NCF Nation: Charley Loeb

Transfers to watch in the ACC

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
10:30
AM ET
Freshmen are not the only players with an opportunity to make an immediate impact in the ACC this season. Let's not forget about several transfer players now eligible and ready to make their own mark.

Here is a look at the top eligible transfers in the league with the most potential to turn some heads:

Drew Allen, QB, Syracuse. The Orange actually have three transfers eligible this year -- receiver Quinta Funderburk and defensive tackle John Raymon are the other two. But neither are listed as a starter on the post-spring depth chart. Allen isn't either, but he hasn't yet had an opportunity to show what he can do. Allen will arrive in time for fall practice after deciding to come in from Oklahoma. He has immediate eligibility, and joins the mix to win the starting quarterback job with Terrel Hunt and Charley Loeb his primary competition.

Kellen Jones, LB, Clemson. We all know the Tigers need some help on defense, and they are hoping Jones fits the bill. Jones transferred from Oklahoma and sat out last season because of NCAA rules. During his time at Clemson, Jones has learned all three linebacker spots in order to make himself much more valuable to the team. He is athletic and familiar with coordinator Brent Venables from their time with the Sooners. If he's as good as coaches expect him to be, Clemson's D should be better.

Deon Long, WR, Maryland. The Terps already were expecting an immediate contribution from Long, a junior college transfer who began his career at New Mexico. But you can bet expectations will be even higher now that second-leading receiver Marcus Leak has left the team for personal reasons.

Brandon Mitchell OR Pete Thomas, QBs, NC State. Mitchell is in a similar spot to Allen -- he has immediate eligibility this season for the Wolfpack after transferring in from Arkansas and joins an open quarterback competition. Thomas himself transferred in last year but had to sit out a season because of NCAA rules. In that season, the head coach and offensive style changed, so his pro-style gifts do not necessarily match what Dave Doeren wants to do. Still, Thomas showed some flashes this spring though Doeren is reluctant to give anybody the edge just yet. With Mitchell now joining Thomas and Manny Stocker in the mix, it's anybody's guess who will start the opener.

Pat O'Donnell, P, Miami. Scoff if you must, but O'Donnell is a terrific punter and a workout warrior, and fills a gaping hole on the Hurricanes' roster. Miami may return nearly all its starters on offense and defense, but not on special teams, where the Hurricanes have to replace both punter Dalton Botts and kicker Jake Wieclaw. Getting a punter the caliber of O'Donnell, who transferred from Cincinnati and is immediately eligible, helps ease a big concern.

Matt Patchan, OL, Boston College. The Eagles need major help on the offensive line and could get it in the form of Patchan, who has immediate eligibility after transferring in from Florida. He will be available for fall practice. The only issue to keep in mind is he has been injury prone for his entire career.

Tom Savage, QB, Pitt. It's been a long road back to the football field for Savage, who transferred twice after leaving Rutgers in 2010. Now here he is with one season of eligibility remaining and an opportunity to win the starting job. Though coach Paul Chryst has yet to declare a starter, Savage at least has starting experience. Still, he and Chad Voytik remain in an open competition headed into fall practice. Another Pitt player to watch: Wisconsin transfer tight end Manasseh Garner.
Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald is in his first season with the Orange after spending the past two coaching the receivers at Miami. The former receiver at Illinois also carries the title of associate head coach, the most responsibility he has had in his coaching career. With a new coaching staff, a new quarterback and a new conference, there are plenty of questions facing Syracuse this fall, but McDonald likes what he sees after his first spring. I caught up with him recently to get his take on the Orange. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Everyone wants to know about the quarterbacks, obviously. What was your take on that competition?

George McDonald: I think the competition is ongoing. Terrel Hunt did a very good job of coming in, understanding the system and the ins and outs of what we’re trying to get accomplished. John Kinder and Charley Loeb, they’re still in the mix. Terrel kind of came out of the spring with a little gap, but they’re all competing, just like with the other freshmen coming in this fall.

Are you allowed to talk about the other quarterback who’s coming in?

GM: I’d rather not.

Ok, I’m not trying to get you in trouble. How did your receivers look this spring?

