NCF Nation: LeSean McCoy

Jameel Poteat is a product of "Tailback High," having broken Bishop McDevitt records just a few years after Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy did the same at the Harrisburg, Pa., high school. So when the Cincinnati sophomore is asked about the big shoes to fill this season in the Bearcats' backfield, he is not running from the challenge.

[+] EnlargeGeorge Winn
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyGeorge Winn (32) is one running back looking to fill Isaiah Pead's shoes in the Bearcats' backfield.
Poteat -- who was mentored by McCoy, who himself had been mentored by McDevitt alum and Pro Bowler Ricky Watters -- already got a head start during his first college fall, rooming with eventual Big East offensive player of the year Isaiah Pead on road trips last season. The then-true freshman picked the senior's brain on everything from pass protection to managing a body over the course of a season.

"I love it," Poteat said of the expectations Pead left behind. "I'm just trying to live up to what he did here, and the challenge of that is just making me better."

Poteat, George Winn and Ralph David Abernathy IV are the men in the backfield tasked with matching the production of Pead, a second-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams who ran for Big East bests of 1,259 yards and 12 rushing scores in 2011.

"I don't know if it's realistic to ask one individual to replace the production of an Isaiah Pead, but I'm really encouraged by what I see by the running back group as a whole," coach Butch Jones said. "The great thing about these individuals is all their skill sets complement each other, and they're extremely unselfish individuals."

Winn, a fifth-year senior, leads Cincinnati's returning running backs, having rushed for 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season. Winn's coming-out party came in the Bearcats' Liberty Bowl win over Vanderbilt, as his 69-yard touchdown run in the second quarter got Cincinnati on the board.

Winn said he is looking to build off that performance, and Jones has praised his blue-collar approach so far in camp, saying the senior's quiet, confident demeanor has left an impression on the underclassmen.

"It's a big difference between going into this camp and [last year's] camp," said Winn, who is no longer in the shadow of Pead and has added a few pounds in bracing for the heavier workload.

Winn rushed the ball 40 times last season, with the Poteat and Abernathy combining for 37 carries in their debut campaigns. The players have described healthy relationships on and off the field, correcting each other's mistakes and understanding that each will see carries.

Each has described new position coach Roy Manning as a "player's coach," and Cincinnati is hoping that backfield chemistry can help the ground game make up for the loss of the school's No. 3 career rusher.

"I think each has a skill set, from George Winn -- I thought George Winn gained valuable experience in his performance in the Liberty Bowl victory over Vanderbilt," Jones said. "And then obviously Ralph David Abernathy, and the experience Jameel Poteat was able to gain as a true freshman. So I think all three of those individuals complement each other, and right now they're also feeding off each other."

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

• UConn's first day of spring practice was fast and furious as the Huskies installed their new no-huddle offense, Chip Malafronte writes in the New Haven Register. Randy Edsall said the team squeezed out 39 plays during a 15-minute period, where the previous total used to be about 27 snaps.

• Who will replace Donald Brown? Five different backs are angling for the chance, Desmond Conner says in the Hartford Courant.

• Dave Wannstedt has some holes to fill when Pittsburgh begins practice on Thursday, and none will be bigger than the voids left by LeSean McCoy and Scott McKillop, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

• McCoy said he did just "OK" at Pitt's pro day, where he ran the 40 for scouts for the first time, Paul Zeise reports in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Posted by's Brian Bennett

Spring is a time for renewal, and in college football, replacing.

It's sometimes jarring to go to a team's first spring practice and see new players wearing the familiar numbers of past legends. But the constant influx of new names and faces is part of what makes the sport great.

Several teams in the Big East face some major retooling projects this spring. Here's a look at the five biggest shoes to fill in the league:

  Charles LeClaire/Getty Images
  Jarret Brown, who was 2-0 when filling in for Pat White, will likely take over as starter.

