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Rebuilding defenses in the Big East

5/10/2010

On Friday, I took a look at some Big East offenses that were in need of repair and what their prognosis was for recovery. This morning, let's take a look at the other side of the ball and do the same for the league defenses:

In need of repair

1. Syracuse: Though the Orange definitely made strides defensively under first-year coordinator Scott Shafer in '09, they still finished last in the league in points allowed with 27.9 per game. That includes giving up 56 points to Connecticut, 37 to Pitt and 34 each to West Virginia and South Florida.

2. Louisville: The Cardinals were solid at times defensively, but the final numbers left something to be desired: 26.2 points allowed per game, second-to-last in the Big East in total defense and last in rushing defense. They also seemed overmatched against some of the most explosive offenses on their schedule.

3. Cincinnati: The Bearcats had one of the nation's top statistical defenses for the first half of the year, but we all know how things went downhill as the season progressed. Cincinnati ended up last in the conference in total defense (374 yards allowed per game) while surrendering an average of 39.4 points over its final five games.

Fastest road to recovery

1. Syracuse: I think the Orange have a shot at being a pretty good defense this year, if the rest of the league hasn't figured out Shafer's schemes already. Syracuse should have a standout linebacking corps led by Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, plus solid experience and talent in the secondary. If the defensive line holds up its end of the bargain, the defense should come around in 2010.

2. Cincinnati: There are questions again about the defense in Cincinnati, even as the Bearcats switch from Brian Kelly to Butch Jones and back to the 4-3, which may suit the personnel better this year. The defense boasts some frontline players like Derek Wolfe, JK Schaffer and Walter Stewart. Depth remains a concern, however.

3. Louisville: New head coach Charlie Strong is a defensive guy who will do everything he can to get the Cardinals toughened up to stop people. In time, he will build a fearsome defense in Louisville, just as he did in Gainesville and other places he worked. Right now, though, the talent is down, especially up front and in the secondary. The full recovery may take a while.