[+] EnlargeJarrod West
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsOffensive coordinator George McDonald said Syracuse is looking for WR Jarrod West to be a key contributor in 2013.
GM: They did good. We lost some really good receivers last year, but I think a lot of young talent, Jeremiah Kobena is a guy who has a lot of speed. Jarrod West is a returning receiver for us who had about 40 catches last year and we’re looking to have a good year. And then Adrian Flemming, he’s a rising senior, had a really good spring. I think they’re all hungry, and they all came out trying to compete, trying to show they’re ready to keep the wide receiver tradition alive here.

What do you guys look like up front?

GM: Good. Those guys, we lost some guys, but Sean Hickey, he had a really good spring, Rob Trudo, Nick Robinson and Ivan Foy, those guys really did a great job of stepping into new roles, and then Macky MacPherson, he’s kind of the glue of the whole unit. He played last year and the last couple of years. He really jelled with the unit and got those guys on the same page rather quickly. I told one reporter I talked to, if you didn’t know we lost two really good linemen, and you saw a live play, you wouldn’t have known the difference because they jelled so well and they worked so well together for the first time.

How much did you change scheme-wise?

GM: Me and [former offensive coordinator] Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett, we kind of worked together at Stanford, so we kind of have the same vision. The scheme is pretty much the same. Obviously when you come in the terminology is the biggest thing the kids have to get used to. The plays and the concept of the plays and the philosophy of the offense is pretty much the same.

Are you where you hoped you guys would be after spring ball?

GM: Actually, I think we’re a little bit farther ahead than I thought we’d be, and that’s based on the foundation in terms of the kids understanding how to come to meetings, and grasp the concepts and actually go out and work and not have bad days. I don’t think we had one day where you walk off the field and didn’t feel like you got better. I think we’re a little bit ahead. Obviously we have to clean some stuff up over the summer and continue to get ready for the fall, but in terms of installation and understanding the base concepts of the offense and what we’re trying to get done, from a run and pass standpoint, I’m pretty pleased with where we’re at.

That’s great. I don’t usually hear that. From the outside looking in, you would think the questions at quarterback are a concern. Are you guys confident there?

GM: Obviously you’re always concerned when you have a first-year starter. Whoever the guy is going to be, they haven’t been the guy in college football. But Terrel Hunt, he’s really done a nice job over the last 15 practices of understanding the system, and obviously we have some guys coming in to add competition to it. But any coach in America who has a first-year quarterback, there’s some apprehension and concern, but we have a lot of confidence in the talent we can surround the quarterback with and Coach Lester, we feel like he’s a really good quarterbacks coach and he’ll get those guys ready to play. I’m on the positive side. Whoever wins the starting quarterback job will be prepared to go out and lead us to success.

What are the main focuses aside from naming a starting quarterback, for this summer?

GM: I think in the summer we just have to become better students of the game. We have to watch the tape and really evaluate -- from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint -- just evaluate what we did and what we accomplished in the spring and just keep building on it. The guys doing seven-on-seven on their own, doing routes on their own, the linemen going through their projections and run drills, and just using the summer as a self-guided spring ball II, so when we come back for fall camp, we can pick up at practice 16 as opposed to starting over at practice 1.
The recent news that Oklahoma quarterback Drew Allen has decided to transfer to Syracuse has further muddled an already-cloudy picture at the position.

No matter what happens in the spring game this weekend, the Orange will go into the offseason with much uncertainty at a position that has had none over the last several years.

[+] EnlargeDrew Allen
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Drew Allen played behind Sam Bradford and Landry Jones at Oklahoma before transferring to Syracuse.
There are simply more questions than answers at this point, especially since Syracuse coach Scott Shafer cannot comment until Allen officially enrolls in school. Allen is not expected in Syracuse until the summer. So where do the Orange stand? Let's take a quick look back.

December: Following the bowl win over West Virginia, it seemed all but certain that Charley Loeb would go into the spring as the No. 1 quarterback, after serving as the backup behind Ryan Nassib.

January: Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett leave for Buffalo. Days later, incoming freshman Zach Allen decommits and ends up at TCU. Allen was supposed to enroll and be eligible for spring ball, and many thought he could be the next great Orange quarterback. Loeb, Terrel Hunt and John Kinder are left to compete for the starting job.

March: New coach Scott Shafer reiterates the quarterback competition is open. Though Loeb has the most experience, Hunt begins to get more reps with the first-team.

