Backup quarterback situations in the Big East

October, 2, 2009
10/02/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


Backup quarterbacks are not just the most popular guy on campus -- sometimes they're the most important. Just ask South Florida and UConn, who have each had to go to their No. 2 signal-callers this season already; neither team has lost since the backup has taken over. And in the most famous recent example in the Big East, Tony Pike stepped in for an injured Dustin Grutza last year. The rest, as they say, is history.

So let's take a look at how each team's backup quarterback situation stands right now, with a series of three categories:

Ready to roll

Cincinnati: The Bearcats went through a full deck of quarterbacks last year, and though Pike might be the best player in the league, at least Brian Kelly knows he has replacements at the ready. Zach Collaros would probably get the first call if something happened to Pike, but Chazz Anderson won games under center last year as well.

Pittsburgh: Though Tino Sunseri has barely played, he was in a heated three-way competition throughout the preseason to replace Bill Stull. And if Sunseri wasn't the answer, Pitt could call upon junior Pat Bostick, whose last two starts were wins at West Virginia and at Notre Dame.

Rutgers: Dom Natale was the starter on Labor Day but lost that status by halftime to rookie phenom Tom Savage. Natale stepped in for Savage last week at Maryland and may have to do so again as Savage overcomes a concussion. Natale is a fifth-year senior, but he's merely a game manager at this point; he was just 4-of-12 for 42 yards against Maryland.

Has the hype

South Florida: B.J. Daniels may turn out to be the story of the season in the Big East. As everybody knows by now, the redshirt freshman took over for conference all-time yardage leader Matt Grothe and promptly delivered a victory at Florida State. What if Daniels, who runs the ball a lot, gets banged up? The Bulls would turn to another redshirt frosh: Evan Landi. Jim Leavitt touted Landi just as highly as Daniels all spring and summer. Landi, who has gotten in at receiver this season, would have to prove Leavitt right a second time.

West Virginia: True freshman Geno Smith was one of the Mountaineers' prized recruits of the offseason, and he saw time late at Auburn when Jarrett Brown suffered a bruised shoulder. Smith has worlds of talent, but he's very raw.

Who knows?

Connecticut: Cody Endres has filled in superbly for the injured Zach Frazer and may hold onto the job. If Endres got hurt now, though, the Huskies would have to turn to freshman Mike Box. UConn coaches love his talent, and he might be the future of the program. But right now, he's completely green.

Louisville: Adam Froman might have won the starting job if he hadn't gotten hurt in training camp. Now he's backing up Justin Burke -- and seeing time as a blocker on kicking teams. The junior-college transfer drew praise for his offseason leadership, but he's an unproven commodity at this level.

Syracuse: Ryan Nassib was the designated starter this spring -- until Greg Paulus decided to return to the sport. Nassib has gotten in a few snaps this year and looked pretty sharp, but he's still a redshirt freshman who hasn't been in many pressurized situations.

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