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2007 CFN Big East Team Capsules

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2007


2007 CFN Big East Predictions and Team-by-Team Thumbnail Views

2007 CFN Big East Preview

Predictions & Quick Team Previews

Team Previews, Offenses, Defenses & Depth Charts
- Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pitt
- Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

- 2007 CFN Big East Preview
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CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
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Big East Unit Rankings

- Big East Schedules & Predictions

T1. West Virginia (wins BCS bid)
Predicted record: 11-1  Conf. record: 6-1
Best Offensive Player:
QB Pat White, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: DT Keilen Dykes, Sr.
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that’s suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team’s 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.             

T1. Louisville
Predicted record: 11-1  Conf. record: 6-1
Best Offensive Player:
QB Brian Brohm, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Malik Jackson, Sr
Offense: The coaching staff is new, but the results won’t differ much from last season when Louisville rung up 37 points and 475 yards a game.  The Cardinals will spread the field and ask future first round draft choice Brian Brohm to distribute the ball to his plethora of playmakers.  Brohm’s embarrassment of riches at receiver includes senior Harry Douglas, junior Mario Urrutia and senior Gary Barnidge, who combined for 159 receptions and 16 touchdowns in 2006.  Head coach Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs love leaning on the tight end, so Barnidge could be particularly busy this fall.  Even without Michael Bush the running game is in good shape with the returns of Anthony Allen and George Stripling, a thunder and lightning combo that had 20 touchdowns a year ago.  If Kragthorpe was able to supercharge the Tulsa offense, just imagine what he’ll do with all the resources they have in Louisville.
Defense: Not unlike the offense, the Cardinal D is aggressive, unpredictable and built on speed.  They’ll attack regularly which often means sacks, turnovers and the occasional busted play that goes for 65 yards.  The latter could happen a little more frequently in 2007, as the secondary adjusts to three new starters and uncertainty at cornerback.  Even without All-American tackle Amobi Okoye, the defensive line figures to be among the best in the Big East.  Sophomore end Peanut Whitehead and junior tackle Earl Heyman aren’t household names today, but both have the explosiveness to change that by November.  Senior linebacker Malik Jackson is a disruptive force with enough range to wreak havoc all over the field.

3. Rutgers
Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 5-2
Best Offensive Player:
RB Ray Rice, Jr.   
Best Defensive Player: DT Eric Foster, Sr.
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn’t mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it’s all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He’s the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that’s noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

4. Pitt
Predicted record: 9-3  Conf. record: 4-3
Best Offensive Player:
WR Derek Kinder, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Joe Clermond, Sr.
Offense: The graduation of Tyler Palko leaves a gaping hole on the Panther offense that’ll be filled by either junior Bill Stull or hot-shot rookie Pat Bostick.  Whoever gets the ball will enjoy an outstanding supporting cast that includes junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation and the program’s best front wall since Dave Wannstedt arrived.  Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh want to establish a more physical ground game, but if the new hurler is up to the challenge, the ensuing balance will make this a very dangerous offense.   
Defense: Last year’s defense had big names, like H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis, with poor results.  This year’s defense is devoid of stars, but might wind up being statistically better.  The key will be stopping the run, something that vexed the Panthers throughout the second half of the 2006 season.  The difference this fall will be a defensive line that’ll be much deeper than last year, and capable of creating inside-outside pressure with junior tackle Gus Mustakas and senior end Joe Clermond.  Although replacing Revis won’t be a snap, the secondary is busting with potential from future all-Big East players, like sophomores Aaron Berry and Elijah Fields.      

5. South Florida
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 3-4
Best Offensive Player:
QB Matt Grothe, Soph. 
Best Defensive Player: CB Trae Williams, Sr.
Offense: This is Matt Grothe’s offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn’t have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn’t slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he’s the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that’s loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham’s unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that’ll pay immediate dividends.

6. Cincinnati
Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 2-5
Best Offensive Player:
WR Derrick Stewart, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: DT Terrill Byrd, Jr.
Offense: Take whatever you knew about last year’s Cincy offense and delete it.  Nothing will be the same, as Brian Kelly and his staff dismantle Mark Dantonio’s plodding run game in favor of a fancy spread attack.  There’ll be growing pains, to be sure, but by mid-season, there should also be improvement if a consistent quarterback, such as Wake Forest transfer Ben Mauk, develops and the line adjusts to a zone blocking scheme.  A receiving corps that’s led by juniors Derrick Stewart, Dominick Goodman and Connor Barwin has a chance to blow up in the new system.
Defense: That Bearcat defense, which was so stingy a year ago, returns almost virtually intact.  The unit is small, but very quick from sideline to sideline, and prone to swarming anyone with the ball in his hands.  It all starts up front with a line that welcomes back four players with starting experience, including its figurehead, junior tackle Terrill Byrd.  Junior cornerback Mike Mickens is one of the best unknown cornerbacks in the country and the kind of defender that can shut down the opposition’s No. 1 receiver.  While the offense takes time to adjust to a new system, the defense is going to keep Cincy in plenty of games.

T7. Connecticut
Predicted record: 5-7  Conf. record: 1-6
Best Offensive Player:
RB Donald Brown, Soph.
Best Defensive Player: LB Danny Lansanah, Sr.
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that’ll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he’s poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don’t-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn’t slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don’t get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year’s starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that’ll be on the line together for the first time in September.

T7. Syracuse
Predicted record: 5-7  Conf. record: 1-6
Best Offensive Player:
WR Taj Smith, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Jameel McClain, Sr.
Offense: The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day improvement from last year’s putrid attack that cranked out a mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops, helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the making, but he’ll have a hard time with his consistency behind an offensive line that needs work even with three starters returning in the interior.
Defense: It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the season goes on, it struggled in every area but getting into the backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won’t be much of a problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with three new starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.

 

   

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