NCF Nation: Joe Madsen

New Era Pinstripe Bowl keys

December, 29, 2012
Let's take a look at three keys for victory for West Virginia in today's New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

1. Limit the long ball. West Virginia has given up 63 completions longer than 20 yards this season, more than any team since Nevada all the way back in 2008. Syracuse's Ryan Nassib is a future NFL player who can sling it and had a huge senior season with 3,619 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine picks. West Virginia is going to give up yards, but it's got to make Syracuse earn them, and the easiest way to do that is to prevent the big ball over the top. Keith Patterson has taken over defensive play-calling duties from Joe DeForest. Will we see a noticeable difference? WVU's bowl hopes likely depend on it.

2. Give Geno Smith some help. There's lots that goes into this, but for me, it comes down to the offensive line. Center Joe Madsen is the unit's best player, but he's academically ineligible. Smith, the nation's leader with 40 touchdown passes, needs time to to make plays. You can provide that time by blocking well, but it gets a whole lot easier when you run the ball well. WVU has been inconsistent in that area, but if it runs the ball well against Syracuse, keeping up in a high-scoring game without turnovers becomes a very reasonable proposition.

3. Keep it simple, y'all. Feed Tavon the rock. No need to get complex. West Virginia has about a million ways to do it, but the more Tavon Austin touches the ball, the better. Ask Oklahoma, which gave up 344 rushing yards and 572 all-purpose yards in a crazy night for the star. Austin is still getting some touches at running back, but WVU has got to work to get him the ball. If he gets fewer than 15 touches, West Virginia is not winning this game.'s 2012 All-Big 12 team

December, 10, 2012
Congrats to all these guys for turning in fantastic seasons. Naturally, there will be some snubs and some things that need to be explained. Check the blog later today for more thoughts.

Without further ado, here's the All-Big 12 team from


QB: Collin Klein, Kansas State
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: James Sims, Kansas
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech


DL: Devonte Fields, TCU
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DL: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma


PK: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Justin Brown, PR, Oklahoma; Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas; Jake McDonough, DL, Iowa State; Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma; John Hubert, RB, Kansas State; Travis Tannahill, TE, Kansas State; Durrell Givens, S, Iowa State; Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech's preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 29, 2012
The season is only a few days away, and it's time to unveil our official All-Big 12 team.

The criteria for this is pretty simple: I picked the best players at every position in the game, but made room for deserving players. For this league, that meant eliminating the tight end spot and sliding a more deserving Collin Klein onto the team via an all-purpose position.

The quarterbacks are solid in this league, but I'd call the cornerbacks the best and deepest position in the league. The worst? Defensive tackle. I didn't put a single one on the All-Big 12 team, electing to name four defensive ends along the defensive line. I hate doing that, but this year, it's necessary.

Without further ado, here's our team:


QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: Waymon James, TCU
All-Purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Mason Walters, Texas


DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma


K: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention/regrettable snubs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas; Ivory Wade, C, Baylor; LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech; Blaize Foltz, OL, TCU; Kenny Cain, LB, TCU; Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State; Jamarkus McFarland, DL, Oklahoma; Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas; Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State; Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma; Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State

Big East recruiting needs

January, 23, 2012
National signing day is inching ever closer, so it is time to take a look at the biggest recruiting needs for every team in the Big East.


Defensive line. Cincinnati loses a host of seniors from this position, including Co-Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe, John Hughes, Monte Taylor, and Rob Trigg. Factor in the key contributors for 2012 will be seniors in Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills and Walter Stewart and it is time to reload at this position.

Receiver. There is some promising young talent on the roster, but several guys are going to be leaving in the next few years. The Bearcats really need a guy who can stretch the field and make some big plays to join Anthony McClung and Alex Chisum.

Secondary. The Bearcats are going to take a hit at this position after 2012, losing a ton of seniors-to-be, including Cam Cheatham, Drew Frey, Dominique Battle and Reuben Johnson. Senior safety Wesley Richardson is already gone. The lone four-star commitment the Bearcats have is from a safety, Marcus Foster.


Quarterback. This need has been addressed in this recruiting cycle, with junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer and Casey Cochran already enrolled in school.

Tight end. With the impending departure of Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt, the Huskies could use another young player to be groomed to take over. Tight end is a critical part of the UConn offense.

