Big East internal affairs

September, 3, 2008
9/03/08
1:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Each Wednesday, we'll dig deep inside the Big East to get you the scoop on depth chart movement, injuries and other important information that will prepare you for the weekend.

West Virginia: With Reed Williams' status still up in the air, the Mountaineers needed someone to step up at linebacker. It looks like J.T. Thomas could be that guy. The sophomore outside linebacker was credited with a pair of sacks and a tackle for loss against Villanova in his first start.

"He's lightning fast, and he'll probably be the next great one here at linebacker," coach Bill Stewart said. "He has a chance -- now, just a chance -- to be a real household name, not only in West Virginia but throughout this part of country, because of his speed."

Cincinnati: DeAngelo Smith tied for the national lead with eight interceptions last season at cornerback. So why would coach Brian Kelly move the senior to safety? Because the Bearcats want to find a place for Brandon Underwood, a cornerback who transferred from Ohio State. The Eastern Kentucky game didn't provide much of a gauge for Smith's switch, but this weekend at Oklahoma sure should.

"He's still learning the position," Kelly said, "but he makes up for it with such a great knack and a savvy for going and getting the football."

Pittsburgh: Jonathan Baldwin's time might be now at Pittsburgh. The Panthers badly need an infusion of playmakers on offense, so look for the 6-foot-5 true freshman wide receiver to become more heavily involved, perhaps as early as this weekend against Buffalo. Baldwin did not have a catch in the loss to Bowling Green.

Connecticut: Andre Dixon, last year's leading rusher for the Huskies, missed the opener with a bum ankle. But Dixon has been practicing this week and looks good to come back for Saturday's game at Temple. Donald Brown benefitted most from Dixon's absence, rushing for four touchdowns in the first half last week. Look for the two backs to split carries now, with Brown still getting the bulk of the workload.

Syracuse: Greg Robinson has three tailbacks capable of starting -- Curtis Brinkley, Delone Carter and Doug Hogue. Brinkley got the start because of seniority against Northwestern and earned 49 yards on nine carries. Carter had 45 yards on six attempts, while Hogue amassed 23 yards on six carries. Robinson said it will be a game-time decision on who starts this week against Akron, and all three likely will continue to split time.

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