NCF Nation: Danny Milligan
2. USF. The Bulls also have an excellent kicker-returner duo in Maikon Bonani and Lindsey Lamar. Bonani made 17 of 21 kicks last year, while Lamar was the first-team All-Big East selection, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaging 26 yards per return. Add in punt returner Terrence Mitchell and this is one of the best units in the league.
3. Louisville. The Cardinals have one of the best in the league in Chris Philpott, who punts and kicks. Josh Bleser is solid in splitting the punting duties with Philpott. Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright are back as kickoff returners -- both averaged 30-plus yards per return last season. Wright's kick return helped the Cardinals win the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl last year. Doug Beaumont is gone as punt returner, but he is the only loss. This unit has a chance to be No. 1 at year's end.
4. Syracuse. The Orange have one of the best kickers in the league in Ross Krautman, who missed just one of his 19 field goal attempts last season. They do lose their top punt returner in Mike Holmes, along with punter Rob Long so there are questions at some of the most important spots on special teams. But Krautman, and the return of Dorian Graham and Prince-Tyson Gulley returning kicks puts this unit just ahead of the Bearcats.
5. Cincinnati. This is a mixed bag for the Bearcats. They have the best punter in the league in Pat O'Donnell, who also happens to be a physical freak in the weight room. They should be decent in the return game with the return of D.J. Woods, who will compete with Anthony McClung, Shaq Washington and Kenbrell Thompkins to return kicks and punts. Darrin Williams is in the mix for kickoff returner, too. But kicker is a huge question mark. Jacob Rogers was solid last season. Now there is uncertainty in the competition between Tony Miliano and Danny Milligan. Coach Butch Jones says he won't name a starter until game week.
6. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights also have question marks here. Kicker San San Te returns, but he needs to be better from longer distances (2-of-7 from 40-plus yards). Punter Teddy Dellaganna is gone and so is kickoff returner Joe Lefeged. True freshman Anthony DiPaula enrolled early and takes over at punter. Mason Robinson is back at punt returner, and Jeremy Deering and Mark Harrison make a good combo returning kicks.
7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers need more consistency from kicker Tyler Bitancurt, who missed his final four kicks of last season. He made just 10 of 17 attempts and looked shaky in the spring. West Virginia has a new holder and a new punter in Corey Smith, and hopes for improvement in the return game.
8. Pittsburgh. The Panthers have to replace both kicking specialists, including Big East first-team punter Dan Hutchins. At punter, you have walk-ons Matt Yoklic and Drake Greer, neither of whom has punted in a collegiate game. Kevin Harper takes over as kicker and had a good spring game. The Panthers also replace their long-snapper, so there will be a period of adjustment for this unit when the season starts. Cameron Saddler is a bright spot at returner.
Some players we knew about before the spring and were anxious to watch perform. And then there are guys who were way off the radar but made us pay attention. Here are five guys in the Big East who came from out of nowhere and made it somewhere:
• Evan Landi, South Florida: B.J. Daniels got most of the hype as Matt Grothe's understudy at quarterback. Heck, Jim Leavitt wasn't even sure he wanted Landi two years ago on the recruiting trail. But given a chance to shine this spring, Landi wowed everyone with his work at quarterback and receiver, forcing his way into some fall playing time somewhere.
• Danny Milligan, Cincinnati: How's this for a spring game stat line: Milligan caught three passes for 83 yards and a touchdown -- and kicked three field goals. You don't see that every day. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound redshirt freshman doesn't look like a prototypical football player, but he finds ways to get things done.
• Collin McCafferty, Cincinnati: The Bearcats get two players on this list because they have so many new faces and because they've done such a good job developing lesser-known talent. McCafferty, a redshirt junior linebacker, had a nice spring and worked his way into the mix for the fall.
• Marcus Easley, Connecticut: Easley made four starts last year but remained a mostly unknown walk-on receiver. That changed when he made 10 catches for 169 yards in the Huskies' spring game. Was that a one-day wonder? Coach Randy Edsall said Easley made a lot of progress this spring, and the senior will be on scholarship this fall.
• Jeff Braun, West Virginia: The redshirt freshman played defensive line late into his high school career but appears to have won the job at left guard for the Mountaineers after entering the spring as a backup.