Offensive line. UConn is losing its two best linemen in Moe Petrus and Mike Ryan. Of the 16 linemen currently listed on the roster, seven are juniors or seniors. Linemen generally take a redshirt season, so it never hurts to sign more to be able to restock.


Linebacker. The Cardinals are losing Dexter Heyman and have a lot of juniors and seniors on their roster at this position. It is no surprise, then, that three of the top players coming in are linebackers -- Keith Brown and James Burgess are already enrolled; four-star recruit Nick Dawson has given a commitment.

Offensive line. Louisville has young players here, but not much depth, as evidenced this season when several true freshmen were forced to play much earlier than anticipated. It never hurts to build depth here, and the Cardinals have gotten a huge commit from four-star guard Abraham Garcia out of Miami.

Running back. This was an area the Cardinals struggled in this season, having to move quarterback Dominique Brown to the position. Victor Anderson is gone, and this team could really used another back to carry the load.


Quarterback. This one is pretty self explanatory if you watched Tino Sunseri play. Mark Myers and Trey Anderson are also on the roster, but the Panthers are in definite need here -- which is why so many fans are looking forward to commit Chad Voytik coming to town.

Linebacker. This has been an area of inconsistency for the Panthers, who lose their best player in Max Gruder. There are some young players with talent in Todd Thomas and Ejuan Price, but this position could definitely use an upgrade.

Receiver. The play of the offense was disappointing this season, and that includes the receivers. Pitt could use some players to stretch the field. Ronald Jones was a start this season. But when you consider that Cameron Saddler, Mike Shanahan and Devin Street will all be upperclassmen in 2012, this is a definite area of need.


Receiver. Mohamed Sanu is gone, and Mark Harrison is a senior to be. There is plenty of young talent, but there is a reason Rutgers has commitments from four athletes. This gives the Scarlet Knights the flexibility to try them at receiver or running back, another area of need.

Running back. Once Savon Huggins got hurt this year, Rutgers had Jawan Jamison and Jeremy Deering at running back and that was about it. Depth has to be developed here.

Offensive line. Strides have absolutely been made at this position, but coach Greg Schiano likes to reiterate that the Scarlet Knights aren't going to pull themselves out of the hole they were in overnight. They need another solid draft class at this position to keep building.


Secondary. Injuries and inconsistent play this season showed the Bulls really lacked some depth and need some immediate help in this area, which is why they signed junior college cornerbacks Fidel Montgomery and Josh Brown. One of their top four-star commitments is cornerback Chris Bivins.

Quarterback. Beyond B.J. Daniels, a senior in 2012, the Bulls have Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd as the two heirs to take over. Eveld has been less than impressive, and we don't know much about Floyd. The Bulls would be served to get another quarterback in as they prepare for the future.

Running back. Darrell Scott is gone, and the Bulls are really in need of a game breaker at this position. Demetris Murray is going to be a senior, and nobody else really has stepped up at the position. Depth has to be built here, because USF goes into spring practice with four running backs on the roster.


Defensive line. The Orange are losing Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich and could really used some difference-makers up front who can help get after the quarterback. Depth is an issue here. One of their big commitments so far has been defensive end Josh Manley out of Georgia.

Secondary. This was one of the weakest parts of the team and now the Orange lose Phillip Thomas and Kevyn Scott, and there was a lack of depth when injuries hit this position in 2011. Brooklyn prep safety Wayne Morgan would be a huge get to add to this unit.

Receiver. Alec Lemon is a senior, Van Chew is gone and who knows what happens with Marcus Sales. The bottom line is the Orange are in major need of a game-changer to turn 15-yard passes into 40-yard receptions.

West Virginia

Quarterback. Geno Smith is a rising senior and after him it is crickets in the form of one player behind him in Paul Millard. So consider this need majorly filled with Ford Childress, ranked No. 139 on the ESPNU 150.

Offensive line. The most inconsistent part of the team in 2011, West Virginia has a major need here. The Mountaineers struggled so badly here they started converted defensive lineman Curtis Feigt late in the season. Don Barclay is gone, and Joe Madsen, Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins are all upperclassmen.

Defensive line. Julian Miller, Josh Taylor and Bruce Irvin are gone, and there are depth concerns here. West Virginia has four commitments from defensive linemen already.

