NCF Nation: George Bussey

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Twenty-seven Big East products had their name called over the weekend in the NFL draft. Three league schools had their best drafts ever.

Cincinnati had six players taken, the most of any Big East team and the most in program history. The previous school record had been five, which happened in 1998, 1960 and 1947. The Bearcats were one of only nine schools to have six or more players drafted this year.

Connecticut had never had a player taken in the first two rounds of the draft before Saturday. Four Huskies went in the first two rounds this year, including the school's first-ever first-rounder, running back Donald Brown.

Rutgers had a record-setting five players drafted, including the Scarlet Knights' first-ever first-rounder, wide receiver Kenny Britt. The most Rutgers had ever previously had drafted in one year was three, in 2007.

Here's a rundown of all the league draft picks and some commentary:


Player, Position, Round, Team

Connor Barwin, DE, 2, Houston Texans

• DeAngelo Smith, DB, 5, Dallas Cowboys

Brandon Underwood, DB, 6, Green Bay Packers

Mike Mickens, DB, 7, Dallas Cowboys

Trevor Canfield, OG, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: Kind of surprising that Mickens went after Underwood and Smith, when he was generally regarded as the best pro prospect of the three for most of his career. The fifth round is lofty territory for a punter, but Huber is that good.


Player, Position, Round, Team

• Donald Brown, RB, 1, Indianapolis Colts

Darius Butler, DB, 2, New England Patriots

Will Beatty, OT, 2, New York Giants

Cody Brown, OLB, 2, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: We thought UConn would have a huge day, and the Huskies sure did.


Player, Position, Round, Team

Eric Wood, C/OG, 1, Buffalo Bills

George Bussey, OT, 5, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Bussey didn't get much pre-draft buzz, but the Patriots must have liked the former walk-on who became a three-year starter and All-Big East performer. Wood will play guard for the Bills.


Player, Position, Round, Team

LeSean McCoy, RB, 2, Philadelphia Eagles

Scott McKillop, LB, 5, San Francisco 49ers

LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Derek Kinder, WR, 7, Chicago Bears

Thoughts: OK, Pitt fans. How do you feel about McCoy going to Philly? Will you still root for him? Getting McKillop in the fifth round seems like a steal.


Player, Position, Round, Team

• Kenny Britt, WR, 1, Tennessee Titans

Mike Teel, QB, 6, Seattle Seahawks

Jason McCourty, DB, 6, Tennessee Titans

Courtney Greene, DB, 7, Seattle Seahawks

Tiquan Underwood, WR, 7, Jacksonville Jaguars

Thoughts: I didn't think Teel would get drafted, but good for him. The Titans and Seahawks must have liked Greg Schiano's program.

South Florida

Player, Position, Round, Team

Tyrone McKenzie, OLB, 3, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Despite all that Florida talent, the Bulls had the smallest draft class in the Big East.


Player, Position, Round, Team

Tony Fiammetta, FB, 4, Carolina Panthers

Ryan Durand, OG, 7, Tennessee Titans

Thoughts: Durand was another guy who wasn't on many mock draft boards. There were some good fullbacks in the Big East, including Pitt's Conredge Collins and Louisville's Brock Bolen. But Fiammetta was the only one drafted.

West Virginia

Player, Position, Round, Team

Pat White, QB/WR, 2, Miami Dolphins

Ellis Lankster, CB, 7, Buffalo

Pat McAfee, K, 7, Indianapolis

Thoughts: Can't wait to see how the Dolphins, who showed a lot of creativity on offense last year, use White.

Prominent players who went undrafted:

Hunter Cantwell, Louisville

Greg Isdaner and Mortty Ivy, West Virginia

Jamaal Westerman, Rutgers

• C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh

Julius Williams, UConn

Posted by's Brian Bennett

My Pac-10 counterpart Ted Miller did this earlier in the week, and I'm blatantly stealing the idea. Want to know how accurate recruiting rankings are? Let's take a look at this year's All-Big East team and see how each player was rated by the two major star-system recruiting services (where the two differ, I note the high and low end):


QB Pat White (two to three stars)

RB Donald Brown (two to three stars)

RB LeSean McCoy (four to five stars)

WR Mardy Gilyard (two stars)

WR Kenny Britt (three to four stars)

TE Nate Byham (four to five stars)

OT Will Beatty (one to two stars)

OT Ryan Stanchek (two stars)

OG George Bussey (zero to one star)

OG C.J. Davis (two stars)

C Eric Wood (two stars)


DL Connor Barwin (two stars)

DL Cody Brown (two stars)

DL George Selvie (one to two stars)

DL Arthur Jones (three to two stars)

LB Scott McKillop (three stars)

LB Tyrone McKenzie (two to three stars)

LB Mortty Ivy (two stars)

CB Mike Mickens (two stars)

CB Darius Butler (one to two stars)

S Brandon Underwood (three stars)

S Courtney Greene (one to two stars)


Big East teams don't get a lot of "five-star" guys, but plenty of four-star players make their way into the league. I find it very interesting that the only two players on this list to reach that level were McCoy -- a no-brainer -- and Byham, who had a solid but hardly spectacular year in a league without many productive tight ends.

