NCF Nation: Evan Davis

Now by popular demand, we begin ranking the positions across the Big East. I know I am a little late to the party on this one, but better late than never, right? I asked on Twitter for suggestions on which position to start with today. There was no consensus. But I did like one suggestion: to work our way up from the line.

So first up is the offensive line. To make these rankings, I considered returning starters, accolades for returning starters, position switches and depth. The truth is, this is not an area of strength for the league as a whole. Most teams have depth concerns and questions at one or more positions.

[+] EnlargeJustin Pugh
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Justin Pugh earned all-conference honors last season as a freshman.
1. Syracuse. The Orange have four returning starters, including two seniors. You have Justin Pugh, who made second-team All-Big East last year as a freshman. You have a more mature and experienced unit than the one last year, which had to replace four starters. There also is depth to have a nice eight-man rotation. The concern is at center, where Macky MacPherson is undersized. Actually, when you look at the entire group, it is undersized. Andrew Tiller is the only one who tips the scales at more than 300 pounds.

2. West Virginia. The offensive line was an area of strength under Rich Rodriguez, but has struggled the past few years. It was hard to get a gauge on this unit in the spring, with both starting tackles Jeff Braun and Don Barclay out because of injuries. Starting guard Josh Jenkins also got hurt and is still not 100 percent. But the potential is there for this group to be significantly improved.

3. UConn. The strength of this unit is at tackle and center, where the Huskies return first-team All-Big East selection Mike Ryan (20 career starts) and Adam Masters (18 career starts). Moe Petrus, a second-team all-conference pick, has 39 career starts. Their experience should help along the guards -- nobody on the roster has started a game at the position. The good news is that Gary Bardzak does have starting experience, but it came at center.

4. Pittsburgh. The Panthers made so many position shifts during the spring that it is hard tell how this unit is going to shape up come fall. Chris Jacobson moving to center was one of the biggest moves, and Pittsburgh hopes it pays off with more stability there. Jacobson and starting tackles Jordan Gibbs and Lucas Nix have a combined 49 career starts, but Pitt has to make up for losing first-team Big East selection Jason Pinkston.

5. USF. The Bulls are going to be young on the offensive line this season after losing first-team All-Big East center Sampson Genus, along with tackles Jamar Bass and Jake Sims (second team All-Big East). Chaz Hine and Jeremiah Warren are a solid tandem at guard, and Mark Popek at left tackle and Kevin McCaskill at center do have playing experience. But at right tackle, USF plans to go with redshirt freshman Quinterrius Eatmon. He does have loads of potential, but there will be a learning curve. Depth also is an issue, and the Bulls could have true freshmen in the rotation.

6. Cincinnati. The Bearcats had their share of problems last season, ranking second-to-last in the Big East in sacks allowed (31). This year, they have to replace three starters on the offensive line with unproven players. Senior right tackle Alex Hoffman has taken on some leadership responsibility with the loss of Jason Kelce, but players like Austen Bujnoch, Andre Cureton, Sean Hooey and Evan Davis are going to have to step up. Depth could also be an issue here.

7. Louisville. The Cardinals return just one starter in center Mario Benavides, who has been hampered with a knee injury. Ryan Kessling and Alex Kupper have playing experience, but most everybody else is pretty unproven, and that makes for one of the biggest question areas on the team headed into the fall.

8. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights own the bottom spot until the season starts and we can see how much this unit has improved. It is a well-known fact that they finished last in sacks allowed and were one of the worst rushing teams in the country last season for that reason. They suffered a blow when junior college transfer Dallas Hendrikson went down with a season-ending injury in the spring, but coach Greg Schiano said he saw plenty of improvement from this group. They certainly will have more experience, but how much better will they be?
This is not what you want to see in the way of a bounce-back performance for Cincinnati.

The Bearcats lead lowly Indiana State just 12-7 late in the first half. And I do mean lowly. This is a team that's won three games in five years.

But Cincinnati has lost two fumbles and still hasn't shaken whatever is plaguing it so far this season. There's still time to make this look respectable in the second half.

Darrin Williams started at running back in place of Isaiah Pead, who is sitting out with swelling in his knee. Butch Jones made one change on the much-maligned offensive line, starting Randy Martinez at left guard over Evan Davis.

Non-AQ news and notes roundup

September, 9, 2010
News and notes from the non-AQ schools:

"BYU freshman wide receiver Ross Apo dislocated his left index finger during practice Wednesday and had surgery. He is expected to be out about six weeks. Apo did not have a catch in the opener against Washington last week.

"ULM will start Jyruss Edwards at running back when the Warhawks open their season Saturday night against No. 14 Arkansas. Edwards had been listed as the No. 2 running back behind Frank Goodin throughout the fall. But Goodin's snaps have been limited in practice because of an undisclosed injury, so he will come into the game off the bench. Goodin is 874 yards away from setting the school's all-time rushing record.

"Hawaii will start Bryant Moniz at quarterback on Saturday against Army. Moniz took a hard hit against USC in the third quarter last week and missed the rest of the game. He sat out several practices earlier in the week, but has been cleared to play.

"UTEP welcomes back receiver Evan Davis, punt/kickoff returner Marlon McClure and cornerback Travaun Nixon for the game against Houston on Friday. Nixon and McClure missed the season opener, serving a suspension for violating team rules. Davis sat out following his arrest in a domestic situation with his girlfriend.

"Louisiana Tech will start Colby Cameron at quarterback against Texas A&M, marking his first career start. Cameron replaces Ross Jenkins, who struggled in the opener against Grambling State. Cameron also played in the 20-6 win.

In other Bulldogs news, receiver Tim Molton was reinstated to the football team, but R.P. Stuart, Kiamni Washington and Cruz Williams have been dismissed from the team. All four had been serving suspensions for violating team rules. In addition, defensive lineman Jared Barron has quit the team.

"Navy receiver Mike Schupp tore the ACL in his right knee, and right tackle Matt Molloy suffered a concussion in the game against Maryland. Coach Ken Niumatalolo said it was possible Schupp could return in time for the Dec. 11 game against Army, and in the bowl game if Navy is eligible. Molloy has suffered concussions in the past, and must decide whether he wants to continue playing football.