2011 Big East All-Bowl Team

January, 13, 2012
Without further adieu, here is your 2011 Big East All-Bowl team:


QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia. Smith was named the Discover Orange Bowl MVP after the Mountaineers routed Clemson 70-33. Smith ended up with Orange Bowl records for passing yards (401), touchdowns responsible for (six) and total offense (433). He threw just 11 incompletions and had zero interceptions.

RB: Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati. The Big East Offensive Player of the Year turned in a terrific final performance as a member of the Bearcats in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Vanderbilt. Pead set a school bowl record with 149 yards rushing in a 31-24 win, his sixth 100-yard game of the season. His 12-yard touchdown run with 1:52 remaining sealed the team's first bowl victory since 2007.

RB:Jawan Jamison, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights run game was inconsistent all season, but the redshirt freshman stepped up against Iowa State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Jamison was named MVP of the game after gaining 131 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. It was his third 100-yard game of his career. All of them happened this season.

[+] EnlargeWest Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin
Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIREWest Virginia WR Tavon Austin had 280 all-purpose yards in the Orange Bowl.
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia. The best playmaker on the Orange Bowl field was pretty much unstoppable. Austin racked up an Orange Bowl record with 280 all-purpose yards, including 117 yards receiving, 46 yards rushing and 117 yards on kickoff returns. He also set Orange Bowl records for receptions (12) and receiving touchdowns (four).

WR: Josh Bellamy, Louisville. Bellamy set a season-high with 98 receiving yards in a loss to NC State in the Belk Bowl. Still, he had the most receiving yards by a Cardinal in a bowl game since Harry Douglas had 165 against Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl. His 53-yard reception in the first quarter was a career long and the second-longest pass play for Louisville this season.

OG: Randy Martinez, Cincinnati. Martinez has been one of the most consistent offensive linemen for the Bearcats over the past two seasons, and he graded out near the top once again in the Liberty Bowl. Martinez helped pave the way for 221 rushing yards -- second most against FBS competition this season.

OG: Betim Bujari, Rutgers, OT: Desmond Wynn, Rutgers. Bujari made just his third start of the season, on the left side no less. Wynn slid over from guard to tackle. But the combination worked for the Scarlet Knights, who put together perhaps their best effort on the offensive line all season. Rutgers ran for 173 yards -- their second-highest total of the season. And they did not allow a sack.

OT: Don Barclay, West Virginia, C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia. One of the biggest knocks against the Mountaineers this season was their inconsistency on the offensive line. In the days leading up to the Orange Bowl, Madsen said he felt the unit had played to the level of its competition. The hope was that facing several NFL draft prospects on the Clemson line would help West Virginia play better. Whatever works, right? West Virginia ran for 188 yards and did not allow a sack in its domination of the Tigers.


DL: Myles Caragein, Pitt. The Panthers may not have had the greatest game in the BBVA Compass Bowl against SMU, but Caragein was solid for most of the afternoon, with six tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup.

DL: Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati. Wolfe ended his Co-Defensive Player of the Year season with six tackles, including two for loss, against Vanderbilt.

DL: Aaron Donald, Pitt. Donald did his part for the Panthers, with one sack, a forced fumble, a tackle for loss and five tackles in all. Pitt racked up four sacks on the day and held SMU to 61 yards rushing in the loss.

LB: Najee Goode, West Virginia. Goode was a part of an outstanding defensive effort, with 1.5 tackles for loss, one sacks, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery against Clemson.

LB: Khaseem Greene, Rutgers. After posting one of the best regular seasons in school history, Greene finished everything off with a team-high 13 tackles in the Pinstripe Bowl to finish the year with 140, tied for fifth in the school single-season record books. Unfortunately, he could not complete the game after breaking his ankle. He is expected to be fine for 2012.

LB: JK Schaffer, Cincinnati. Schaffer had nine tackles, a sack and a tackle for a loss in a win over Vanderbilt. He closes out his career with 337 stops, a mark that ranks him ninth on the Big East career list.

LB: Nick Temple, Cincinnati. The true freshman saved his best performance of the season for the final game of the season. Temple had a career-high eight tackles, a forced fumble and his first career interception in a win over Vanderbilt. Simply put, he was everywhere for the Bearcats.

S: Darwin Cook, West Virginia. Cook had perhaps the play of the game in the Orange Bowl, when he scooped up a fumble by Andre Ellington and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown to seize momentum in the second quarter against Clemson. West Virginia ended up scoring 35 points in the frame to put the game way, way, way out of reach.