1. Pat White, West Virginia: How do you replace an icon? White may go down as the best player in Mountaineers' history, and his singular talents dictated an entire offensive philosophy. At least Jarrett Brown has some experience at filling in for White. The senior has started two games in his career when White was hurt and won both, including a 41-39 triple-overtime victory over Rutgers to end the 2006 regular season. Brown isn't as fast as White, but he's big (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), has a strong arm and won't be asked to run as much in a more pass-friendly offense. Brown needs to have a strong spring, or he could face a challenge from hotshot incoming recruit Eugene Smith this fall.

2. LeSean McCoy, Pitt: McCoy scored 21 touchdowns, rushed for 1,403 yards and was a threat to break off a huge run on every play for the Panthers. Now he's gone after two spectacular seasons, and there's no experienced back on the roster. The job is wide open, and this spring will give players like Shariff Harris, Kevin Collier and Chris Burns a chance to show what they can do. Incoming freshmen Dion Lewis and Ray Graham will be given a look this summer, as well. Coach Dave Wannstedt isn't afraid to play a true freshman at tailback if he's ready.

3. Donald Brown, UConn: Brown not only led the nation in rushing in 2008, he basically was the entire Huskies offense by the end of the year. It's highly unlikely that one replacement will be able to match his 2,000-plus rushing yards. But Connecticut does have some options in the backfield. Jordan Todman, a smaller, shiftier runner than Brown, showed real promise as a freshman by averaging nearly six yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns. Senior Andre Dixon actually led the team in rushing as a sophomore but was curiously absent most of '08, even before his late-season DUI arrest. He'll be a factor if he's meeting the necessary off-the-field requirements. UConn will likely spread the ball around more in its new offensive scheme this year.

4. Mike Teel, Rutgers: Kenny Britt also leaves a big void at receiver for Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights will find some playmakers. What they need most is a quarterback who can direct the offense and be a leader on and off the field, as Teel was. Teel had his problems at times, but he was also a three-year starter who threw for more than 6,500 yards and 45 touchdowns in his final two seasons. This is another competition that will be fun to watch in the spring and again in the summer. Senior Dom Natale and freshman D.C. Jefferson will get the bulk of the reps in the spring and try to get a leg up. When fall camp opens, all eyes will turn to celebrated recruit Tom Savage, and senior Jabu Lovelace will be back from a leg injury.

5. Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh: McKillop led the Big East in tackles his final two seasons and was the league's defensive player of the year in 2008. His ability to always be in the right place formed the backbone of Pitt's defense. Now someone else will have to man the crucially important middle linebacker spot. Senior Steve Dell, who served as McKillop's understudy last season, and sophomore Max Gruder will get first crack at winning the job. If they're not up to the task, Wannstedt may look to incoming freshman Dan Mason to fill McKillop's shoes.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

National signing day is just a week away now. As teams scramble to fill out their needs and hold on to their commitments, it's a good time to look back at some of the most memorable moments in Big East recruiting over the past five years.

1. Ray Rice spurns Syracuse for Rutgers: The star running back committed to the Orange after his junior season. But after Paul Pasqualoni was fired in late December of 2004, Rice backed out of that pledge and cast his lot with the Scarlet Knights. He went on to become one of the best running backs in Big East history with three spectacular years in Piscataway, while Syracuse struggled offensively during coach Greg Robinson's tenure.

2. The 2004 quarterback coups: Louisville announced itself as a major player when it convinced local schoolboy legend Brian Brohm to stay home instead of going to Notre Dame or Tennessee. Brohm led the Cardinals to an Orange Bowl win his junior year and broke several school records. West Virginia got a quarterback in that class who was less heralded but turned out to be pretty good in his own right. Pat White pulled off a signing day surprise by switching from LSU to the Mountaineers, who told him he could stay under center instead of moving to another position. White ended his career as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NCAA history.

