Fiu, Cirminiello, Mitchell on TV - Campus Insiders | Buy College Football Tickets

2008 CFN Big East Team Capsules
Rutgers WR Tiquan Underwood
Rutgers WR Tiquan Underwood
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 14, 2008


2008 CFN Big East Predictions and Team-by-Team Thumbnail Views

2008 CFN Big East Preview

Predictions & Quick Team Previews

Team Previews & Predictions
- Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pitt
- Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

- 2008 CFN Big East Preview
- CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
-
Big Ten Unit Rankings

- Big East Schedules & Predictions

By Richard Cirminiello

1. West Virginia
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 6-1
Best Offensive Player:
QB Pat White, Sr
Best Defensive Player:
LB Reed Williams, Sr.
Offense:
Even after delivering the best season of a brilliant career, West Virginia might need more production from QB Pat White.  Without playmakers Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Darius Reynaud, who caught 12 touchdown passes, the Mountaineers are searching for complements to its dynamic two-way quarterback.  The most likely candidate to step up is RB Noel Devine, who erupted for 627 yards and six touchdowns on only 73 carries as a rookie.  The line, always a constant in Morgantown, returns five starters and will be among the toughest units in the country.  Although new coordinator Jeff Mullen will stick with the spread offense, he does plan to add a few new wrinkles to the playbook, particularly in the passing game.      
Defense: Coordinator Jeff Casteel was retained by Bill Stewart, which was great news considering how well the Mountaineers performed in 2007.  The defense was air-tight in all facets, allowing just 300 yards and 18 points a game, while finishing ninth nationally in turnover margin.  Maintaining that level of play, however, is about to get much tougher.  Even without Marc Magro, the linebackers will be fine, but the defensive line must be rebuilt and there’s a serious depth issue in the secondary.  While Casteel will continue to lean on undersized athletes that fly to the ball out of the 3-3-5 stack, he’s going to need help from a bunch of newcomers and underclassmen.


2.
Pitt
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 5-2
Best Offensive Player:
RB LeSean McCoy, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Scott McKillop, Sr.
Offense: In LeSean McCoy, Dave Wannstedt has a back capable of carrying the ball 25-30 times a game, while wearing out defenses in the second half. He’s a budding superstar who’ll get even better with experience and more support from the passing attack. The Panthers like to grind it out, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ignore the passing game. In fact, they need more balance to improve on last year’s paltry offensive numbers. Before getting injured in the opener, QB Bill Stull was staring at a breakthrough junior season as the starter. Now he’s trying to hold off the competition for a second straight year, while playing catch with one of the Big East’s deepest receiving corps.
Defense: After finishing fifth nationally despite having little in the way of star power, the Panther D hopes to raise the bar even higher. Led by Scott McKillop at middle linebacker, Pittsburgh honored the staff’s wish to tackle better and become more physical. Few starters are lost, and the ones that are, such as DE Joe Clermond, will be replaced by a quality player, such as sophomore Greg Romeus. Even the departure of coordinator Paul Rhoads was eased by the hiring of Phil Bennett, a veteran with a successful track record as a coordinator. DT Gus Mustakas was poised for a huge season before tearing his ACL in Week 2. His return, along with the emergence of Mick Williams, should provide a huge lift to the run defense.

T3. Cincinnati
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 5-2
Best Offensive Player:
WR Marcus Barnett, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Terrill Byrd, Sr.
Offense:
With or without QB Ben Mauk, who was denied a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Brian Kelly is set to move forward with a “Cat Attack” offense that was wildly successful in its debut.  While five hurlers will technically be in the hunt, the competition has boiled down to senior Dustin Grutza, Notre Dame transfer Demterius Jones, and redshirt freshman Chazz Anderson. Whoever gets the nod will operate behind a shaky line replacing a couple of starters, and bank on the healthy return of star WR Marcus Barnett from a broken fibula. The running backs will be serviceable, but no one stands out.
Defense: The Bearcats retain many of the key parts from last season’s stingy, ball-hawking defense, including three All-Big East performers. With DT Terrill Byrd back to clog the middle of the line and CB Mike Mickens cutting off half the field for opposing quarterbacks, Cincinnati will again be one of the toughest defenses to navigate in the league. If there’s a pressing concern for defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, it’s at safety, where Haruki Nakamura and Anthony Williams must be replaced. A lot will be expected from senior Cedric Tolbert, the most experienced of the holdover safeties.  



T3. South Florida
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 4-3
Best Offensive Player:
QB Matt Grothe, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE George Selvie, Jr.
Offense: Although Matt Grothe is a one-man gang for the South Florida offense, the coaching staff would prefer to spread the ball around a little more, taking some heat off its quarterback. That shouldn’t be a problem, considering 10 starters return from the most prolific attack in school history. After a solid rookie debut, RB Mike Ford is poised for a breakthrough season, and the ensemble of receivers is raw, but very deep and athletic. While new offensive coordinator Greg Gregory is excited about the talent he inherited, he also knows the offense can be far more potent if it cuts down on turnovers and improves in the red zone. That’s an indirect way of telling Grothe that it’s time to elevate the level of his play as a passer.        
Defense: The defense, the cornerstone of South Florida’s recent boom, is undergoing some changes, particularly up the middle and at cornerback. Exhausted eligibility took a bite out the interior of the defensive line, while marking the end of the careers of three all-league standouts, LB Ben Moffitt and corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. Good recruiting and even better coaching ensure that Wally Burnham’s speedy defense will land on its feet. Of course, it doesn’t hurt getting back All-American DE George Selvie, a disruptive force and one of the best pass rushers in the country. He’ll be joined by six other starters and emerging stars, such as NT Terrell McClain and CB Jerome Murphy, who’ll work to keep the Bulls among the Big East’s stingiest defenses.