S: Eain Smith, West Virginia. With starting Terence Garvin out because of a knee injury, many wondered whether Cook and Smith would take more on their shoulders. They both delivered in a big way. Smith finished with a game-high 13 tackles, including 12 solo stops, and assisted on a tackle for loss.

CB: Keith Tandy, West Virginia. Tandy had six tackles and an interception on the night, and was part of a secondary that completely shut down Sammy Watkins, holding him to 66 yards on five catches. After a shaky start, West Virginia hunkered down and gave up just 78 yards passing in the second half. Tajh Boyd completed only 52 percent of his passes.

CB: Logan Ryan, Rutgers. Ryan really seemed to grow up throughout the season and ended the year with another big performance. Logan had seven tackles -- 2.5 for loss -- one interception and half a sack in the win over Iowa State.


PK: Tyler Bitancurt, West Virginia. Bitancurt was 10-for-10 on extra-point attempts in the Orange Bowl, setting a new record for extra points attempted and made in any bowl game.

P: Justin Doerner, Rutgers. Doerner had a terrific performance against Iowa State with a season-best 49.7-yard average on six punts. Two of them went inside the 20. One of them went 57 yards. His average was tops among the five Big East punters in bowl games.

KR: Ralph David Abernathy IV, Cincinnati. After Vanderbilt went up 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, Abernathy took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 90 yards for a score to put the Bearcats up for good. It was the first return for a score in his career.

AP: Austin. See above.

Orange Bowl: Three Keys for WVU

January, 4, 2012
You saw the preview and prediction. Now here are three keys for West Virginia in the Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson:

1. Get into rhythm. It's hard to keep up all your momentum when more than a month has passed between football games, especially when your offense is so dependent on rhythm and timing. Nobody really knows how the long layoff is going to impact this offense, but coach Dana Holgorsen has said all week that his team has done all it can to prepare for this game. What really will help rhythm is protecting quarterback Geno Smith, who doesn't do so well when he's flustered and out of the pocket. "We need to dominate," center Joe Madsen said. What also will help is the short passing game out of the backfield, an area that West Virginia is going to have to adjust with Dustin Garrison out.

2. Safety help. By now you already know how much of a blow it is for West Virginia to be without starting safety Terence Garvin, a two-year starter with 72 tackles this season and 3.5 sacks. West Virginia has no experienced players to fill in at the spur position, so the Mountaineers will go with a rotation of Shaq Petteway, Wes Tonkery and Matt Moro. There could be other tinkering as well, as the game wears on. Clemson, of course, averages 284.8 passing yards a game, and has explosive players like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Dwayne Allen. Getting pressure up front is going to really help take pressure off the back end, and players like Keith Tandy and Brodrick Jenkins are also going to have to step up from their corner positions as well.

3. Be special. It cannot be stated enough how big a role special teams plays in any game, most especially one with teams as evenly matched as Clemson and West Virginia. The Mountaineers have been shaky at times in this category, and cannot afford another bad punting game -- especially with a good punter in Dawson Zimmerman on the other sideline. It will be great to see the kickoff return duel between Sammy Watkins and Tavon Austin. Watkins has one kickoff return for touchdown this season; Austin has two. One of these players could decide the game in this hugely important phase.

West Virginia news and notes

January, 3, 2012
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Here are a few news and notes from West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen's final news conference before the Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson:
  • Holgorsen said he had not made a decision on who would start at safety in place of the injured Terence Garvin. Freshmen Shaq Petteway and Wes Tonkery, and junior college transfer Matt Moro will all be rotated in. "When you lose Terence Garvin, who was our leading tackler last year and has played a lot of football, you can't just replace him with one guy," Holgorsen said. "And all those guys I mentioned are all new guys. Matt is a junior college kid first year, Wes is a freshman, Shaq is a true freshman. You've got a lot of guys that haven't been put in that situation. So what you do is you plug one guy in, see how it works, and then if you need to take him off and calm him down and put somebody else in there, then you need to do that."
  • One of Holgorsen's bigger concerns about playing in the game was the way his players would handle some of the distractions of South Beach. But he said there were no problems with any of his players. "We all had our concerns with it just because it's a busy place, and there's a lot to do," he said. "I give our team a tremendous amount of credit. You know, we named captains in the beginning of the week with Geno Smith, Joey Madsen, Keith Tandy and Najee Goode, and then we talked to the rest of the seniors about this being your team and there's going to be situations out there to where you're going to have to make decisions on whether you do the right thing or do the wrong thing. That's no different here than it is in Morgantown throughout the course of the week. I just was really proud of how the guys handled themselves."
  • Holgorsen was also asked if there was such a thing as being over prepared, with so much time to get ready for the game. "You've got to be careful with time on your hands," he said. "Coaches have a tendency to outsmart themselves at times, so you've got to figure out what your team does well, which we've had a lot of time here in the last four months to figure out what our team does well, and we've just got to put them in those positions to be successful."

