Pre-spring checkup: Kickers
It's easy to overlook place-kickers -- until your team needs a 40-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. There were a lot of talented kickers in the Big East last season, but three big names -- Pat McAfee, Conor Lee and Pat Shadle -- have moved on. Here's how each Big East team feels about its kicking situation going into spring drills:
• Cincinnati: Jake Rogers lost his job early on in 2008, but then rebounded to become one of the more dependable kickers in the league. He had a few misses again late, but he goes into spring with a lock on the job.
• Connecticut: Dave Teggart gave the Huskies a big upgrade when he supplanted Tony Ciarivino midseason. He went on to make 13 out of 15 field goal attempts and was a perfect 11-for-11 inside of 40 yards. He's got a big leg and a lot of confidence.
• Rutgers: San San Te proved to be fairly reliable his freshman season while making 12 of 17 attempts, and he should only get better with that experience under his belt.• South Florida: Maikon Bonani drilled the game-winner against Kansas in his first time kicking in a college game, and he was pretty good the rest of the way, making 15 of 21 tries. He needs to be a little more accurate outside of 40 yards, where he was only 3-of-8, but he's already proved that he can make clutch kicks.
• Louisville: The Cardinals' kicking game was dreadful last year and forced Steve Kragthorpe to go for it on fourth down often inside the opponents' 40. Three different kickers combined to miss six of 11 attempts, and the team's longest field goal all year was just 36 yards. Not good.
• Pittsburgh: Lee was such a steady weapon for the Panthers, and kicking into the swirling winds and off the sometimes torn-up turf at Heinz Field can be tricky. Kevin Harper was one of the top kicking recruits last year out of Ohio and has a stronger leg than Lee, who was incredibly accurate but not a long-distance threat. But Harper, who made a 61-yarder in high school, remains unproven at the college level.
• Syracuse: Shadle was one of the bright spots during the Orange's struggles the past few years. Austin Wallis and John Barker, who's back on the roster after a suspension, are a couple of names to remember in what figures to be an open competition.
• West Virginia: McAfee's value to the team won't easily be replaced, as he expertly handled kickoffs, field goals and punting duties for the Mountaineers. The search for his successor begins this spring.