T5
. Louisville
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 3-4
Best Offensive Player:
C Eric Wood, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Earl Heyman, Sr.
Offense: Louisville’s high-octane offense, unstoppable over the last decade, is about to turn the page and begin writing a new chapter. Not only is QB Brian Brohm gone, but so are all of his favorite weapons, including All-Big East WR Harry Douglas. Brohm’s graduation clears a path for senior and long-time backup Hunter Cantwell to show the nation—and NFL scouts—that he’s more than just a nice insurance policy. He’ll need a lot of help from a supporting cast that’ll show little resemblance to the one that roamed Papa John’s last season. Two players capable of filling the void are RB Bilal Powell and WR Scott Long, whose potential has been corked by the recent logjam on offense. 
Defense: Although new defensive coordinator Ron English had success at Michigan, he also had a lot more to work with in Ann Arbor than he’s inheriting at Louisville. The same miserable Cardinal D that got ambushed by Middle Tennessee and Syracuse last fall must completely rebuild a back seven that’s been gutted by graduations, defections, and suspensions.  The only sliver of positive news is that the Cards are well stocked with five experienced down linemen, led by the inside-outside presence of Earl Heyman and Maurice Mitchell, respectively.  Miami transfer James Bryant is being counted on to stabilize a linebacker corps that’s without last year’s three starters.

T5. Rutgers
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 4-3
Best Offensive Player:
WR Kenny Britt, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
S Courtney Greene, Sr.
Offense: Now life has begun without Ray Rice, the attack will be forced to find a new horse in the backfield while reinventing the offense a little bit. While the O will continue to strive for balance, it’ll be tempting to completely turn things over to a passing game that’s home to a third-year starter under center and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers. Now more than ever, the onus is on Teel to break through with the best season of his life, and the pressure will be on from the start. Three starters are gone from the offensive line, but one holdover, new LT Anthony Davis, is poised for a special sophomore season.
Defense: A healthy 15 players who started games in 2007 are back, promising news for a Rutgers defense that’s looking for a rebound. The Knights allowed 106 more points than the prior year and had a measly 19 takeaways, a real no-no for Greg Schiano’s pressure D.  Three leaders, DT Eric Foster, LB Brandon Renkart, and S Ron Girault, are gone, but Rutgers feels good about the young athletes who have populated the last three recruiting classes. This year’s opponents will be content to pound away at the middle of a line that’s undersized, inexperienced, and in need of support from the back seven. The alternative is to venture into the teeth of a well-stocked pass defense that was No. 5 nationally and gets plenty of help from the pass rush.  


7. Connecticut
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 2-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Andre Dixon, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Cody Brown, Sr.
Offense: The Huskies would like to take some of the restrictions off QB Tyler Lorenzen, a capable downfield passer, but his wide receivers are among the least scary in the Big East. Instead, the program will strive for modest gains in the passing attack while continuing to lean heavily on the running tandem of Andre Dixon and Donald Brown. One of the keys to the ground game will be to find a replacement for all-star G Donald Thomas. A terrific drive blocker from the right side, he leaves a big void at the position that coaches hope can be filled by massive converted tackle Zach Hurd.      
Defense: As stingy as Connecticut was in 2007, it might be even better this fall.  Eight starters are back, and some of the neophytes, such as sophomore linebackers Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus, are quickly becoming reliable veterans. Lutrus is replacing All-Star Danny Lansanah in the middle, a more natural fit for his skill set. At end, Julius Williams and Cody Brown give the Huskies a formidable bookend that combined for 28.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks a year ago. Keep an eye on DT Alex Polito, who erupted against Wake Forest in the bowl game and continues to perform like a budding star.     

8. Syracuse
-
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 
Predicted record: 3-9  Conf. record: 1-7
Best Offensive Player:
QB Andrew Robinson, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
NT Arthur Jones, Jr.
Offense: New coordinator Mitch Browning was a shrewd offseason hire, but does he have enough to work with, particularly in the trenches?  Although there’s a nice mix of talent at the skill positions, it’ll stay in the garage if the line continues yielding more than 50 sacks a year.  While Browning’s a wiz at coaching up linemen, the group he inherits is nothing like the ones he used to have at Minnesota.   Robinson is back at the controls, hoping to improve on last year’s 13 touchdown passes as a first-year starter.  The 118th-ranked Orange running game desperately needs Carter and Brinkley to return from a serious injury that prematurely ended their 2007 seasons.  
Defense: The Orange D was abysmal in every facet requiring a complete overhaul.  Unfortunately, the talent is suspect and not likely to get much better since allowing 35 points and 468 yards a game.  Opposing offenses moved the ball at will, and now the D will lean more on NT Arthur Jones and rising underclassmen, such as CB Mike Holmes and LB Parker Cantey, to try to change things around.  As if the unit couldn’t get more unsettled, coordinator Steve Russ left for Wake Forest in February leaving Derrick Jackson to share the duties with the head coach.  Somehow, the front seven must generate more pressure after getting to the quarterback just nine times in 2007.