3. Pitt gets real McCoy: Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt found some early success on the recruiting trail, but he really made waves by signing running back LeSean McCoy in 2007. McCoy had been recruited by all the top schools in the country before a senior-year injury prompted him to go to prep school, and then Wannstedt was able to beat out Penn State the following year. McCoy stuck around for only two seasons before bolting for the NFL, but his huge production and star power helped change the fortunes and the image of the program.

4. Cincinnati's super sleepers of '04 and '05: Nobody thought much of Mark Dantonio's first and second recruiting classes. One major recruiting service ranked the 2004 group 80th in the nation, while the following year's class was tied for 94th. But those unheralded recruits included such players as Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith, Dominick Goodman, Mardy Gilyard, Terrill Byrd, Trevor Canfield, Connor Barwin and the vast nucleus of a team that would win 21 games in 2007 and 2008, culminating in this season's Big East title and FedEx Orange Bowl berths. Just goes to show you what recruiting rankings are worth.

5. Louisville's 2005 and 2006 disasters: All seemed right in the world for the Cardinals on the field in 2005 and 2006. They were winning lots of games under Bobby Petrino and captured their first Big East title in '06. The recruiting classes Petrino signed were ranked among the highest in school history. But more than half of those two classes never made it to campus, suffered career-ending injuries, transferred or were dismissed for off-the-field transgressions. Several others never lived up to their billing. The program is still paying the price for those recruiting failures, having not reached a bowl game since and facing serious depth issues next season.

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.

Big East lunchtime links

January, 15, 2009
Posted by's Brian Bennett

The Sporting News has an evaluation of some of the East-West Shrine Game participants, including kind words for Cincinnati's Brandon Underwood and South Florida's Taurus Johnson.

• The Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner has some UConn recruiting news in his blog.

• LeSean McCoy couldn't turn down a chance to be a first- or second-round draft pick, Shelly Anderson writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

How will the 2008 Big East football season be remembered? Here are my top 10 memories from this year.

1. Cincinnati's orange crush: I attended a couple of Bearcats games in the 1990s as a college student and can remember how deserted and dreary Nippert Stadium was in those days. So to see the place stuffed with fans and people running onto the field and throwing oranges in anticipation of a BCS bid -- twice -- stands as my indelible memory of the '08 season. Sure, the celebration was premature in the Pitt game. But in other ways, it was a long time coming.

2. The Donald's stiff-arm: No one player put his team on his back quite like Connecticut running back Donald Brown. He had eight games of at least 150 yards rushing and three games over 200 yards. His 2,083 yards placed among the top 10 seasons all-time among FBS running backs. What I'll remember most is how he'd get into the open field, extend one of his powerful arms to the head or chest of a defender and just push him away as he dashed ahead for a bigger gain.

3. LeSean McCoy's burst: The Pittsburgh star tailback wasn't bad either, with 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns. He did it with a little more style and flair than Brown. No player was more explosive upon finding a small opening. And when there was a lane to the end zone, McCoy always seemed to find another gear. He may have tried to force the big play too much at times, but when it was there, it was breathtaking to watch.

4. West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30: The Meineke Car Care Bowl had a little bit of everything, from wild offensive bursts to key turnovers to Tar Heels' receiver Hakeem Nicks' acrobatic catches. But what I'll remember most is how Pat White finished his college career in style by showing us something new -- 332 passing yards -- and then being his usual humble self afterward. It was the perfect end to an astonishing career.

5. Rutgers 54, Pittsburgh 34: I was in the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium press box for Louisville-South Florida at the same time as this game was going on, and since I didn't have access to watch it on TV, I was following the score on ESPN's GameTracker. I couldn't believe what I was seeing even as I called out the updates to other reporters -- "Mike Teel just threw another TD!" Rutgers nearly equaled its point total from the entire season in one game, and it was the start of one of the more remarkable turnarounds in recent college history.

