, when they allowed eight touchdown passes all year, and none in the final four games. Returning all-stars CB Logan Ryan and FS Duron Harmon are the linchpins of the defensive backfield. Ryan is just a junior, but is talented enough to be tempted to turn pro early at the end of the season.

6. Syracuse
2012 CFN Pred: 6-6
2012 Big East Pred: 3-4

Offense: The Orange linebackers better be very, very good in 2012 because the first and final lines of defense are going to be very, very suspect. First, the good news. Syracuse returns three quality starters to the second level, Dyshawn Davis, Marquis Spruill and Dan Vaughan. Spruill was an All-Big East second-teamer in 2011, and all three of the regulars do an excellent job of covering the field with the range of a safety. However, the Orange is far from complete on this side of the ball. Starting defensive ends Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich are no longer in Upstate New York, forcing the staff to move former nose tackle Deon Goggins to one of the outside positions. The tackles, Cory Boatman and Jay Bromley, are small and quick, but lack the needed girth to stuff the run the way the program would like. The secondary has one potential star and a whole lot of question marks. SS Shamarko Thomas is a tremendous all-around athlete who’ll get a chance to play on Sundays. Syracuse could use a couple more just like him. Instead, though, the unit is mostly comprised of mediocrity a year after it ranked 98th nationally in pass defense, and picked off just 10 passes.

Defense: Head coach Doug Marrone wants a power running to be a part of his offense’s identity, but leading into the summer, he’ll have more weapons in the passing game. The Orange has a seasoned veteran, Ryan Nassib, behind center, and an underrated collection of pass-catchers. Big-play Marcus Sales returns after sitting out all of 2011, joining Alec Lemon, who caught a team-high 68 balls for 834 yards and six touchdowns last fall. Syracuse might need to air it out a little more than usual now that 1,000-yard rusher Antwon Bailey has graduated. Jerome Smith has nudged ahead in an uninspired battle at the running back position that could bleed into August. Explosive rookie Ashton Broyld, who arrived on campus as a quarterback, could be used in some Wildcat packages in an attempt to light a fire under the ground game. In the trenches, the Orange is staring at a tale of two competencies. To the left of C Macky MacPherson, the offensive line returns a pair of starters, G Zach Chibane and T Justin Pugh, a two-time All-Big East pick. To MacPherson’s right, though, there are question marks. G Ivan Foy and T Lou Alexander are the frontrunners to be in the opening day lineup, but have a long way to go before earning the staff’s confidence.

7. Temple
2012 CFN Pred: 4-7
2012 Big East Pred: 2-5

Offense: For the first time in years, the Owls begin a season with a degree of stability and certainty behind center. Junior Chris Coyer was fantastic over the final month of 2011, accounting for nine touchdowns without a pick, and bringing a physical, dual-threat quality to the position. He looks capable of becoming the unquestioned leader of the unit, even with Penn State transfer Kevin Newsome arriving in July. While top rusher Bernard Pierce left school early for the NFL, Matt Brown has already proven he’s capable of carrying the load, even at 5-5 and 165 pounds. He’s rushed for 2,275 career yards and 18 touchdowns, going over 100 yards in nine different games. Providing breathers will be 225-pound Kenny Harper and possibly Jalen Fitzpatrick, who’s capable of giving head coach Steve Addazio a Percy Harvin-type threat out of the backfield or split out wide. The passing game, on the other hand, is likely to be inconsistent. Coyer still has plenty to prove as a drop-back thrower, and only one receiver, Deon Miller, caught more than three passes a year ago. An even greater worry in Philadelphia will be the offensive line. Five seniors with starting experience have graduated, leaving RT Martin Wallace as the lone holdover. While senior Sean Boyle shows promise at center, using a redshirt freshman, Zach Hooks, at left tackle is a frightening proposition as Temple makes its return to the Big East.

Defense: The Owls have been brilliant in recent years at transforming marginal defensive recruits into NFL-caliber stalwarts. Coordinator Chuck Heater and his assistants will have to be somewhere north of outstanding to adapt on the fly in 2012. While only five starters are missing, four earned All-MAC last fall, led by DE Adrian Robinson and LB Tahir Whitehead. Factor in the improved competition in the Big East, and Temple is liable to struggle defensively. Of course, six starters do return from a unit that allowed just less than 14 points a game in 2011. The D-line will be dangerously thin until more troops arrive in the summer. As he enters his fourth year, journeyman Marcus Green is being asked to offset some of Robinson’s pass-rush production off the edge. The leaders of the linebackers will be scrappy Ahkeem Smith and Blaze Caponegro on the outside. The Owls’ best bet for a smooth transition to a new league will come from their secondary, a group that had more picks than touchdown passes allowed last season. Three starters, including both cornerbacks, return to a senior-dominated unit. The best of the bunch will be SS Justin Gildea, a third-year starter who posted 51 tackles and three interceptions a year ago.

8. Connecticut
2012 CFN Pred: 3-9
2012 Big East Pred: 1-6

Offense: The Huskies have looked everywhere for a capable starting quarterback in recent years. They just may have found one in Butler (Kans.) Community College transfer Chandler Whitman. The 6-2, 190-pounder, who began his career at Illinois, has yet to get the official nod from head coach Paul Pasqualoni, but won the popular vote among fans in the spring. He’ll need to emerge from the sea of mediocrity behind center if Connecticut is going to reach the desired level of potency that has eluded it for years. Whoever gets the nod will spend a fair amount of time handing the ball to Lyle McCombs, the All-Big East back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his debut. The receivers figure to be a different story now that the Moores, Kashif and Isiah, have used up their eligibility. The Huskies could lean on transfers here as well. Former Boston College recruit Shakim Phillips took part in spring, impressing the staff with his size, speed and reliable hands. Clemson transfer Bryce McNeal arrives in the summer hoping to give the offense the big-play guy it’s currently missing. The rebuilt O-line was a mess in March and April, getting bullied all over the field. Connecticut has more questions than answers up front as it looks to replace to key all-stars, C Moe Petrus and LT Mike Ryan.

Defense: If Connecticut competes for a league title this fall, it’ll probably do so on the backs of the defense. The team returns no fewer than eight starters from a unit that will probably harbor an all-star at each level. The biggest worry is at defensive tackle, where the graduations of Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin could leave the team vulnerable on running players. There’s hope that senior Ryan Wirth’s dominant spring will carry over into the fall, and that Shamar Stephen is ready to start reaching his enormous potential. Otherwise, the Huskies are stacked. The end rotation of Trevardo Williams, Jesse Joseph and Teddy Jennings is dynamite. Last season’s three leading tacklers, linebackers Jory Johnson, Sio Moore and Yawin Smallwood, are back for another year. And the secondary has to be better than it was in 2011, when it gave up too many touchdown passes. Everyone returns to the defensive backfield, including the attacking corner tandem of seniors Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Gratz was a Second Team All-Big East performer. Wreh-Wilson battled injuries all year, but has next-level cover skills when he’s at full strength. Connecticut could boast a championship-caliber D in 2012, putting even more pressure on the offense to start carry its weight for a change.

- 2012 Cincinnati Preview | 2012 Connecticut Preview
- 2012 Louisville Preview | 2012 Pitt Preview 
- 2012 Rutgers Preview | 2012 South Florida Preview
- 2012 Syracuse Preview | 2012 Temple Preview 

- 2012 Big East Preview
- 2012 Big East Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Big East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish