Big East teams will be chasing Louisville
One constant in the Big East remained throughout the spring: Louisville looks as good as advertised, as the majority of its starters and nearly every member of its coaching staff return.
Well, they are just trying to catch up. Some teams have more answers than others now that the spring is behind them and the offseason is ahead.
First, those with a little more clarity. Start with Rutgers, which had to get adjusted to new coordinators on offense and defense, in addition to replacing its major playmakers on defense. Perhaps Ron Prince is the coach Gary Nova needed all his life. By all accounts, Nova looked like a new quarterback this spring, slimming down and growing up as he goes into his second season as the full-time starter.Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder joining Jamal Merrell as starting linebackers, and converted back/receiver Jeremy Deering showing major promise at safety.
Down the road at Temple, the Owls appear to have a new starting quarterback and new H-back as they transition into a more pro-style set. Connor Reilly had a huge spring, and his rise from No. 3 on the depth chart a season ago was one of the most surprising stories across the league. The guy he replaces, Chris Coyer, had a great spring at H-back and seems set there.
Over at SMU, the Mustangs got everything they expected out of junior college transfer Traylon Shead and Prescott Line. They are both tasked with replacing Zach Line in the backfield. SMU also made some big national headlines when it hired Hal Mumme, giving the Mustangs two men credited with many of the offensive innovations we have seen over the past two decades both in college and pro football.
UCF may have received the most clarity of all: The Knights had their postseason ban overturned, making them eligible for a bowl game in 2013. This is a major achievement considering how rare it is for a team to win an appeal with the NCAA. Add in Year 1 in a new conference, and the Knights have a BCS berth to play for this fall.
Now, for those still searching for some answers:
USF turned in an offensive clunker in its spring game, with no running back averaging more than 3 yards per carry and no quarterback emerging as the starter. Does Willie Taggart have the personnel needed to run the smashmouth style he wants in Year 1?
Cincinnati also had to get used to a new coach and coordinators but still has some uncertainty at quarterback. Though coach Tommy Tuberville says Brendon Kay has a slight edge, he is keeping the competition between Kay and Munchie Legaux open this offseason.
Houston closed spring ball with quarterback David Piland atop the depth chart, but that doesn't mean he is guaranteed the starting job. Junior college transfer Billy Cosh and freshmen John O'Korn and Greg Ward arrive this summer, and they will be in the mix to push Piland for the starting job.
Louisville, of course, has no such quarterback concerns, as Teddy Bridgewater is back. He and his Cardinals will deal with expectations this program has not had since perhaps 2007. That season, Louisville began the year ranked No. 10 in the preseason AP poll.
It's a good bet that Louisville will be a top-10 team when the preseason begins again. Bridgewater did nothing to change that this spring, going 16 of 20 for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. He's already in midseason form.
That's good news for the Cardinals. And bad for everybody else's hopes this season.