April: Allen announces his intentions to play at Syracuse, with immediate eligibility in 2013.

Though it seemed pretty clear the quarterback competition would have remained unsettled without Allen hopping aboard, his presence certainly makes things more interesting come fall practice. The top three questions to ponder before he arrives:

1. Does this mean Allen is the favorite to win the starting quarterback job? Some seem to think so. I think it is too early to assume that, despite the way this move looks. Allen is a high-profile addition, from a high-profile school and was mentored by Sonny Detmer, father of former BYU quarterbacks Ty and Koy Detmer. Major pluses. But ...

2. What has Allen done to draw such assumptions? While at Oklahoma, Allen played behind Sam Bradford and Landry Jones. Really bad timing, sitting behind two pretty terrific quarterbacks. So it is uncertain to say the least what he can do. He has the same number of starts as the quarterbacks currently on the Syracuse roster: zero.

3. How quickly can he learn the offense? Allen will be behind Loeb, Hunt and Kinder, who have already had a spring and will have a majority of the offseason to get much more familiar with the new scheme and playbook. Allen will be asked to learn a lot in a short period of time.

The answers won't be revealed until August.
The Orange has some big shoes to fill this spring in former quarterback Ryan Nassib, and it might take more than one player to fill them. Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said he is not opposed to playing more than one quarterback this fall.

Syracuse starts practices on Tuesday with a wide-open quarterback competition among Charley Loeb, a pro-style player who was Nassib’s backup in 2012, and dual-threat quarterbacks John Kinder and Terrel Hunt. Shafer, who was the Orange’s defensive coordinator for four seasons before he was promoted to head coach this year, said Kinder used to drive his defense nuts as the quarterback for the scout team offense. Loeb didn’t get many reps as Nassib’s backup, but he is a big, strong, intelligent quarterback, Shafer said.

There’s a chance Syracuse fans might get to see all three this fall.

“If that’s one player, great, if that’s two players, great,” Shafer said. “It’s whatever we have to do. In the perfect world we’d love to be a one-system quarterback as the starter, as compared to two or multiple guys playing it, but at the end of the day, we’ll be a win-system quarterback approach, where that position has to be able to win for us. No different than any other position on the team.

“I think we need to be ready to be creative at the quarterback position,” he said. “We want to try to develop each guy and try to find the guy that can do it all, but at the end of the day we have some talented kids that can line up behind the center and do different things. Whether it be a starting quarterback that’s strong at 70-80 percent of the things you want to do, and then you find another kid that can go in and run wildcat situations and maybe there’s a third kid listed at a different position who can go in and do those things. More than anything the goal is to have a win-system quarterback approach.”
Here is one trend to keep an eye on this spring in the ACC.

The potential rise of dual-threat quarterbacks.

Last season, four teams had true dual-threat signal-callers starting -- EJ Manuel at Florida State, Tajh Boyd at Clemson, Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech, and Tevin Washington at Georgia Tech. Depending on how some of the open quarterback competitions go, the ACC could see as many as nine dual-threat starters at the position.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesDual-threat quarterbacks like Clemson's Tajh Boyd are becoming the norm in the ACC.
We already know that Duke is trying to install some option principles with Anthony Boone taking over for pro-style Sean Renfree. Wake Forest has said it wants starter Tanner Price to run more out of designed plays. NC State coach Dave Doeren has succeeded the past two years at Northern Illinois with a dual-threat quarterback. Syracuse and Virginia also have dual-threat quarterbacks competing for the starting job.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe explained his decision to shift philosophy in an interview earlier this month with fellow blogger Heather Dinich.

Cutcliffe said of Boone, "He is the new era of quarterback. Anthony is going to change our run game a good bit. He can prolong plays better. Just watch football, I don’t care what level -- it’s not just the zone read. Ben Roethlisberger is not that kind of guy, but he prolongs plays really well for the Steelers through the years. That’s how a lot of big plays occur. That wasn’t Sean’s strength. It is Anthony’s. Anthony is always dangerous back there. I think that adds a little bit of life to your offense."

Here is a look at the type of quarterback each team has across the ACC.

Boston College: Pro-style with Chase Rettig. The Eagles are sure to feature a running quarterback in the future as coach Steve Addazio prefers dual threats to run his spread offense.

Clemson: Dual threat. Boyd is one of the best in the nation.

