NCF Nation: Johnny Patrick
Let's start on the offensive side of the ball and take a look at where some Big East hopefuls are ranked. First, the skill positions:
- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: second round
- Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut: third round
- Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: fourth round
- Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse: fourth round
- Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville: fifth round
- Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut: fifth round
- Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: sixth round
- Henry Hynoski, FB, Pittsburgh: seventh round
- Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati: seventh round
Now, the offensive linemen/tight ends:
- Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsbugh: fifth round
- Cameron Graham, TE, Louisville: sixth round
- Zach Hurd, OG, Connecticut: sixth round
- Ryan Bartholomew, C, Syracuse: seventh round
- Jason Kelce, C, Cincinnati: seventh round
Now let's move to the defensive side and see where Scouts Inc. rates some Big East defenders:
- Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida: second round
- Jabaal Sheard, DE/LB, Pittsburgh: second round
- Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: third round
- Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh: fourth round
- Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia: fourth round
- Robert Sands, S, West Virginia: fourth round
- Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut: fifth round
- Scott Lutrus, LB, Connecticut: fifth round
- Joe Lefeged, S, Rutgers: sixth round
- Chris Neild, DT, West Virginia: sixth round
- Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse: sixth round
- J.T. Thomas, LB, West Virginia: sixth round
- Doug Hogue, LB, Syracuse: sixth round
- Greg Lloyd, LB, Connecticut: seventh round
These projections aren't gospel by any means, but they should give you a pretty good idea of how Big East hopefuls are being viewed right now.
The game announced the invitees from the league Thursday afternoon, adding six alongside the previously announced inclusion of Noel Devine. Here is the list of invitees:
Connecticut: Lawrence Wilson, LB
Louisville: Johnny Patrick, DB; Bilal Powell, RB
Pittsburgh: Jason Pinkston, OL
Rutgers: Joe Lefeged, DB
West Virginia: Noel Devine, RB; Chris Neild, DL
Also, Rutgers announced on Thursday that defensive end Jonathan Freeny and linebacker Antonio Lowery will play in the inaugural Eastham Energy College All-Star Game this Sunday. West Virginia safety Sidney Glover, South Florida receiver Dontavia Bogan and center Sampson Genus, and Louisville defensive end Rodney Gnat are also listed on the rosters for that game. It will be held at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Quarterback: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
Nassib, who struggled down the stretch of the regular season, took advantage of Kansas State's shaky defense to complete 13-of-21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Carter ran 27 times for 198 yards and two scores in the Pinstripe Bowl. Lewis rumbled for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in the BBVA Compass Bowl before declaring for the NFL Draft.
Wide receiver: Marcus Sales, Syracuse
Sales came almost out of nowhere to record five catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State. No other Big East receiver had even a fraction of his stats in the postseason.
Tight end: Cameron Graham, Louisville
The league's best tight in the regular season kept it up in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, catching three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive line: Jacob Sims and Sampson Genus, South Florida; Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh; Mark Wetterer, Louisville; Justin Pugh, Syracuse.
Sims and Genus were part of a USF line that pushed back Clemson's talented defensive front in the Meineke Car Care Bowl; Sims in particular helped keep Da'Quan Bowers quiet, which is not an easy thing to do. Pinkston showed some fire in protecting his quarterback after Tino Sunseri was hit late, and the Panthers ran for 261 yards while surrendering zero sacks against Kentucky. Wetterer and Pugh helped open holes for their high-scoring postseason offenses.
Defensive line: Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh; Terrell McClain, South Florida; Bruce Irvin, West Virginia.
Lindsey stepped up his game in the regular season when Greg Romeus was hurt and did so again in the bowl with Jabaal Sheard out. McClain didn't record many stats but was his usual dominant self in the middle against Clemson. Irvin had two sacks and a forced fumble against NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Linebackers: Derrell Smith, Syracuse; J.T. Thomas, West Virginia; Brandon Heath, Louisville; DeDe Lattimore, South Florida.
I went with a 3-4 look on defense to recognize the many strong performances by linebackers during bowl. Just about all of these guys had double-digit tackles and/or a couple TFLs.
Cornerbacks: Johnny Patrick, Louisville; Quenton Washington, South Florida
After getting burned on a play early, Patrick was all over the field. He forced a fumble and blocked a punt. Washington also blocked a punt and had a 45-yard interception return.