Offensive linemen are probably the hardest guys to evaluate, and whoever was evaluating the Big East prospects proved that. Not one of the All-Big East first team offensive linemen earned more than two stars, and the former walk-on Bussey and left tackle Beatty were rated the same as your average throw-in prospect. This isn't a bad crop, either; Wood, Beatty and Stanchek should all get drafted, with Davis and Bussey having a shot, too.

And, yes -- someone really watched Selvie and Butler play and rated them as one-star prospects. That really happened. To be fair, Selvie played center in high school and his best quality -- desire -- is hard to measure. But we're talking about a two-time All-American. And Butler's athleticism is hard to deny.

I get that White was hard to judge as a quarterback, and that a lot of teams were recruiting him as a receiver or just an all-around athlete. But for him to garner only two or three stars is absurd. Here are some of the players who were ranked as the top dual-threat quarterbacks in 2004: Robbie Reid, Kirby Freeman, Nick Patton, Larry Lerlegan and D.T McDowell. Would you trade any of them for Pat White? Heck, would you trade all of them for Pat White?

There are always going to be can't-miss prospects, and there are going to be players who improve greatly through sheer hard work and maturation. Recruiting rankings can be a useful guide and fun to look at, but if you think they predict which players will turn out to be the best in their leagues, think again. Keep this list in mind come next Wednesday, and remember to curb your enthusiasm.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

1. LeSean McCoy vs. the Cincinnati defense: The Bearcats have been strong against the run of late, holding West Virginia to under 100 yards as a team and limiting Louisville to 3.2 yards per carry. But Donald Brown gashed them for 150 yards last month, and Pitt had two 100-yard rushers in a win over Cincinnati last year. Pittsburgh proved against Louisville that it could win without a huge day from McCoy, but one of his vintage performances sure would help the cause.

2. Cincinnati's passing game vs. the Pitt secondary:
The Panthers' defensive backfield has upgraded its play since the disastrous showing against Rutgers, but it's still vulnerable to big plays. Cincinnati has the most productive pass-catching duo in the conference with Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard. You'd better believe Tony Pike is going to test Pitt deep early and often.

3. Jonathan Baldwin vs. Mike Mickens: The league's most electric young receiver will certainly find himself matched up at times with one of the best senior cornerbacks in the nation. Pitt's ability to throw deep off play-action will force Mickens and his teammates to react quickly. At 6-foot-5, Baldwin can erase mistakes by quarterback Bill Stull and can jump over the 6-foot Mickens. "Our corners are going to be challenged," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "DeAngelo Smith and Mike Mickens have to play their best football."

4. Pat White on the loose in Louisville: Last year against the Cardinals, White ran for 147 yards and passed for 181. Two years ago against them, he had 125 yards rushing and 222 yards passing. The West Virginia quarterback is usually at his best in this game, and given Louisville's inexperienced linebackers and dearth of speed on the defensive line, he could be in for another monster performance.

5. Louisville's spirits: The Cardinals have lost three straight, are surrounded by negativity and can't even get fans buzzing about a game against West Virginia. But it is Senior Day, and some terrific players like Eric Wood, George Bussey, Earl Heyman and Hunter Cantwell won't want to leave without a fight. Can they get something going early against the usually slow-starting Mountaineers and build some confidence?

6. Matt Grothe: The South Florida quarterback clearly isn't healthy right now. He hurt his left ankle against Rutgers and wore a boot for a few days afterward. He's a tough guy who will probably still play Sunday against UConn, but if his mobility is limited, that takes away one of his greatest strengths. And Grothe has thrown eight interceptions in his past three games even when healthy.

7. Donald Brown: The nation's leading rusher will go against a struggling Bulls defense. While South Florida's real weakness is in its defensive backfield, teams have been able to run up the middle against them, which is something Brown can do with the best of backs.

8. Air raid on Army: Rutgers has been flying high through the air during its four-game winning streak, and Army is going to have a tough time slowing down the Mike Teel-to-Kenny Britt connection. Certainly Army doesn't practice much against a passing offense; the Black Knights average just 50 yards passing per game and had a game this year where they didn't even attempt a throw.