Duke: Dual threat with Boone. Changed from pro-style.

Florida State: Dual-threat Jameis Winston will compete for the starting job against pro-style QBs Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker.

Georgia Tech: Triple-option, with Vad Lee taking over.

Maryland: Pro-style, C.J. Brown.

Miami: Pro-style, Stephen Morris.

North Carolina: Pro-style Bryn Renner.

NC State: Dual-threat Manny Stocker competing against pro-style Pete Thomas. Dual-threat Jacoby Brissett also transferred from Florida but has to sit out a year.

Pittsburgh: The only school with an open competition featuring two pro-style quarterbacks: Tom Savage and Chad Voytik.

Syracuse: Pro-style Charley Loeb is competing with dual-threat quarterbacks John Kinder and Terrel Hunt.

Virginia: Pro-style Phillip Sims is competing with dual-threat David Watford and pro-style Greyson Lambert this spring.

Virginia Tech: Dual-threat with Thomas.

Wake Forest: Working toward making Price more dual threat.

ACC's spring position battles

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
2:11
PM ET
There are going to be position battles this spring at every school in the ACC, but some will be in the spotlight more than others. If you’re just tuning in to ACC football, here are some of the biggest competitions in the conference this spring:

OFFENSE

1. Florida State quarterback: This is arguably the most intriguing competition in the entire conference, as the Seminoles have to replace veteran EJ Manuel. Clint Trickett enters the spring at the top of the depth chart, but consider this job open. Sophomore Jacob Coker is the total package, but redshirt freshman Jameis Winston was the nation’s No. 1 quarterback and could be the answer, too.

2. North Carolina running back: The Tar Heels have to find a way to replace leading rusher Giovani Bernard, who left early for the NFL draft. Not only will his loss be felt in the running game, but probably even moreso in the return game, as Bernard was one of the nation’s top punt returners. UNC returns A.J. Blue and Romar Morris, who combined for 819 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.

3. Syracuse quarterback: The Orange enter the ACC with a new coach and in need of a new quarterback. Record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib is gone, leaving behind a wide-open competition. Backup Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder, and dual-threat Terrel Hunt are the top candidates. Ashton Broyld, who moved to running back in 2012, could be in the mix as well.

DEFENSE

1. Florida State defensive ends: The cream of the crop is gone, as Tank Carradine, Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins all have to be replaced. Enter Mario Edwards Jr., who has a leg-up on the competition because he played in 11 games as a true freshman, and started the final two games of the year in place of the injured Carradine. Don’t forget about Giorgio Newberry, though, and Chris Casher, who is now healthy after a knee injury. Casher will start spring ball on the two-deep depth chart. Dan Hicks, who was Jenkins’ backup two years ago, had a knee injury and missed all of last season. He had moved to tight end, but was in the rotation at defensive end earlier in his career and could come back.

2. NC State secondary: This group will have an entirely new look this spring, as three starters have to be replaced, including Earl Wolff, Brandan Bishop and David Amerson, the school’s career interception leader. Cornerback Dontae Johnson returns, along with Juston Burris, who played in the nickel package. There are also several redshirts and younger players who will compete.

3. Virginia Tech cornerback: Virginia Tech’s defensive backfield lost its star last month when cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. Several young players will compete for his reps this spring, including Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes. Highly touted cornerback Kendall Fuller will join the team in the summer.
The ACC’s crop of 2013 quarterbacks will be an interesting blend of old and new. Veterans Logan Thomas and Tajh Boyd both decided to return for their senior seasons instead of leaving early for the NFL draft, but several big names -- like EJ Manuel and Mike Glennon -- will be missing. Here’s a quick rundown of the position heading into the 2013 season:

IN GREAT SHAPE

CLEMSON: Boyd returns. The record-setter should be a Heisman candidate, considering he led the ACC in passing efficiency, was second in passing average/game, and threw for 36 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions.

MIAMI: Stephen Morris returns. Morris should be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, and he might have the best offensive line in the conference to work with. Last season, Morris started all 12 games and threw for a career-best 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 58.2 percent of passes. He set the school single-season total offense record with 3,415 yards.