Safeties: Dom DeCicco, Pittsburgh, and Robert Sands, West Virginia
DeCicco had nine tackles and a forced fumble, while Sands had eight tackles and a sack.
Punter: Cole Wagner, Connecticut
Wagner punted seven times for an average of 46.9 yards -- with a long of 52 yards -- against Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Placekicker: Chris Philpott, Louisville
Philpott only got the call once, but he made the game-winning 36-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Kick returners: Jeremy Wright, Louisville, and Robbie Frey, Connecticut
Both Wright and Frey returned kickoffs for touchdowns in their bowl games. Wright's was especially crucial, as it tied the score in the fourth quarter.
Punt returner: Terrence Mitchell, South Florida
Mitchell had a 34-yard punt return against Clemson.
2. The bad news in watching bowl offenses is that they may suffer from a lack of rhythm borne of not playing for several weeks. The good news is that the nagging injuries in young bodies have had time to heal. Quarterbacks such as Denard Robinson of Michigan and Taylor Martinez of Nebraska have begun to look like themselves in practice leading to their bowl games next week. In their case, health is a great lubricant for offensive rust.
3. I like how Louisville spotted Southern Mississippi a 14-0 lead in the first 5:00; how the Cardinals scored 31 points; only 10 of them on drives of more than 37 yards; how Jeremy Wright returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score; how corner Johnny Patrick blocked a Southern Mississippi field goal; how the punt team pinned Southern Miss at its 2 with :07 to play; and how Louisville didn’t lead the Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl until the fourth quarter but won, 31-28, giving Charlie Strong a 7-6 record and a big boost into 2011.
How the game was won: The Cardinals came out flat early and nearly got knocked out by Southern Miss while falling behind 14-0. But in its first bowl game since the 2007 Orange Bowl, Louisville wouldn't quit. Despite getting outgained in total yardage, Charlie Strong's team kept chipping away until taking its first lead with 4:24 left on a Chris Philpott field goal. Special teams were big, as Louisville blocked a field goal and returned a kick for a touchdown.
Turning point: Southern Miss took a 28-21 lead on the first snap of the fourth quarter, and the Cardinals hadn't even managed a first down in the second half to that point. But redshirt freshman Jeremy Wright returned the kickoff 95 yards for a score, and the momentum shifted in a big way.
Stat of the game: Louisville outgained the Golden Eagles 103 yards to 10 in the fourth quarter until Southern Miss' final desperation play from its own 2.
Player of the game: Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick. The senior got burned for a touchdown early on, but after that he played an outstanding game. He blocked the Southern Miss field goal try, forced a fumble and had several pass breakups.
Best call: Strong gambled and went for it on fourth down and inches in overtime against South Florida late in the season, and the Cardinals lost that game. He resisted the urge on fourth and 1 from the Southern Miss 18, instead opting for the field goal that won the game.
What it means: Louisville finishes with a winning record in Strong's first year by improving to 7-6. Not many people would have predicted that outcome. It should be the start of something big for the Cardinals, who already secured a major recruiting coup while in Florida. Mostly, it was a reward for the 26 seniors who toughed it out through the Steve Kragthorpe era and found some success at the end of their careers.
How the game was won: Louisville was better on special teams, plain and simple. Southern Miss made too many mistakes that ended up costing it the game. Danny Hrapmann, a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, had a 29-yard field goal blocked in the third quarter. Then after Southern Miss took a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, Louisville returner Jeremy Wright took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. Southern Miss also had a bad snap on a punt early in the game, but Louisville did not take advantage of the miscue.
Southern Miss also had one other critical error: Johdrick Morris fumbled late in the second quarter following a reception, and Louisville ended up scoring a touchdown off that mistake, too, to tie the game. Each time Southern Miss took a lead in this game, Louisville found a way to come back. The Golden Eagles had leads of 14-0 and 21-7 but could not control the outcome.
Turning point: With the score tied at 28, Louisville got a much-needed break. Bilal Powell appeared to have fumbled at his own 20-yard line, but the ruling on the field was no fumble. Video replays showed his knee never touched the ground, but the no fumble call was upheld on review. Louisville ended up driving for a 36-yard field goal from Chris Philpott to go up 31-28. For those wondering, Sun Belt officials worked the game.
Player of the game: Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick. He was all over the place, with a forced fumble and blocked field goal -- two plays that ended up making the difference in the game.
