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Big East Preview 2006 - Unit Rankings

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 9, 2006


CollegeFootballNews.com 2006 Big East Preview Unit Rankings

 Big East Preview | All-Big East team & top 30 players  | Unit Rankings | Top 5s 
 - Cincinnati Preview | Connecticut Preview | Louisville Preview | Pitt Preview
 -
Rutgers Preview | South Florida Preview | Syracuse Preview | West Virginia Preview

 Offenses  
1. Louisville
Rev up the engine again as the nation's No. 9 offense and No. 3 scoring attack should be just as good again as long as star quarterback Brian Brohm is fully healthy after tearing his ACL late last year. Considering his mobility could be a problem early on, it's not a positive that the Cards have to break in two new tackles. Even so, the line should be fine with several good options and two great returning starters to work around in guard Kurt Quarterman and center Eric Wood. The backfield is one of the best in the nation going three deep with pounder Michael Bush coming back for his senior year and speedsters Kolby Smith and George Stripling as good as any backups in the country. Mario Urrutia leads a big, fast, and very talented receiving corps.
2. West Virginia
3. Rutgers
4. Pitt
5. South Florida
6. Connecticut
7. Syracuse
8. Cincinnati

Quarterbacks  
1. Louisville
How will Brian Brohm respond from his torn ACL? He'll be ready for the season opener, but rust might be an issue early on. Hunter Cantwell is a strong, tough, experienced backup who can keep the offense moving if anything happens to the franchise star, but there's not much to rely on after him with Bill Ashburn needing a little bit of experience and receiver/quarterback Patrick Carter more of a pass catcher than a passer. Thanks to the tremendous receiving corps and the great backfield to take the heat off, all the quarterbacks who play this year will thrive.
2. West Virginia
3. Pitt
4. Connecticut
5. South Florida
6. Rutgers
7. Syracuse
8. Cincinnati


Running Backs
1. Louisville
That holler of excitement you heard a few months ago was the Louisville coaching staff when Michael Bush announced he was returning for his senior season. The big, bruising touchdown maker will be among the nation's leading scorers, but he won't be in the Heisman hunt with Kolby Smith and George Stripling taking away too many carries and too many yards. Speed isn't an issue for this group with home-run hitting ability down the line. A little more production in the passing game would be nice, but that's nitpicking.

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


Receivers
1. Louisville
Most teams would have major problems after losing receivers like Joshua Tinch and Montrell Jones, who combined to make 110 catches last year, but Louisville will be more than fine as long as Mario Urrutia can turn into a consistent target. Harry Douglas is good enough to pick up the extra work that will come his way, and reserves Patrick Carter, Scott Long and Chris Vaughn would form one of the Big East's best receiving trios for just about any other team in the league. The tight end situation is solid with Gary Barnidge good enough to make a big leap in overall production as a receiver.
2. South Florida
3. Pitt
4. West Virginia
5. Rutgers
6. Cincinnati
7. Syracuse
8. Connecticut


Offensive Lines
1. West Virginia
There might not be a more athletic line on a top 25 team in America. These guys aren't going to blow anyone off the ball, but they're amazing for the Mountaineer running game because of their quickness, pulling ability, and smarts; they're technicians. Center Dan Mozes is one of the nation's best linemen and should be the favorite for the Rimington Award. The interior will be a rock with Mozes and guards Ryan Stancheck and Jeremy Sheffey, but the tackles will be a bit of a concern early on needing to replace Garin Justice and Travis Garrett.
2. Rutgers
3. South Florida
4. Louisville
5. Pitt
6. Syracuse
7. Connecticut
8. Cincinnati


Defenses
1. South Florida
The USF D will be the best in the Big East if the line is merely adequate. This is a fast, fast, fast defense with just enough size to hold up against the stronger power offenses. Stephen Nicholas, Ben Moffitt, and Pat St. Louis form one of the nation's best linebacking corps, while the return of safety Danny Verpaele from a foot injury gives a big boost to an already strong secondary. If Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams don't form the best corner tandem in the Big East, they're a very close number two.
2. West Virginia
3. Louisville
4. Pittsburgh
5. Connecticut
6. Syracuse
7. Cincinnati
8. Rutgers

Defensive Lines
1. West Virginia
The line should grow into one of the strengths of the defense with size and depth. The one thing missing is a sure-thing pure pass rusher, although Johnny Dingle is expected to become one. There's good experience despite the loss of all-star Ernest Hunter, and there should be enough quality depth to do come up with several different options.
2. Louisville
3. Pitt
4. Syracuse
5. South Florida
6. Connecticut
7. Cincinnati
8. Rutgers

Linebackers
1. South Florida
The 1-2 punch of Stephen Nicholas and Ben Moffitt is one of the best in the nation and should combine for close to 200 tackles and over 30 tackles for loss. Pat St. Louis is the unsung third member of the group, but he finished second on the team in tackles. The reserves haven't gotten a lot work since the front three have been so good, and there's a huge drop-off from the first to the second team.
2. West Virginia
3. Pitt
4. Loiusville
5. Connecticut
6. Syracuse
7. Cincinnati
8. Rutgers


Defensive Backs
1. South Florida
The nation's sixth best pass defense should be even better with the league's best corner tandem in Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams and helped by the return of Danny Verpaele after missing last year with a broken foot. How strong is the USF secondary? The team's fourth leading tackler last season, Carlton Williams, is a backup. There's excellent speed and athleticism among the reserves with several good options to form a good rotation.
2. Connecticut
3. Pitt
4. Syracuse
5. Louisville
6. Cincinnati
7. West Virginia
8. Rutgers

Special Teams
1. Louisville
If the kicking game isn't the best in the Big East, it'll be close. Arthur Carmody is one of the nation's best placekickers, and punter Todd Flannery has a steady, strong leg. However, he'll be pushed by Gabe Mullane when he hits camp. The return game was decent last year, but nothing special with Montrell Jones handling all the duties, and now it'll be up to receiver Harry Douglas to handle most of the kickoff returns after averaging 29.3 yards on seven tries last year and quarterback/receiver Patrick Johnson, a transfer from Georgia Tech, to handle the punt returns.
2. Connecticut
3. Syracuse
4. West Virginia
5. Rutgers
6. Pitt
7. South Florida
8. Cincinnati