NORTH CAROLINA: Bryn Renner returns. He was No. 3 in the ACC last season in passing average per game (279.7), and he was No. 3 in passing efficiency. He finished with 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

VIRGINIA TECH: Thomas returns. This was a huge boost to the Hokies’ offense. Thomas has started the past 27 games for the Hokies, passing for 6,096 yards and 37 touchdowns, and running for 1,015 yards and 20 scores.

WAKE FOREST: Tanner Price returns. He threw for 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, and he’ll be helped by the fact that standout receiver Michael Campanaro returns. Price completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 2,300 yards.

IN GOOD SHAPE

VIRGINIA: Phillip Sims returns, but Michael Rocco transferred. Sims is the most likely starter, but how much playing time will David Watford see? While sharing time with Rocco last season, Sims finished with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 1,263 yards.

MARYLAND: C.J. Brown, who tore his ACL before the start of the 2012 season, is the most likely starter. This position can only get better for Maryland in 2013, as the Terps were down to their fifth-string quarterback last season. He started five games in 2011, but this would be his first full season as starter.

BOSTON COLLEGE: Senior Chase Rettig returns. He started all 12 games last season, completed 54.2 percent of his passes, threw for 3,065 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The reason BC isn’t in the “great shape” category is because Rettig will have his 103rd offensive coordinator. The good news is that Ryan Day is a former BC offensive assistant, so it’s not like they just met.

DUKE: Veteran Sean Renfree has to be replaced. Anthony Boone isn't a rookie, but this will be his first season as a full-time starter. Boone has had the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks on the roster, including Renfree. Boone played in 11 games in 2012, completed 51.6 percent of his passes (49 of 95) for 531 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

COMPETITION IS ON

FLORIDA STATE: Manuel must be replaced. Clint Trickett is the leading candidate heading into the spring, and he has the edge in experience, but he will compete with Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston. Trickett started two games in 2011, filling in for the injured Manuel, but this past season he only threw the ball 34 times. Coker played in four games and threw it five times.

GEORGIA TECH: Tevin Washington must be replaced. Vad Lee is the front-runner heading into the spring, but Justin Thomas will give him plenty of competition. Lee didn’t start any games in 2012, but he got plenty of meaningful snaps and ran for 544 yards and nine touchdowns, and threw for 596 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

NC STATE: Glennon must be replaced. This position is a huge question mark for the Pack, especially considering the program has gone through a staff change, with Dave Doeren taking over. Manny Stocker and Pete Thomas are the front-runners heading into spring ball. Stocker threw the ball just twice in 2012 as a true freshman, and Thomas has two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2012 season per NCAA rules because he transferred from Colorado State.

PITT: Panthers fans rejoined when the final seconds ticked off the clock in the BBVA Compass Bowl because they won't have to watch Tino Sunseri play another down. Sunseri did start for three seasons, but this program is looking for a major upgrade at the position. Competition in the spring should focus on transfer Tom Savage, a former Freshman All-American, and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, a four-star recruit from the class of 2012.

SYRACUSE: The Orange have to replace record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib, who just had the best single-season passing year in school history. They thought they had an incoming stud in Zach Allen, but the Texas recruit de-committed after coach Doug Marrone left for Buffalo, and Allen pledged to TCU. That leaves the job wide open in the spring between backup Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder, and dual-threat Terrel Hunt. Ashton Broyld, who moved to running back in 2012, could be in the mix as well.

Thoughts from Syracuse practice

April, 12, 2011
4/12/11
8:56
PM ET
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Some observations after attending Syracuse's 13th practice of the spring on Tuesday (if there are any typos, it's because I spilled Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce on my keyboard):

