Returning starters in the Big East

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
1:30
PM ET
When it comes time to making preseason predictions, some prognosticators look at returning starters as an indicator of how well a team will do. They are not always right (see: Louisville), but it is generally hard to go wrong with a team that has a seasoned roster.

College football guru Phil Steele has broken down the returning starters for every school in the nation. So how do the Big East teams stack up?

1. USF (18 total)
  • Offense: 8 (Quarterback returning)
  • Defense: 8
  • Special teams: 2
  • National rank: T-8
2. UConn (17 total)
  • Offense: 7 (Quarterback returning *)
  • Defense: 9
  • Special teams: 1
  • National rank: T-20
3. West Virginia (16 total)
  • Offense: 8 (Quarterback returning)
  • Defense: 6
  • Special teams: 2
  • National rank: T-29
4. Pitt (15 total)
  • Offense: 8 (Quarterback returning)
  • Defense: 5
  • Special teams: 2
  • National rank: T-44
4. Rutgers (15 total)
  • Offense: 6 (Quarterback returning)
  • Defense: 8
  • Special teams: 1
  • National rank: T-44
6. Louisville (14 total)
  • Offense: 7 (Quarterback returning)
  • Defense: 7
  • Special teams: 0
  • National rank: T-64
6. Syracuse (14 total)
  • Offense: 6 (Quarterback returning)
  • Defense: 6
  • Special teams: 2
  • National rank: T-64
8. Cincinnati (12 total)
  • Offense: 4
  • Defense: 6
  • Special teams: 2
  • National rank: T-96
A few thoughts:
  • I am not sure how Steele tabulates who counts as a returning starter. For example, I count nine returning starters for the Cardinals on defense based on their depth chart at the end of the season. Steele might be counting Greg Scruggs and Shenard Holton as starters that are gone. But Scruggs only started five games, and Calvin Pryor started the final seven games at safety.
  • One more thought on Louisville -- many are high on the Cardinals, which is understandable. But it shouldn't be overlooked that they have to replace kicker and punter Chris Philpott. They are the only team in the league that will have a new kicker and punter in 2012.
  • UConn should be much better given all the returning players. But I put an asterisk next to returning quarterback because the chances that Johnny McEntee starts the season under center are slim to none. Plus, the Huskies have to replace their two best players on an already inconsistent offensive line.
  • I also count seven returning starters on defense for Cincinnati. Steele may have been counting Dominique Battle -- though Battle will be back this season. Still, you can see why the Bearcats are not being given much of a shot to win the Big East, having the fewest returning offensive starters in the league. At least the new quarterback will have some starting experience.
  • USF returns a boatload of players, so maybe the Bulls should be considered as favorites, right? I am going to have to see a lot more out of this team before I jump onto that ship again.
  • At least five teams should return their starting quarterbacks. Up in the air --UConn, Pitt and Rutgers (depending on the Tom Savage situation).

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