Video: West Virginia C Joe Madsen

January, 2, 2012

Andrea Adelson talks with West Virginia C Joe Madsen.

Orange Bowl news and notes

December, 31, 2011
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Greetings from beautiful South Florida, where West Virginia and Clemson practiced for the second day in preparation for the Discover Orange Bowl.

Mountaineers defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and select defensive players met with the media this morning, along with Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and select offensive players.

The big story of the day, of course, were the injuries that keep mounting for West Virginia. Running back Dustin Garrison is out for the game, the third West Virginia starter to be declared out. On Casteel's side of the ball, West Virginia will be without safety Terence Garvin. Redshirt freshman Wes Tonkery and true freshman Shaq Petteway have been working the position during practice but no starter has been announced.

"We'll still work those two kids the next two or three practices, and they're both going to play," Casteel said. "That's what happens when you get an injury; a kid has to step up, and the next guy goes. I know that they're excited to play. We've been through those situations before, so those guys will be ready to go."

Eain Smith and Darwin Cook could be relied upon even more with Garvin out.

"I think the key is letting the kids get in and get settled in," Casteel said. "For some of these kids, obviously this is a big game for them. Once they get in and settle in, they're going to find it's no different than any of the other games that they've played.

"But our leaders will settle those guys down, and they'll be ready to play."

Playing with young players like Petteway and Tonkery is going to be something West Virginia will have to get through, the way it did when Garvin missed the Cincinnati game with a knee injury. Smith started in place of Garvin in that game, but the coaches don't seem to want to move him for this game.

Garvin was third on the team with 72 tackles. With the way Clemson likes to throw the ball, and the talent the Tigers have at the skill positions, they could take advantage.

"Will it change our thinking?" Morris asked. "We're going to do what we do. We've got to be able to be who we are, what got us to this point in the season. You know, we try to do a good job of mixing up the run and the pass. So are we going to change our thought process? No. And if we were, I couldn't tell you.

"So it's one of those type of deals. We feel like we've got to make sure that we do the things that got us here, protecting the football, being physical, playing physical and being aggressive. That's who we are, that's who I've been since 2002, and it's not going to change.

"You know, it's unfortunate. I heard the injury report, and that's unbelievable. I hate that for that young man. What a great football player. But again, we've got to do what's got us here to this point."

Both head coaches offered statements about the way practice, which was closed to the media, went Saturday afternoon:
  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said receiver DeAndre Hopkins practiced and is good to go for the game. "He’s back and it and looked fine," Swinney said. "Probably could’ve practiced yesterday, but we just wanted to have another day to evaluate him but I thought he moved around pretty good. Other than that, we’re physically in good shape, just have to mentally get dialed in."
  • West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen named his captains for the game: linebacker Najee Goode, center Joe Madsen, quarterback Geno Smith and cornerback Keith Tandy.
  • Former Mountaineers who were at practice Saturday were Grantis Bell (WR, 1985-88), Johnny Dingle (DL, 2005-07), Dale Williams (OL, 1991-93) and James “Puppy” Wright (LB, 1991-94).
  • Also in attendance at Saturday's practice was former Miami coach Randy Shannon and Florida Atlantic assistant Kurt VanValkenburgh.
  • “Practice went fine today," Holgorsen said. "We consider this our Tuesday practice so we were getting into our normal routine for the game week. The weather has been outstanding and I can see that our players are getting excited for game day. The player’s focus has been good, and they have been working hard. We are down here to win a football game, and I think our mix of preparation and fun has been good.” All-Big East team

December, 9, 2011
Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

You saw what the coaches had to say when they picked the All-Big East team. Now it is my turn. I only have a few different opinions than the coaches. To start, West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey is on my first team over Tavon Austin. Bailey finished with more yards; Austin with more receptions. But I thought Bailey was a little more consistent over the course of the entire season.