9. Chip Bowden's well-being: Bowden is Army's quarterback, which places him in the crosshairs this weekend. Five of the last six quarterbacks have not been able to finish the game against the hard-hitting Rutgers defense, which made Grothe its latest victim last Saturday. Bowden is the team's second-leading rusher, so he'll be exposed to several hits.

10. Syracuse's motivation: How will the Orange react to the firing of Greg Robinson when they go to Notre Dame this weekend? Will they play with fire in an effort to show support for their well-liked coach? Or will they fold under the first sign of adversity?

Big East internal affairs

November, 5, 2008
Posted by's Brian Bennett

Pittsburgh: The Panthers made some personnel changes in their secondary after Rutgers ripped through it. Sophomore Elijah Fields saw a lot more playing time at Notre Dame, lining up occasionally at safety, nickel back and linebacker. Ricky Gary and Jovani Chappel split time at cornerback. Gary fell down on one touchdown pass, but overall Dave Wannstedt said he was pleased with their play. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are looking for a few good men to help shore up their kickoff coverage. They rank last among 119 FBS teams by allowing 29.58 yards per return and are about to face the league's best kick returner in Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard. Two members of the kick cover team -- safety Courtney Stuart and linebacker Archie Sims -- were injured in the UConn game. Head coach Bill Stewart handles special teams and said he would make some personnel changes this week.

Cincinnati: True freshman receiver D.J. Woods is starting to make a bigger impact. He had four catches for 67 yards against Rutgers, returned a punt 40 yards at UConn and made three key receptions in the South Florida win. Fellow slot receiver Marcus Barnett, the team's second-leading catcher a year ago, has only 21 receptions this year. Also for the Bearcats, center Chris Jurek was in a walking boot this week after suffering an ankle injury against South Florida. The team is hopeful he can play at West Virginia. If not, guard Jason Kelce could slide over and handle snapping duties.

Louisville: Senior George Bussey, an All Big-East left tackle, could be switching positions. The Cardinals moved Bussey to left guard on Saturday versus Syracuse to replace injured Mark Wetterer. Sophomore Greg Tomczyk played left tackle because he had fewer things to learn at that position. Wetterer's status is unclear for Saturday's game at Pitt. Other than Bussey and center Eric Wood, Louisville's offensive line has been spotty in recent games.

Syracuse: Wide receiver Dan Sheeran is expected back this week from the broken fibula he suffered in preseason camp. His return allows freshman Grant Mayes to switch from receiver to cornerback, a position he played until Sheeran's injury forced him to offense. The Orange secondary could be in trouble this week against Rutgers, as defensive backs Kevyn Scott and A.J. Brown were injured in the Louisville game. Coach Greg Robinson has declined to address their status so far this week.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Greetings from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, site of the first Big East league game of 2008 between Connecticut and Louisville.

Walking into the stadium this evening, I heard a local radio DJ trying to fire up some fans. He yelled, "There won't be a fair catch tonight!" And people cheered. So yeah, that play from last year at UConn is still on Louisville fans' minds. Will it have any effect on the game? I think the Cardinals players want some revenge but won't do anything like hit a UConn punt returner. Should be a funny reaction from the crowd, though, when the first Husky signals for a fair catch.

I'm expecting this to be a really close game. I noticed that, for amusement purposes only, Louisville is a three-point favorite. Three points is usually the benefit given to a home team. So the wise guys think these teams are closely matched as well.

Weather: It's a perfect early fall day here, with temperatures in the high 70s at kickoff. It is windy, though, which could play a role in the kicking game and maybe some deeper passes.

Speaking of special teams, UConn punter Desi Cullen is a Louisville native who was photographed in The Courier-Journal hanging from a Papa John's goal post after the Cardinals beat Florida State in 2002. Cullen calls himself "The Kentucky Hammer" because he likes to deliver hits after he kicks.

Injuries: Louisville will be without safety Richard Raglin (wrist) but should get All-Big East left tackle George Bussey (ankle) back after he missed one game. Receiver Scott Long (foot) looks doubtful, and wideout Troy Pascley (hip) may not play at all. For UConn, defensive tackle Alex Polito (ankle) did not make the trip and will be replaced by Kendall Reyes.

The game is sold out. Louisville is wearing its all black uniforms for the second week in a row.

That's all for now, but I'll have much more throughout the evening ...

Big East internal affairs

September, 24, 2008

Posted by's Brian Bennett

South Florida: The loss of senior outside linebacker Brouce Mompremier to a neck injury is a big blow, but the Bulls should be able to weather the loss. The reason is that South Florida has played primarily in its nickel defense much of the season, meaning only two linebackers are on the field most of the time. "That's what's saved us," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said.Tyrone McKenzie and Kion Wilson will be the main linebackers in the nickel, with Chris Robinson coming in to play strongside in the base 4-3 sets. South Florida will probably have to come out of the nickel next week against run-heavy Pittsburgh, however.