6. Syracuse 24, Notre Dame 23: Speaking of shocking results. I remember watching this in the press box at Nippert Stadium, where everyone was gathered around the TV before the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game to see the Orange complete their comeback in South Bend. They won less than a week after the school announced coach Greg Robinson would be fired, and then Robinson and his players displayed class by pausing for the Notre Dame alma mater. No matter your loyalties, you had to feel good for the long-suffering program at that point.

7. Maikon Bonani's debut: South Florida may have had a disappointing season once it reached Big East play, but I didn't see a more exciting game all year than the Bulls' 37-34 thriller over Kansas. And the best story line was the team's freshman kicker, who made his college debut earlier in the game and then drilled a 43-yarder as time expired. For a moment there, anything seemed possible for the Bulls.

8. Victor Anderson's arrival vs. Kansas State: The Louisville freshman ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries on a Wednesday night in September. Watching his speed and shimmying up close, you knew a star had been born.

9. Bill Stewart's press conferences: The homespun West Virginia coach was liable to wax on for 20 minutes at a time, almost always including his love for the "ol' Blue and Gold" in there somewhere. He'd call players by their numbers instead of names or refer to them as "that rascal." Sometimes he'd even confuse everyone with long-lost references. But it was always entertaining, and no coach seemed happier just for the opportunity to talk about his team.

10. Mardy Gilyard meets Garrett Monroe: Another image I'll take with me from this season happened when Cincinnati's Gilyard crashed into the stands and ran into the 7-year-old Monroe. After Monroe cried, Gilyard stayed with the boy and hugged him, momentarily turning the youngster into a celebrity. That act showed Gilyard's compassion and led to more people finding out about his pretty amazing background. Stories like that are the ones that stick with you.

What were some of your best memories from the 2008 Big East season?

Best-Worst of the Pac-10 bowls

January, 13, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Superlatives from the bowl season. In both directions.

  Charles Baus/Icon SMI
  Mark Sanchez completed 28 of 35 passes, setting the Rose Bowl record for completion percentage.

Best performance by a leading man: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez accounted for five touchdowns -- four passing -- and completed 28 of 35 passes for 413 yards in the Trojans 38-24 blitzing of Penn State in the Rose Bowl. After being blamed much of the season for USC's inconsistent offense, Sanchez turned in the day's most spectacular performance, one that might have proved he's NFL-ready.

Best defense: With its offense struggling without James and Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State's defense throttled Pittsburgh to secure a 3-0 victory in the Sun Bowl. The Beavers had five sacks and held the Panthers to just 178 yards and 10 first downs and limited All-American running back LeSean McCoy to just 85 yards on 24 carries. Pittsburgh's deepest penetration was the Beavers' 36-yard line. This is the same unit that gave up 65 points and 694 yards to Oregon in the regular-season finale.

Worst start: Oregon's defense looked, well, defenseless to start the Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma State, giving up 199 yards and 17 points in the first quarter. Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant hooked up seven times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the first frame. The Ducks, however, would surrender 270 yards and 14 points over the final three quarters.

Best defensive play: With the score tied and 3:28 left in the Emerald Bowl, California linebacker Zack Follett caught Miami quarterback Jacory Harris from behind and slapped away the football. Cal recovered on the Hurricanes' 2-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown pass from Nate Longshore to Anthony Miller. It was Follett's second sack of the game, but the savvy play was the cornerstone of the Bears' 24-17 win.

Worst way to set a record: Arizona receiver Mike Thomas had a great career but he didn't have a good Las Vegas Bowl. He entered the game needing just three receptions to eclipse former Arizona State great Derek Hagan's Pac-10 career record of 258. He broke the record on a 3-yard pass on the final play of the game, during garbage time when the Wildcats' victory was well in hand.

Best hit, quarterback class: Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli set the Ducks physical tone in the second half of the Holiday Bowl by running over Oklahoma State safety Quinton Moore on a 41-yard touchdown run. Masoli finished with three rushing touchdowns and one passing.