I also have West Virginia defensive lineman Julian Miller on the first team ahead of Bruce Irvin. Miller got off to a slow start, mostly because he was hobbled with an injury. But late in the season with games on the line, he was almost unstoppable. Pitt running back Ray Graham also gets a nod even though he missed the final five games of the season with a knee injury.

Without further adieu:


QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia

RB: Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

RB: Ray Graham, Pitt

OT: Don Barclay, West Virginia

OT: Justin Pugh, Syracuse

C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia

OG: Randy Martinez, Cincinnati

OG: Andrew Tiller, Syracuse

WR: Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia


DL: Julian Miller, West Virginia

DL: Kendall Reyes, UConn

DL: Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati

DL: Chandler Jones, Syracuse

LB: JK Schaffer, Cincinnati

LB: Najee Goode, West Virginia

LB: Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

S: Hakeem Smith, Louisville

S: Duron Harmon, Rutgers

CB: Adrian Bushell, Louisville

CB: Keith Tandy, West Virginia


PK: Dave Teggart, UConn

P: Pat O'Donnell, Cincinnati

RS: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Big East player rankings: OL

July, 15, 2011
The team position rankings have wrapped up, so now it is time to tackle another bear of an assignment: player rankings. I am going to start with offensive line. I thought about breaking this off into centers, guards and tackles, but wanted to have 10 at each position. That would leave center lacking. So I am going with all offensive linemen.

[+] EnlargeMoe Petrus
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireMoe Petrus has garnered plenty of attention, making the preseason Lombardi, Outland and Rimington award watch lists.
1. Moe Petrus, center, Connecticut. The premier offensive lineman in the league has started every game he has played in headed into his senior season. That makes 39 for those scoring at home. Petrus is on three watch lists this preseason (Lombardi, Outland and Rimington) and he is the heart of a very solid Huskies offensive line.

2. Mike Ryan, tackle, Connecticut. The Huskies have a formidable duo with Petrus and Ryan returning. Ryan is the only player coming back this season who was a first-team All-Big East selection, and is on the watch list for the Lombardi Award. Ryan helped an offensive line that allowed just 15 sacks last season and averaged 175 yards on the ground.

3. Don Barclay, tackle, West Virginia. Another veteran player with plenty of starting experience, Barclay has started 27 games and was a second-team Big East selection last season. Barclay also is on two watch lists (Lomardi and Outland). Here is how valuable he is to the WVU starting line: He was on the field for more than 860 plays last season.

4. Joe Madsen, center, West Virginia. Madsen, Petrus and Mario Benavides make quite a trio of terrific centers in the Big East. Madsen has also started every game he has played in (25), and he only allowed one sack last season. He is so good, he won the team's offensive player of the game honors three times last season.

5. Justin Pugh, tackle, Syracuse. Pugh had quite the impressive debut season, starting all 13 games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman en route to second-team All Big East honors. He might not be huge (6-foot-5, 287 pounds), but he is athletic and should be among the best in the league.

6. Mario Benavides, center, Louisville. Listing three centers among the top six should show you how good the top players at the position are this season. Benavides has started 24 games in his career but could be even better this season after offseason knee surgery.

7. Lucas Nix, tackle, Pitt. Nix should be considered the rock of the Pitt offensive line as he returns for his third season as a starter. With Chris Jacobson moving to center, Nix provides some stability and should be key in helping the Panthers continue their strong ground attack.

8. Alex Hoffman, tackle, Cincinnati. Hoffman has started 25 games and was a second-team All-Big East pick in 2009. Last season, the Bearcats had their share of early struggles, but he did help them get their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. He also is on the Lombardi Award watch list.

9. Jeremiah Warren, guard, USF. Warren and Chaz Hine make up the best guard tandem in the Big East. In fact, guard is a position with plenty of question marks throughout the league. But that is not the case for the Bulls. Warren has started 26 games, and he and Hine will help anchor a line with three new starters.

10. Chaz Hine, guard, USF. Hine has a remarkable story, going from walk-on to starter to one of the best guards in the league. Now that he will be in the second year of Skip Holtz's system, he should be even better.

Final 2010 Big East power rankings

January, 11, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Now that bowl season is complete and the 2010 campaign is officially over, it's time to rank the Big East teams for the final occasion. A parity-filled season didn't gain much more clarity from the bowls; four teams finished with identical 8-5 records, and none will make any of the final top 25s.