Best call: Highlight of the night had to have been the reverse pass from Southern Miss receiver Quentin Pierce to quarterback Austin Davis in the second quarter. Davis made a stunning one-handed catch with his right hand extended in the air. He grabbed it, stumbled, kept his legs and got into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown reception.
What it means: Southern Miss has had plenty of offensive fireworks this season, and definitely has something to build on for next season with the return of Davis, DeAndre Brown, Kelvin Bolden, Kendrick Hardy and company. But Southern Miss has got to get more disciplined. The special teams breakdowns were costly, and the Golden Eagles also had too many penalties once again. They also need more of a killer instinct. Southern Miss lost four of its five games this season by six points or less. Until the Golden Eagles can pull out the close games, they are going to have trouble winning championships.
Record performance: Davis set the school record for career touchdown passes, breaking the record of 52 held by Brett Favre (1987-90) and Lee Roberts (1995-1998).
I compiled the following list after watching each team the entire season and through consultation this week with some coaches throughout the league. Later on today, I'll offer up some thoughts on the selections, explaining my picks and the toughest omissions.
Here is the team:
QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia
RB: Jordan Todman, Connecticut
RB: Bilal Powell, Louisville
WR: Armon Binns, Cincinnati
WR: Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh
TE: Cameron Graham, Louisville
OT: Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh
OG: Zach Hurd, Connecticut
C: Sampson Genus, South Florida
OG: Mark Wetterer, Louisville
OT: Byron Stingily, Louisville
DE: Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh
DT: Chris Neild, West Virginia
DT: Terrell McClain, South Florida
DE: Julian Miller, West Virginia
LB: Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut
LB: Derrell Smith, Syracuse
LB: J.T. Thomas, West Virginia
CB: Brandon Hogan, West Virginia
CB: Johnny Patrick, Louisville
S: Robert Sands, West Virginia
S: Sidney Glover, West Virginia
K: Dave Teggart, Connecticut
P: Dan Hutchins, Pittsburgh
KR: Lindsey Lamar, South Florida
PR: Doug Beaumont, Louisville
That was only a brief measure of Beaumont's resiliency. The senior receiver had to undergo knee surgery after the third game at Oregon State, but he missed only two games before coming back at full strength against Connecticut. Beaumont took home a device that put air pressure on his leg, sleeping with it on every night. Then at 6 a.m., he'd report to the team trainers for treatment.
Head coach Charlie Strong didn't expect Beaumont to return so quickly but said that the receiver "wore our trainers out."
"He's special," Strong said. "He's driven and he works so hard. That's why I always say, just give me 10 Beaumonts, and I'll be fine."
Strong hasn't figured out any cloning mechanisms just yet. But while he doesn't have 10 Beaumonts, he may have the next best thing: A large senior class that was willing to follow a new head coach.
Strong could have come into Louisville and shaken things up completely, deciding to go with young players and fresh recruits instead of the guys who'd been a part of the previous three non-winning seasons. But he saw that the Cardinals had a 27-man senior class that could be their best attribute this year.
"Anytime you have seniors play well, you always have a chance," he said.
What's impressive is that Strong and his staff have, in many cases, gotten these seniors to play the best football of their careers. For example:
- Running back Bilal Powell has already passed the 1,000-yard mark, shattering his career single-season high of 392 yards;
- Quarterback Adam Froman has greatly improved his efficiency and proficiency in his second year of starting;
- The offensive line, featuring four senior starters, has paved the way for the best rushing attack in the Big East;
- On defense, linebacker Brandon Heath, cornerback Johnny Patrick and defensive linemen Malcolm Tatum and Rodney Gnat are all playing key roles;
- Beaumont, who had never scored a touchdown before this season, now has two scores.
"They are a veteran team," said Dave Wannstedt, whose Pitt Panthers host Louisville on Saturday. "I think they've all bought into what Charlie is trying to do, and he's getting most out of them."
Strong plays down his role in getting these seniors to reach new heights. But he laid it at their feet to break Louisville out of its losing ways this season, and he and his staff have put those players in better positions to succeed. He says he didn't have to do much to convince them of that.
"They wanted to win," he said. "And they felt like our staff knew enough about winning that they could buy into it. I put it on them and gave them the leadership opportunity to go and lead this football team."
