When it comes to listing the top up-and-coming coaches in the Big East, it is hard to overlook two at the top -- Charlie Strong at Louisville and Butch Jones at Cincinnati.
But there are some young assistants in the league with potential. Here is who I am keeping an eye on in 2012:
Brooks Bollinger, Pitt: Bollinger is going into his first season with the Panthers, coming to the team from the high school coaching ranks. While there is much that is yet to be known about him, this is a huge year for Bollinger. He gets to work with Tino Sunseri, the most maligned quarterback in the Big East. If Bollinger can get Sunseri to improve, he deserves major credit in Year 1.
Ryan Day, Temple: Day has his first opportunity as an offensive coordinator after spending the past five seasons coaching receivers at Boston College. At the age of 33, Day is the second-youngest offensive coordinator in the Big East, beat out by Syracuse coordinator Nathaniel Hackett by nine months. This season is a great chance for Day to show what he can do with the move into the Big East.
Nathaniel Hackett, Syracuse: Speaking of Hackett, this also is a huge year for the Syracuse offense and Hackett in particular. One of the biggest knocks against the Orange offense has been its inability to make big, explosive plays. Coach Doug Marrone has promised that is going to change this season. And that falls squarely on Hackett's shoulders.
Clint Hurtt, Louisville: I am curious about Hurtt, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals. He continues to be one of the top recruiters in the Big East, but there is a big asterisk next to his name because we have no idea about his role in the scandal at Miami during his tenure there. The NCAA has yet to finish its investigation, but Hurtt was implicated by rogue Miami booster Nevin Shapiro in a Yahoo! Sports report. If the allegations are proven to be false, Hurtt's star will continue to rise. If the report is corroborated, he is in big trouble.
Jerome Pathon, USF: He begins Year 1 with the Bulls after spending the past three seasons working with the receivers at the University of San Diego. Pathon played in the NFL and got coaching experience with internships in the NFL, so he should be ready to take the step up. USF has an immense wealth of talent and potential at the receiver position but has fallen short of capitalizing on what it has, so this is a critical season.