Best Heisman Trophy showcase: California running back Jahvid Best was spectacular while rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Miami in the Emerald Bowl, accounting for well over half of the Bears' offense on the evening. The sophomore had runs of 42, 32, 28 and 25 yards, and probably earned a spot on most short lists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.

Worst fourth quarter: USC probably lost a couple of potential No. 1 votes when it went to sleep in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl and gave up 17 points and 159 yards to Penn State. While the Nittany Lions deserve credit for fighting until the end, college football fans -- and pollsters -- were reminded how indifferent the Trojans can look at times.

Best way to go out as a record-setting senior: Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama rewrote the Wildcats' passing record book but never led his team to a bowl game, much less a bowl victory, until the final game of his four years as a starter. And he saved his best for last, completing 24 of 35 for 325 yards and two touchdowns, leading Arizona to its first bowl win in a decade. He also ran six yards for a score.

Best bowl records (tie): Oregon State's Mike Riley improved to 5-0 in the postseason as the Beavers' coach. While you can't argue with perfection, it's hard to ignore that USC's Pete Carroll improved to 6-2 in bowl games since he took over at USC, including a 6-1 mark in BCS bowls.

Big East lunchtime links

January, 13, 2009

Posted by's Brian Bennett

• The chances of LeSean McCoy returning are "very slim," Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

• A Mississippi quarterback with a controversial past is trying to gain a scholarship offer from Syracuse, Donnie Webb writes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.

• South Florida's big recruiting week continued, as the Bulls picked up a talented local running back and another stud defensive end.

• Jim Kelly Sr., a true icon of Cincinnati football and athletics in general at the school, passed away on Monday, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

LeSean McCoy's mother said the family is awaiting a report from the NFL draft advisory board before making a decision on his future, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"LeSean does love being there. He loves Pitt and loves the football team. I know he wants to be there," Daphne McCoy said. "But he's 20. At 20 years old, you don't always know what's good for you.

"For right now, it looks like he'll be back next year. If the report tells us anything different, we'll see if he should come out at this time."

• Among the assorted items from Dave Wannstedt's season-ending news conference, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise: Quarterbacks Kevan Smith and Greg Cross have asked to change positions, and the staff is looking at using Smith at tight end and Cross at safety; freshmen Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson will play big roles on the offensive line in '09; and Steve Dell, Max Gruder and Brandon Lindsay will battle to replace Scott McKillop.

• West Virginia kicker Pat McAfee got an invite to the Senior Bowl, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

• A one-time Rutgers commit is now going to Cal, The Star-Ledger reports.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

The 2008 Big East football season is officially in the books. So it's time to look ahead, with some very early predictions for the 2009 season:

1. Uphill climb: For the first time this decade and way before Miami made its run, the Big East won't have a Top 10 team in the preseason polls. Pittsburgh had an outside chance to make it there but ruined that with an unimpressive bowl performance. The league will still be looking for respect at the start of next year without a team that's viewed as elite come late August.

2. Pitt is it: Pittsburgh will hold off challenges from West Virginia, Rutgers and Cincinnati to win the Big East, assuming LeSean McCoy stays put. The Panthers will need better quarterback play to get it done, but otherwise they have the fewest question marks of any league team going into the offseason.

3. Overhaul in Morgantown: Without Pat White under center anymore, the West Virginia offense will hardly resemble the zone-read option attack formulated under Rich Rodriguez. The Mountaineers will go to more of a true passing-based offense with the strong armed Jarrett Brown at the controls. Look for more multiple-receiver sets and fewer quarterback keepers.

4. Doug Marrone will be a hit: The first-year Syracuse coach has already impressed fans with his unending enthusiasm for his alma mater. With a more dynamic offense and some key returnees on defense, he'll have a promising first season at the helm. We're not talking eight or nine wins here, but he could notch four or five. And most importantly, the Orange won't finish last in the Big East because ...