Those seniors are a big reason the Cardinals have already matched last year's win total. With guys as hungry and resilient as Beaumont, they might not be done yet.
Cincinnati now has won 13 straight Big East games dating back to 2008, but Friday's game against Louisville wasn't easy. The Bearcats trailed 24-21 at halftime before coming up with some key defensive stands and a couple of big passing plays for the 35-27 victory.
Zach Collaros finished with five touchdown passes, including three to Armon Binns. They hooked up for a 62-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that proved to be the clincher. Binns finished with eight catches for 175 yards after a somewhat disappointing start to the season for him.
Louisville had the ball inside the Cincinnati 10 with less than five minutes left but got stopped on fourth-and-goal after a third-down pass bounced off Josh Chichester's hands. Two earlier missed field goals haunted the Cardinals.
Two things stand out about this game. One, Cincinnati remains dangerous as its offense continues to improve. I think the Bearcats are the second-best team in the Big East right now, and they won in a tough environment on Friday night. Secondly, Louisville is going to be a tough opponent for every Big East team this year. The Cardinals have a legitimate superstar in Bilal Powell, who ran for 209 yards, and their offense is legit. Charlie Strong has done an excellent job with this team, and I'll surprised if they don't win at least a couple of league games and make a run at a bowl appearance.
Two key injuries to monitor from this game: Cincinnati's D.J. Woods didn't return after getting hammered by Shenard Holton on an amazing touchdown catch in traffic. Woods is leading the Big East in receptions and receiving yards and had two scores Friday. And Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick had to leave early with an undisclosed injury. He's the best player in a young and sometimes shaky Cardinals secondary.
Cincinnati has a chance to get off to a good start in league play with South Florida and Syracuse coming to Nippert Stadium next. Louisville has UConn at home next week and needs to get that win over a very inconsistent Huskies team.
Patrick's attorney said the player and his girlfriend were wrestling over a cell phone when she slipped and fell, hitting a table. The woman suffered scratches on her knee and elbow, according to the charges. The attorney said Patrick is "on hold" by coach Charlie Strong until the case is resolved. The team had no official comment.
This will be an interesting early test case for how Strong will handle disciplinary issues. If Patrick's version of events are true, then it doesn't seem like a very serious matter. However, Strong has made treating women with a respect a cornerstone of the principles he hopes to instill with the team.
Patrick, a two-year starter, is the team's most experienced defensive back and arguably the most important player on the entire defense. He has the ability to be one of the Big East's top cornerbacks. He had 53 tackles and two interceptions last season.
Louisville is thin and untested elsewhere in its secondary and could ill afford to lose Patrick for any major time span.
Cincinnati: Derek Wolfe, DT. Virtually all of the Bearcats' question marks are located on the defensive side of the ball, and Wolfe is their best and most dominant defensive linemen. That's a position that's already thin in experience and numbers, and losing him as the run-stuffer would be tough to overcome.
Connecticut: Lawrence Wilson, LB. UConn has a lot of depth and not a ton of superstars. But Wilson had a Big East-best 140 tackles last year and is one of the Huskies' most athletic defenders. Linebacker is not a position loaded with a lot of experienced backups for UConn, making Wilson irreplaceable.
Louisville: Johnny Patrick, CB. The Cardinals' defensive backfield looked scary at times this spring -- scary for them, not opposing offenses. Patrick is the one rock back there as one of the league's better cornerbacks. Without him, things could really get frightening.
Pittsburgh: The "College Football Live" staff chose Dion Lewis, but I think Pitt could run the ball effectively with Ray Graham and others without Lewis. I chose safety Dom DeCicco earlier in the spring. But now, after seeing Pitt in practice, I'd have to vote for left tackle Jason Pinkston. The senior is an invaluable anchor on the offensive line, especially with questions at center and guard.
Rutgers: Tom Savage, QB. No-brainer here. Rutgers' only other options right now are Steve Shimko, incoming freshman Chas Dodd or moving receiver Mohamed Sanu or tight end D.C. Jefferson under center. None of those would portend good things.
South Florida: B.J. Daniels, QB. Just as obvious and correct as the Savage pick. Daniels is the only player who's taken a collegiate snap at quarterback currently on the depth chart, if you don't count receiver Evan Landi.
Syracuse: Derrell Smith, LB. Syracuse managed to beat Rutgers while Smith was injured late in the year, but his leadership and playmaking ability from the middle linebacker spot would be hard to replace for long stretches of the season.