The top six teams could all beat each other and really could be placed in any number of different orders. But here is my best attempt to judge the league based on overall body of work, taking into account how each team performed down the stretch:

1. Connecticut (8-5): The Huskies were blown out in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as many predicted. Still, they won the league fair and square and thus deserve the top spot.

2. West Virginia (9-4): A disappointing finish for the Mountaineers, who lost to NC State 23-7 in the Champs Sports Bowl, ruining their chances of a 10-win season and a Top 25 final ranking. You have to believe the coaching turmoil, the injury to Brandon Hogan and the suspension of starting center Joe Madsen all played big roles in the bowl defeat, but West Virginia still should have played better than that.

3. Pittsburgh (8-5): We're ranking teams here, not athletic departments. The Panthers won a share of the Big East title and then somehow dismantled Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl despite all their coaching drama. This team had too much talent to finish just 8-5.

4. South Florida (8-5): I really liked the way this team was playing down the stretch, and the Bulls were blowing Clemson out of the Meineke Car Care Bowl before the Tigers tacked on a couple of late touchdowns. USF went 5-2 in its final seven games, with the two losses coming by a combined 10 points.

5. Syracuse (8-5): It was great to see the Orange win a bowl game in their first postseason trip since 2004, even if it was aided by a controversial call. It was even better to see the Orange offense score 36 points against an admittedly poor Kansas State defense. Doug Marrone led a breakthrough season, and Syracuse looks like a program on the rise.

6. Louisville (7-6): Speaking of on the rise, Charlie Strong has Louisville positioned to be a Big East power once again in a couple of years with the way he's recruiting. The Cardinals maximized their potential this season, beating Southern Miss to clinch an unexpected winning campaign in Strong's first year.

7. Cincinnati (4-8): The Bearcats dropped five of their final six, with the last four losses all coming by at least three touchdowns. That should serve as some motivation to get better in the offseason.

8. Rutgers (4-8): The Scarlet Knights were the one team Cincinnati beat down the stretch, as Rutgers ended the year on a six-game losing streak. The remaking of Greg Schiano's staff has begun, and Tom Savage has left. Things should look different in Piscataway next season.

Instant analysis: Champs Sports Bowl

December, 28, 2010
Instant analysis of the Champs Sports Bowl, where NC State beat No. 22 West Virginia 23-7:

How the game was won: Did the coaching chaos of the past few weeks distract West Virginia? Possibly. Were the Mountaineers hurt by the loss of top cornerback Brandon Hogan (injury) and starting center Joe Madsen (academics)? Definitely. West Virginia was out of sync all night on offense and special teams (two missed field goals), while Russell Wilson did a magnificent job of spreading the ball around to lead NC State to the most points scored against the Mountaineers' defense all season.

Player of the game: Wilson. The Wolfpack quarterback completed 28 of 45 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns as NC State looked to pass a lot on first and second down to loosen up Jeff Casteel's defense. Wilson, as expected, extended plays with his mobility, especially on his final touchdown throw after he eluded Bruce Irvin and J.T. Thomas to find a receiver in the back of the end zone.

Turning point: You could say it was when Madsen failed to make his grades. The West Virginia offensive line certainly suffered, with guard Eric Jobe forced to move to center. NC State got in Geno Smith's quarterback face all night, and outgoing Mountaineers' offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen had few options as a result.

Stat of the game: 5-0. That was the turnover margin, in NC State's favor. The Mountaineers were plagued all year by turnovers, a major reason why they lost to Syracuse and Connecticut in Big East play. They lost four fumbles, and Smith threw an interception. Speaking of which ...

Play of the game: NC State's Brandan Bishop made a spectacular diving interception at the West Virginia 10 in the fourth quarter as Smith tried to hook up with Jock Sanders. Had the pass worked, the Mountaineers could have cut the lead to 16-14 with plenty of time left. But Bishop wasn't having that.

What it means: Paging Dana Holgorsen ... The Champs Sports Bowl illustrated every reason why Oliver Luck decided to change directions with this program. The Mountaineers looked ill-prepared and unable to sustain anything on offense. West Virginia's goal this year was to reach the 10-win mark, but instead the team finished 9-4 for the third straight time under Bill Stewart. One has to wonder how much better things will be next year with the coaching transition and with all the important seniors the Mountaineers lose. This was the highest-ranked team in the Big East (or the only ranked one, depending on which poll you use), and West Virginia laid a big egg for the conference.

1. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor sold the trinket of gold pants he received after the Buckeyes’ 2008 victory over Michigan. For 75 years, those pants have been awarded to Buckeyes who beat Wolverines. John Hicks, the Ohio State offensive tackle who won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1973, called the gold pants “a badge of honor.” Hicks is the exception. Most modern players believe tradition is something for the people in the stands. Pryor may have lost the Buckeye fans forever. But he got his money.

2. The NCAA tries to give the benefit of the doubt to the student-athlete, which is how five Ohio State players remain eligible for the Sugar Bowl despite being suspended for five games next season after selling autographed gear and getting tattoos in exchange. But where’s the logic in the Buckeyes being able to play in the bowl game? The NCAA said the players didn’t know they had broken a rule. How tough is it to know you can’t trade for stuff because you’re a student-athlete?

3. As fall semester grades arrive, players are holding their breathing from Seattle to Coral Gables. Four Georgia Tech players are academically ineligible for the Independence Bowl. Three West Virginia players will miss the Champs Sports Bowl, including two-year starting center Joe Madsen. More to come. The NCAA used to not apply the suspension until after the bowls, which meant nothing to seniors. Let’s hear it for a rule with teeth.
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Wednesday was a fun and enlightening day at West Virginia. I spent a lot of time with the always gregarious Bill Stewart and even got to see Geno Smith go through a quarterback meeting with offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. And of course I watched practice. Here are some quick thoughts and observations:

  • The team that came out for practice No. 6 won't be the same team you see this fall. At least Stewart hopes not. Several walking wounded wore non-contact jerseys, including receiver Bradley Starks (ankle) and running back Noel Devine (quad). Smith only participates in individual and skeleton drills, no team competitions. Cornerback Brandon Hogan didn't practice as he is concentrating on his academics. And Jock Sanders missed practice because of class. So it was far from a full deck, and Stewart said he was frustrated by a number of busted assignments and broken plays. You could tell the coaching staff's frustration, because after practice several defensive players were made to do up-downs, while the offensive guys ran sprints. Some defensive players argued with each other coming off the field."You have a couple of guys in [non-contact] jerseys, and all of a sudden your leadership starts spiraling down," Stewart said in disgust. "We may be a .500 football team, that's it."
  • Coley White is a busy man with Smith limited. White takes every snap during the 11-on-11 and other team drills. He's had a good spring and showed off a stronger arm than I -- and even other frequent Mountaineers observers -- expected a couple of times on Wednesday, on a touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey and a long one to Starks. Smith is almost certain to be the starter, but White can win games if needed at quarterback. The only bad news is his time is so important at quarterback that he can't work on his desired transition to receiver.
  • Only saw a little bit of Smith, but he made some nice throws. He's much bigger than last year, too. In fact, he later told me he's put on 25 pounds since the Gator Bowl, which is amazing.
  • Bailey, by the way, looked pretty good and made a nice adjustment on one ball. He could be important with very little depth at receiver now that Deon Long and Logan Heastie are gone (and barring a miracle, they aren't coming back).
  • Former cornerback Eddie Davis continues to work at receiver, but while he looked fast on the practice field, Stewart called him out as one of many players who did not know their assignments and plays Wednesday.
  • I'm very high on Ryan Clarke. The big, bruising runner steamrolled defensive back Darwin Cook at one point. No surprise, since Cook was yielding about 45 pounds in that matchup.
  • Stewart said he's happy with the left side of his line (Don Barclay and Josh Jenkins) and center Joe Madsen. But he wants to see much more improvement from the right side, where Eric Jobe is at guard and Matt Timmerman is at tackle.
  • The oddest sight during practice occurred in the end zone, where a couple of players apparently being punished had to slam a giant tire with a sledgehammer repeatedly. Reminded me of something out of "The World's Strongest Man" competitions. But it provided a good drum beat for practice.
  • Most discombobulating sight: Starks wearing No. 5 (Pat White's old jersey number) and Devine sporting No. 10 (Steve Slaton's former digits) in their green non-contact shirts.
  • Knee-jerk reaction of questionable merit: Hard to make a solid judgment on this team with so many important players out. But you'd think the Mountaineers would be a little sharper just because of all the returning starters who are back. It's still early in the spring for them, and there's plenty of time to turn things up. This team is too talented and experienced not to be a major factor in the Big East race.