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Big East Spring College Football Practice Update

College football players started reporting for spring practices over the past few weeks, meaning it’s time to take a look at the programs and see what we can expect in the fall. Let’s start by taking a look at the teams in the Big East and then be sure to take a look at our 2010 NCAA football preview. See something you like or dislike in the Big East spring update? Be sure to discuss it on one of the many great Big East forums listed in our NCAA message board directory.

 

Cincinnati

  • New coach Butch Jones spent much of the spring installing a new 3-4 defense and changing positions around to fit the scheme. One concern is that nose tackle Derek Wolfe doesn’t have a solid backup and it isn’t easy to find huge bodies to man the point of a 3 man line.

  • Center Evan Davis appeared to lock down the starting spot after a strong spring camp. Finding a solid option to call the O-Line’s signals should help calm Jones’ nerves in his first year in the Queen City.

  • Receiver should be a real strength for the Bearcats this season as USC transfer Vidal Hazelton and JUCO product Kenbrell Tompkins join proven options D.J. Woods and Armon Binns. Expect starting QB Zach Collaros to have plenty of open pass catchers this season in what should continue to be an explosive Cincy attack.

Connecticut

  • While the Huskies have 16 returning starters, one position that looked extremely thin was wide receiver, where they had to replace their top two options from 2009. However, Kashiff Moore headlined an emerging group that might be an improvement over last year’s and Moore could be in for a breakout campaign.

  • UConn has to be concerned about their secondary, which much like wide receiver on the other side of the ball is the defense’s only pressing concern. While having Blidi Wreh-Wilson at full healthy after recovering from shoulder surgery in the fall should help, the Huskies still don’t have answers, especially at safety next to returning starter Jerome Junior.

  • A major factor for the Huskies to compete for the Big East title will be the health of defensive ends Jesse Joseph and Greg Lloyd, both of whom missed parts of the spring. Lloyd and Joseph will add much needed size and allow speedy Marcus Campbell to concentrate on pass rushing. Campbell isn’t big enough to constantly hold up against the run so Joseph and Lloyd’s health will be critical.

Louisville

  • Cardinal fans will have to wait a while for a starting quarterback to be named, as seniors Adam Froman and Justin Burke battled to a stalemate throughout the spring. It appears that new Head Coach Charlie Strong will have to wait until the fall to pick a signal caller and the position might get even more muddled then with the arrival of highly touted freshman Dominique Brown.

  • The biggest concern coming out of camp was the defensive line, which is woefully undersized to play in a BCS conference. Strong has very good recruiting ties to the South and should be able to bring in plenty of big bodies in the next few years. However, the outlook is dire for the 2010 season and Louisville is going to be susceptible to the run.

  • After a particularly miserable season in the kicking game, Louisville appears to finally have found a strong kicker. Chris Philpott impressed throughout the spring and performed particularly well in the team’s live kick drills. Philpott’s abilities in the clutch could be enough to make the difference in close games this fall.

 

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Pittsburgh

  • After serving as Bill Stull’s backup for the past two seasons, most casual fans assumed that junior Pat Bostick would take over this fall now that Stull has graduated. However, that won’t be the case as sophomore Tino Sunseri clearly earned the nod under center. The son of former great Sal Sunseri, expect the sophomore to use his mobility to lead a Pitt team that could be favored to win the Big East in 2010.

  • One big issue for Sunseri could be the play of his offensive line, which has a lot of work to do at the guard and center positions. Expect Head Coach Dave Wannstedt to continue trying different line combinations in the fall to get the best blockers in front of his young quarterback.

  • Junior Antwuan Reed was universally praised for his strong play throughout the spring at cornerback. Reed appears to have made the most of his opportunity to seize a starting position and should see a lot of action this fall at a position that was a big concern entering spring ball.

Rutgers

  • The Scarlet Knights got a definitive answer at receiver this spring as sophomore Tim Wright and redshirt freshman Quron Pratt emerged to become two of QB Tom Savage’s favorite targets. Along with electric Mohammad Sanu, these two could form the core of one of the Big East’s best groups of receivers.

  • The biggest question is whether the O-Line will be able to give Savage time to hit those receivers. Rutgers lost two starters to graduation and projected starters Howard Barbieri and Desmond Wynn missed significant time this spring. Head Coach Greg Schiano has to consider protected Savage his number one priority heading into fall camp.

  • The only good news to emerge on the line was the play of junior Desmond Stapleton at left tackle. He seemed ready for the opportunity to try to fill the void left by 1st round NFL selection Anthony Davis and was repeatedly singled out for his solid play. Stapleton will start for the Scarlet Knights this fall.

South Florida

  • Senior receiver A.J. Love, who accounted for 489 yards and 4 TDs in 2009, will miss the 2010 season after tearing his ACL in the Spring Game. This is a tough break for the Bulls because Love appeared to be on the verge of a breakout senior year.

  • With Love’s injury senior Dontavia Bogan will be relied upon to pick up the slack. He appeared more than capable in the Spring Game, catching 9 passes for 228 yards to steal the show. Now USF needs to find a complimentary option to their potential #1 pass catcher to keep their offense versatile.

  • The Bulls were hoping to find replacements for the Big East’s best pass-rushing tandem after graduating George Selvie and losing Jason Pierre-Paul to the draft. However, new coach Skip Holtz had to be disappointed that no one really stepped up in their absence. While both players were going to be tough to replace in any case, it appears that both positions are still wide open going into fall camp.

 



Syracuse

  • Junior Ryan Nassib holds a small edge over freshman Charley Loeb in the battle to succeed Chris Paulus at quarterback. Nassib took to the new offense, which moves away from the spread attack towards a more pro-style offense, but Loeb was very impressive in the Spring Game. Expect Head Coach Doug Marrone to wait until the last moment in the fall to pick between the two. It’s that close of a race.

  • Senior Delone Carter also put undue pressure on both players with his off-field misdeeds late in April. Carter, who was expected to start at tailback, was arrested and suspended from the team and won’t be allowed to participate in summer training. That’s a big blow because he was one of only four starters back on offense, making this group even more inexperienced that expected.

  • Leading tackler Derrell Smith was banged up during the spring but he is expected to be healthy in the fall. He should pair with fellow linebacker Doug Hogue to give ‘Cuse a newfound aggressiveness on defense. Expect the Orange to have more bite this fall.

West Virginia

  • Quarterback was a particularly interesting battle in the spring for WVU fans. In spite of the repeated statements that sophomore Geno Smith will be the starter, fellow sophomore Coley White stole the show throughout practices. That’s right, Coley WHITE, former superstar QB Pat White’s little brother. Smith is going to have the most pressure to succeed of any starter in the league because you know Mountaineer fans will want to see the younger White perform if Smith falters.

  • Diminutive Noel Devine might not have to tote the rock every down in 2010 after surprising many observers with is durability last fall. Expect Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke to be able to spell him at times and keep him healthy. If he can avoid being too banged up, he could easily be the most dangerous player in the entire conference with the ball in his hands.

  • With 18 returning starters, WVU is one of the most experienced teams in the entire country. With so few spots open, the Mountaineers spent most of the spring working hard to improve their depth and have their team as healthy as possible. Expect WVU to be ready to roar out of the gate this fall.

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By Matt Baxendell
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 

 


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