Louisville: The Cardinals hope that left tackle George Bussey and left guard Mark Wetterer can return to action Friday night against UConn after missing the Kansas State game with ankle injuries. But if they can't go, Louisville has confidence in backupsJosh Byrom and Greg Tomczyk , who played extremely well against Kansas State last week. "We told them, all great players have to start their first game sometime," head coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "Why not tonight?" The Cardinals also might have found a new placekicker in Purdue transfer Tim Dougherty, who replaced the struggling Chris Philpott in the second half against the Wildcats and drilled his only attempt, from 36 yards.

Pittsburgh: Dave Wannstedt is still trying to get promising youngsters Jonathan Baldwin and Lucas Nix involved, but he says it's been hard because of how the games have played out. The Panthers have had three close games versus Bowling Green, Buffalo and Iowa. "You want to do what's fair to the kid and what's fair to the team," Wannstedt said. "That's the balancing as a head coach. They're going to be good players, but my first responsibility is to this football team." Wannstedt said Baldwin, a wide receiver, played 10 out of 60 snaps against Iowa but got bumped off his route on a play designed to go to him. Wannstedt also saidElijah Fields will get his second start at safety but will split time with Dom DeCicco.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats seem happy with running a two-man running back committee. John Goebel and Jacob Ramsey have split carries almost evenly, with Goebel getting 30 attempts and Ramsey 29. Goebel has been slightly more effective, averaging 5.1 yards per carry to Ramsey's 4.1. Promising freshmen running backs Quentin Hines and Isaiah Pead have yet to touch the ball.

Connecticut: Donald Brown has been phenomenal for the Huskies and leads the nation in rushing. But even though Brown hardly ever tires, coach Randy Edsall would like to reduce his workload. Brown is averaging more than 28 carries per game and is on pace for nearly 340 rush attempts this season. He was in on 60 snaps against Baylor last week. Edsall wants to keep him from getting hurt or worn down before the end of the season. The return of backfield mate Andre Dixon could help. Dixon, who led the Huskies in rushing last year, has been slowed by an ankle injury so far this season but was back on the field at times in the Baylor game. Edsall said he wants to start giving the ball to Dixon and freshman Jordan Todman more and give Brown a break.

Big East internal affairs

September, 17, 2008

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Every Wednesday, we'll keep you updated on depth chart changes, injuries and other inside info to get you ready for the weekend.

West Virginia: Head coach Bill Stewart plans to add a few new faces to the lineup Thursday night at Colorado. Middle linebacker Reed Williams will make his season debut, allowing Mortty Ivy to slide over to his more natural outside position. Receiver Wes Lyons, a formidable target at 6-foot-8, has recovered from an August knee scope and should see some significant time. Stewart also expects to rotate young players such as Donnie Barclay and Josh Jenkins on the offensive line.

Louisville: The Cardinals didn't score on offense in their only game so far against an FBS team (a 27-2 loss to Kentucky), and injuries may slow their attack down tonight against Kansas State. Four of the five starting offensive linemen left the Tennessee Tech game with injuries, and though head coach Steve Kragthorpe hasn't given out specifics on their status, it appears that the left side of the line is in doubt. Left tackle George Bussey and left guard Mark Wetterer may not play tonight, potentially leaving quarterback Hunter Cantwell's blind side vulnerable to K-State blitzes if their replacements don't perform well.

South Florida: Could Jamar Taylor be emerging as the main guy in the Bulls' backfield? The sophomore -- who transferred from Alabama after the spring of 2007 -- broke out against Kansas with 72 yards on 11 carries, plus a 13-yard score. "I've never seen Jamar Taylor run like that," coach Jim Leavitt said of the way Taylor busted through tackles and holes. With Mike Ford and Ben Williams still out with ankle injuries, Taylor could assume the bulk of the carries this week at Florida International.

Connecticut: Coach Randy Edsall said during the summer that safety Darius Butler could play some snaps on offense. Through the first two games, that idea seemed forgotten. But Butler saw 11 snaps on offense versus Virginia last week, making two catches for 40 yards and running for a 13-yard score. He's extremely athletic and gives a new dimension to the Huskies' offense, but Edsall wants to be careful not to wear his defensive star down.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats' kicking situation has gotten more confusing. Brandon Yingling replaced the struggling Jake Rogers after the first game but wasn't called on for any field goals at Oklahoma. Yingling still hasn't attempted a college field goal. The walk-on has been suffering from an illness that's kept him out of practice, while Rogers is recovering from having his wisdom teeth pulled. So freshman Danny Milligan is now getting a look at kicker as Cincinnati prepares for Miami (Ohio) this weekend.