Monday, February 28, 2011
Five biggest Big East spring questions
By Brian Bennett
We're talking about practice.
Specifically spring practice, which opens in the Big East on Thursday when South Florida takes the field. Syracuse will follow suit next week, and all eight league teams will be practicing before March is over. This month, I previewed the spring for every team. Colleague Mark Schlabach has offered his biggest national spring storylines. Here are what I think are the five biggest questions as a whole this spring in the Big East:
Dana Holgorsen takes over West Virginia's offense after a successful run at Oklahoma State.
1. How quickly can Pitt and West Virginia pick up their new offenses?: Dana Holgorsen might hold the key to the entire Big East 2011 race in his playbook in Morgantown. Meanwhile up I-79, Todd Graham will bring a wide open no-huddle attack to Pittsburgh. Both Holgorsen and Graham have overseen some of the most productive offenses in the nation at their previous coaching stops. How quickly can they install their systems at their new jobs?
2. How different will Connecticut be?: The defending Big East champion and league BCS representatives has most of the coaching staff back except for at the top, where Paul Pasqualoni takes over with two new coordinators. Will the Huskies look like the old Syracuse teams that Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone ran? How much did Pasqualoni pick up as an NFL assistant? Who will be the offensive stalwarts with new leaders needed at quarterback and running back?
3. Is South Florida ready for prime time?: The Bulls closed 2010 strong and are drawing some buzz for Year 2 under Skip Holtz. For them to fulfill the promise, they'll need a lot better offensive consistency, starting with quarterback B.J. Daniels. Can transfers Darrell Scott and Dontae Aycock beef up the running game? Is the wideout position in better shape with more experience, or does it still lack go-to guys?
4. What now, Syracuse and Louisville?: The Orange and the Cardinals were two of the feel-good stories of 2010, escaping the league basement and going on to win bowl games. Both relied on a large amount of seniors last season, though, raising questions about how they will follow up their breakthroughs. For Syracuse, who steps up at linebacker, running back and wide receiver? Can freshman Teddy Bridgewater jump right in this spring at quarterback, and can a rebuilt offensive line repeat last year's success, especially without Bilal Powell running the ball?
5. Can Rutgers and Cincinnati bounce back?: Both the Scarlet Knights and Bearcats finished 4-8 last year in very disappointing seasons. Rutgers has a new offensive coordinator in Frank Cignetti Jr. and is getting back to its pro-style ways. The biggest question is, can the offensive line come together and play better than it has the past two years? Cincinnati brings back its entire coaching staff and all of its defensive starters from a year ago, plus the nucleus of the offense. Can the Bearcats improve on defense, cut down on turnovers and find more leadership within the program?
These questions and more will begin to be answered in March.