  • With the spring game on tap Saturday, the Orange did quite a bit of scrimmage work in a somewhat-abbreviated practice. The defense had the upper hand at last weekend's scrimmage and kept that going on Tuesday. The offense did well in some short-yardage work, but the defense dominated in goal-line and two-minute drills. That's notable, given that the offense returns far more starters than its relatively young counterparts on the other side of the ball. Doug Marrone said the offense had "some lingering bad taste" from Saturday's performance.
  • Of course, the offense might have had a better day if Marcus Sales had caught a ball that deflected off his hands on fourth-and-10 from about midfield in the two-minute work. Sales said afterward that he would have caught that in a game. And the best news, at least for the offense, is that he was able to get behind the defense in such an obvious passing situation.
  • Sales looked good the rest of the practice and seems to be carrying over his big Pinstripe Bowl performance. The receivers have a little more depth with him, Alec Lemon and Van Chew, who isn't fully healthy yet. Jarrod West looks like he can be a solid possession receiver. Dorian Graham is fast but still has trouble catching the ball.
  • You don't hear much anymore about a quarterback competition. Ryan Nassib is the obvious starter and showed some nice skill in a couple of play-action bootleg passes to tight end Nick Provo. Nassib probably isn't going to wow you, but he's solid and there's no one really pushing him for playing time right now. Charley Loeb wold be the backup if the season started today.
  • Antwon Bailey showed some nice moves as Syracuse really focused on running the ball during most of the scrimmage portions. He got around the corner a couple of times and flashed good shiftiness between the tackles. I have questioned whether or not the 5-foot-8 Bailey could hold up as an every-down back, but hey, Noel Devine and Dion Lewis have done it in this league. Prince-Tyson Gulley is also coming on. He had maybe the play of the day by the offense when he juked Jeremi Wilkes out of his shoes on a pitch play.
  • True freshman Dyshawn Davis is currently running first-string at linebacker. Coach Dan Conley spent time giving Davis a lot of extra instruction. Syracuse could be awfully young at linebacker with Davis and true sophomore Marquis Spruill in the middle. Senior Dan Vaughan is trying to hold on to a starting job at the other spot and would give the Orange some experience.
  • The other big question mark on defense is at the interior line spots. Cory Boatman (256 pounds) and Jay Bromley (273) were manning that position with the first unit on Tuesday. While they had success against a veteran line, they are still undersized for those spots. Marrone said the defensive tackle position probably would be filled by committee this season.
  • Overall thoughts: The Orange are well-stocked on the offensive line, at defensive end and at safety and will have a veteran quarterback and some potential playmakers at running back. They will need the young guys at linebacker and defensive tackle to really come on, and for the passing game to improve over last year. But it's not unrealistic to consider them a Big East contender in 2011.
Ryan Nassib takes a philosophical view of what spring position battles really mean.

"Spring is when you earn your job, and the fall is when you win," he says. "Nothing really matters until you've got a place at the table at the beginning of the first game."

Nassib learned that lesson firsthand last year. Early on in the spring, he was named Syracuse's starting quarterback even though he was just a redshirt freshman with no experience. After spring ball ended, however, Greg Paulus transferred in from Duke and was named the starter during fall camp. Nassib did nothing to lose the job, really, but Paulus was the veteran, even if he hadn't played football in four years.

But Nassib didn't just ride the pine. He played in 10 games and got plenty of snaps as the Orange began to groom him for the future. He also came in on special packages, sometimes lining up at receiver. Against West Virginia, after Paulus struggled, he completed 7 of 16 passes for 120 yards and two scores.

"I didn't have the typical role of a second-string quarterback," Nassib said. "I got a chance to get in and experience real-life game time. I had some success and some failures. I learned a lot from it."

He completed 52.9 percent of his throws for 422 yards and three touchdowns, plus an interception. Coach Doug Marrone said Nassib learned simply by watching Paulus go about his preparations.

"He was great to look up to," Nassib said. "He was a veteran college athlete. He taught me some great things, not only on the field but in locker room with the team and how to handle yourself."

Nassib entered this spring with the upper hand on the quarterback job, but Marrone hasn't anointed him the starter. Freshman Charley Loeb is pushing him in practice, and highly-regarded recruit Jonny Miller will arrive this summer. Nassib knows that nothing is certain.

But he's in a much better frame of mind this spring than he was this time a year ago.

"I have a better understanding of what college football is and what it takes to compete at this level," he said. "Last spring, I was like a freshman, not knowing much. Now that I've got a whole year under my belt and have experienced a lot of things, I feel a lot more confident out on the field."

