NCF Nation: Claude Davis

Final: USF 37, Ball State 7

September, 10, 2011
No. 22 USF breezed to a 37-7 win over Ball State, showing no signs of a letdown after an emotional week.

The Bulls came into the game off a big win at Notre Dame, but also mourning the loss of Lee Roy Selmon. Tributes to him were all over the place during the game, with his No. 63 on the field and on helmets. But USF was on from the start -- and has now outscored opponents 46-0 in the first half this season.

The Bulls ended up with 519 yards of total offense and a school-record 33 first downs. B.J. Daniels only played a few series in the second half before giving way to Bobby Eveld. Daniels finished with 359 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray each had one touchdown on the ground.

Ball State came into the game after an upset win over Indiana. The Cardinals run a high-tempo spread offense, but the USF defense stymied them. Ball State had 218 total yards and scored its lone touchdown in the fourth quarter with the USF backups in the game. Claude Davis had a huge game as well, with a forced fumble and sack.

Spring football in the Big East kicks off March 16. Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

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.
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.
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)

If the 2009 Big East season taught us anything, it was that newcomers can have a big impact.

From offensive player of the year Dion Lewis to Tom Savage and Mohamed Sanu to Jason Pierre-Paul to Greg Paulus, new faces were having an impact all over the league. So which newcomers to the Big East should we be keeping an eye on this spring? Here are a few candidates:

  • Vidal Hazelton, WR, Cincinnati: The USC transfer becomes eligible this season and could become an immediate star. He's got size, at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, and wowed onlookers at practice last year. Hazelton could help make sure the Bearcats don't miss a beat on offense this season without Mardy Gilyard.
  • Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia: The Mountaineers need some depth up front defensively, and Clarke should be able to help out after a redshirt year. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Pittsburgh native can use this spring to push for playing time at defensive end before highly regarded junior college transfer Bruce Irvin arrives this summer.
  • Darrell Givens, CB, Rutgers: Givens was an ESPNU 150 recruit who came to Rutgers after not being admitted to Penn State last year. He spent the 2009 season redshirting as the Scarlet Knights had Devin McCourty. Now may be Givens' time to shine with both McCourty and Billy Anderson gone. Also keep an eye on Logan Ryan, a fellow redshirt freshman corner who was neck and neck with Givens in practice sessions last year.
  • Claude Davis, DE, South Florida: The next Pierre-Paul? OK, that's expecting too much of anyone. But like the Bulls' one-year wonder, Davis was a junior college standout with excellent measurables (6-foot-4, 250 pounds). Unlike his predecessor, Davis enrolled in January and will get a full spring under his belt before entering major college football. And with Pierre-Paul and George Selvie both off to the NFL, there is ample playing time available.
  • Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh: Street wasn't one of Pitt's more heralded recruits from the class of 2009, but he won rave reviews last season as a member of the scout team. This spring provides an opportunity for the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder to show he's ready to become an option behind Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan in the Pitt passing game.