5. Louisville lags behind: Things will get worse before they get better for Steve Kragthorpe's team. With a severe talent deficit and road trips to West Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida, Kentucky and Utah, the Cardinals will struggle to match this year's 5-7 record.

Posted by's Ted Miller

  AP Photo/LM Otero
  Oregon State's Slade Norris celebrates with his teammates after the Beavers defeated Pittsburgh, 3-0, in the Sun Bowl.

Anybody want to help me out with a scoring summary for Oregon State's win over Pittsburgh in the Brut Sun Bowl?

The best offense in this one, a 3-zip Beavers victory, was the 10 sacks split between the teams.

Make no mistake, though: No. 24 Oregon State (9-4) was way better -- WAY -- better than 18th-ranked Pittsburgh (9-4).

The Beavers, playing without Jacquizz and James Rodgers, who supplied more than 50 percent of their offense this year, outgained the Panthers 271 yards to 178 and got zero points on a pair of first-and-goal situations.

Pittsburgh's deepest penetration was the Beavers 36-yard line.

While the Beavers offense struggled to find a consistent rhythm, coordinator Mark Banker's defense, led by ends Slade Norris and Victor Butler, redeemed itself for the Civil War debacle.

The same unit that gave up 65 points and 694 yards to Oregon, surrendered just 10 first downs to the Panthers. It held touted Pitt tailback LeSean McCoy to 84 yards on 23 carries.

Mike Riley improved to 5-0 in bowl games as the Beavers coach.

The Pac-10 also improved to 4-0 this bowl season with three victories over ranked teams and victories over three different BCS conferences.

The rest of the college football nation is free to draw its own conclusions.

Posted by's Brian Bennett
  AP Photo/LM Otero
  Pittsburgh quarterback Bill Stull is sacked by Oregon State's Casey Noack (50) and Victor Butler (90) during the first half of the Sun Bowl. Stull was sacked six times in the loss.

Pittsburgh had hoped to use the Brut Sun Bowl as a springboard into big things next year, possibly even a preseason top 10 ranking.

What the Panthers ought to do now is find every available tape of the game and burn it, then hope no one remembers what happened.

In what has to be hands-down the worst bowl game of the year, Pitt lost 3-0 to Oregon State. Instead of building momentum, all Dave Wannstedt's team did was raise more doubts among fans whether this program can take the next step. Here's the answer: Without better quarterback play, it can't.

It's not fair to pin all the blame on quarterback Bill Stull. He was running for his life most plays, got knocked down a ton and even hurt his wrist. The biggest factor was that Pitt played without left tackle Jason Pinkston, who had a shoulder injury. Oregon State's defensive line absolutely decimated the Pittsburgh offensive front, which had been a strength of the team most of the season.Then there was a snapping wind that made throwing long patterns difficult, if not impossible, for both teams.

Still, Stull had been very shaky down the stretch this season, and he didn't have a strong enough arm to combat the wind. Why offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh didn't call more short passes or over-the-middle routes is a mystery to me. The long fades to Jonathan Baldwin had no chance of working.

The ugly numbers: Stull was 7-of-24 for 54 yards and an interception before Pat Bostick played the final four minutes. With no passing game, the Beavers loaded up against LeSean McCoy, who finished with 83 yards on 23 carries.

Pitt's only chance to score came on a late fourth-quarter field goal try by Connor Lee from 58 yards. Oregon State's score came on a 44-yarder late in the first half. Bostick was sacked near midfield to end the game.

On the plus side, Pittsburgh's defense played great and lived up to Rashaad Duncan's pregame boasts. But it had no help whatsoever.

Wannstedt can only hope recruits didn't see this game. Of course, not too many could have wanted to watch it from start to finish.

There goes the Big East's 3-0 record. The Pac-10 is now 4-0.

Posted by's Ted Miller

Advice of the day: Hydrate if you plan to imbibe this evening.