West Virginia: Chris Neild, DT. Coley White played well enough this spring to make the Mountaineers believe they could win without Geno Smith. Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders could step in for Noel Devine if needed. While the defensive line should be deeper than it was a year ago, neither West Virginia nor many other teams have many guys like Neild who can take on two or even three blockers on every play.
2. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights lost the best cornerback in the Big East when Devin McCourty took his skills to the NFL, but I still like the group that's returning. Joe Lefeged should step up and assume McCourty's leadership role as a senior safety, while Khaseem Greene looks ready to become a front-line safety. David Rowe is a solid corner, and either Brandon Bing or Logan Ryan should fill the other spot. The Scarlet Knights have a lot of talented young players here to provide quality depth, as well.
3. Syracuse: The Orange officially have five returning starters in the secondary because of injuries last year, and several players gained valuable experience during 2009. There's a good mixture of veteran leadership with guys like seniors Mike Holmes, Da'Mon Merkerson and Max Suter as well as rising stars like Shamarko Thomas and Phillip Thomas.
4. Pittsburgh: Antwuan Reed helped answer a big question with a strong spring at cornerback. The other corner spot will likely be filled by either junior college transfer Saheed Imoru or Buddy Jackson, with Ricky Gary around to add depth. The safety position should be in good shape when Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti return from their injuries, while Jarred Holley established himself as a dependable safety last year.
5. South Florida: The Bulls lost a pair of draft picks in Nate Allen and Jerome Murphy and have some young players moving into key roles this season. The good news is those youngsters have talent. The key will be whether Quenton Washington and Kayvon Webster can hold down the cornerback spots.
6. Cincinnati: There's healthy competition in the secondary for the Bearcats, who increasingly gave up big plays in the passing game as the 2009 season wore on. Dominique Battle, Camerron Cheatham, Chris Williams and Reuben Johnson all vied for playing time at corner this spring. Drew Frey is a steady safety. The group needs to make more plays than it did a year ago but should embrace a more aggressive scheme this year.
7. Connecticut: The Huskies ranked last in pass defense last season and lost two senior stalwarts from the secondary. The defensive backfield was in disarray at times this spring. The return of Blidi Wreh-Wilson from his shoulder injury this summer should help out the cornerback spot with Dwayne Gratz. Jerome Junior should be solid at one safety spot, while Kijuan Dabney is trying to win the other job after moving from linebacker. The Huskies are counting on a lot of young players to improve quickly before the season begins.
8. Louisville: The Cardinals had so much trouble finding playmakers in the secondary this spring that running back Darius Ashley moved to corner to help out. Johnny Patrick is one of the league's better cornerbacks but needs help in the defensive backfield. The healthy return of safety Terence Simien would provide a boost, but this remains a trouble spot heading into the fall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Wild finish to the first half at Louisville, where West Virginia got stopped twice on the goal line, with both plays being reviewed by the officials in the replay booth.
It sure looked like Jarrett Brown got in on third down, but the call on the field said no and replay upheld the call. I think they missed that one. On fourth down, Jock Sanders tripped up as he was heading to the end zone. The call on the field was touchdown, but it was rightly overturned.
In any event, Louisville gets some momentum going into halftime with a big stop. West Virginia also missed a chip-shot field goal earlier in the half after failing to punch the ball in. The Mountaineers' season-long problems on short-yardage situations continue to kill them.
Neither team has done much through the air on a bitterly cold day. Pat White has a 66-yard touchdown run, and Noel Devine ran for 79 yards but somehow got caught from behind by Louisville's Johnny Patrick. If the Cardinals end up winning, Patrick's tackle might end up being the heroic play here.
Curtis Brinkley, RB, Syracuse: Brinkley did everything he could to get the Orange their first Big East victory. He carried 28 times for 144 yards at West Virginia.
Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati: The Bearcats' all-American punter was a big weapon in Cincinnati's 13-10 squeaker over Rutgers. He averaged 46.4 yards on his nine kicks, placing six of them inside the 20.
Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: As the Cardinals' offense struggled at Memphis, Patrick gave them a hand. He blocked a punt that Brandon Heath returned for a touchdown to end the first half, then scooped up a fumble and returned it 21 yards for the winning score in the fourth quarter as Louisville escaped 35-27.