Nassib hopes he's on the field as the starter come September. He's not taking anything for granted this time around, though.
Spring football in the Big East kicks off March 16. Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

CINCINNATI
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:

  • Building depth: New coach Butch Jones said this is the biggest key for the spring. The Bearcats have a lot of top-flight players with starting experience back, like Zach Collaros, Armon Binns, Isaiah Pead and JK Schaffer. But there's a lot of youth and inexperience in potential backup roles, especially at positions like offensive line, linebacker and receiver. All slates are clean with the new coaching staff, and the spring will be a time when new names can emerge in key roles.
  • Defensive line retooling: Jones will switch back to the 4-3 after a year in the 3-4 scheme. Both starting defensive ends from last year are gone, but the smallish line was overpowered at times near the end of the season anyway. Derek Wolfe should be a fixture inside, Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills and John Hughes step into more prominent roles. Jones will have to decide whether to make Walter Stewart a defensive end or keep him at outside linebacker. The Bearcats could use a little more strength and bulk up front against the bigger Big East offensive lines.
  • Vidal's arrival: USC transfer Vidal Hazelton is eligible after sitting out last year. He reputedly dominated practices last season, and now he'll get to go full time with the first string. A lot of people will be watching closely to see how he and Collaros connect during the spring. A big year by Hazelton will lessen the loss of star wideout Mardy Gilyard and could keep Cincinnati as the Big East's best offense.
CONNECTICUT
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:

  • Secondary matters: UConn returns a truckload of starters and looks rock solid in most areas. But the defensive backfield will be an area of emphasis starting in the spring. Gone are stalwarts Robert McClain and Robert Vaughn from a secondary that got picked apart much of the season by opposing passing games. Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson showed progress by the end of their redshirt freshmen seasons and should be the starting corners. The Huskies need someone to replace Vaughn at safety and overall better performance from the unit.
  • Frazer vs. Endres: Zach Frazer and Cody Endres have been splitting starts since the second half of the 2008 season at quarterback. Endres took over early last year and played well until he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Frazer picked things up late after a slow start. The competition should be back on this spring, with Frazer probably holding the edge given his late-season improvement.
  • Catch as catch can: Receiver was a major question for UConn going into last spring, when walk-on senior Marcus Easley surprised everybody with his giant leap forward. He became the go-to guy in 2009, but now he's gone, along with starter Brad Kanuch. So the Huskies are basically back in the same position as this time a year ago, needing to find some reliable pass catchers. Kashif Moore may be the next to break out after some good, late-year performances. And perhaps former highly-touted recruit Dwayne Difton will emerge. UConn hopes to catch lightning in a bottle again like it did with Easley.
LOUISVILLE
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:

  • Switching to Strong: The Cardinals will have their first practices under new coach Charlie Strong, who promises to bring a much different style than former coach Steve Kragthorpe. Strong is known as being an intense guy on the field, and as a former top-flight defensive coordinator, he will likely be particularly demanding of players on that side of the ball. There will be new terminology to learn, new assistants and new standards to which the Cardinals must adjust in a hurry.
  • The quarterback shuffle: Louisville had three quarterbacks -- Adam Froman, Justin Burke and Will Stein -- start games last year. All three will be given the chance to win the job in the spring, and mid-year enrollee Luke Woodley might see some snaps as well. Don't be surprised if this competition goes into the fall and if other newcomers like Dominique Brown get a look. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford wants to run a Florida-style spread offense, which might favor the more mobile Froman if he chooses to go with a veteran under center.
  • Line play: The trenches have not been a particularly strong suit for Louisville the past couple of seasons, one of the reasons why the program has fallen out of annual postseason play. The Cardinals have gotten very little pass rush from the defensive line and not enough of a consistent push from the offensive line. Strong asked the offensive linemen to rework their bodies to prepare for the spread, and he'll need replacements for two senior defensive tackles. Junior-college imports Randy Salmon and Tyler Harrell will have a chance to impress on the defensive line. If the holdovers don't step up, we could see more newcomers in key spots by the summer.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The on-again, off-again career of David Legree at Syracuse is off. Again.

Two days after Ryan Nassib was named the starting quarterback and Legree was slotted as the No. 3 signalcaller, Legree didn't show up for practice Wednesday night, Donnie Webb reports for the Syracuse Post-Standard. Head coach Doug Marrone said Legree, a sophomore who briefly left the team last year, is no longer part of the program.

Because backup quarterbacks Andrew Robinson and Cody Catalina have been moved to tight end, Syracuse now has just two quarterbacks in Nassib and backup Cam Dantley. Marrone told Webb he has no plans to switch either Robinson or Catalina back to quarterback.

The Orange do have a quarterback coming in this summer, when freshman Charley Loeb arrivs on campus. But right now, they're awfully thin under center should any more attrition strike.

SPONSORED HEADLINES