NCF Nation: Sampson Genus
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.
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
One of the most interesting debates you could have in the preseason about the Big East was trying to figure out which team had the better defensive line between Pittsburgh and South Florida.
|George Gojkovich/Getty Images|
|Greg Romeus (91) and Mick Williams (95) have led a stout Pitt defensive line.|
The debate could be settled this Saturday, when South Florida takes on the Panthers in Heinz Field. Fans will be treated to two defensive lines stacked with pass-rushing menaces and future pros.
"I think there are a lot of similarities," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "One is the scheme, because we're both 4-3 teams. And we both turn our D-linemen loose, if you will. We play aggressively with those guys up front."
Both lines feature top candidates for the Big East defensive player of the year award, including South Florida defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (8.5 tackles for loss) and George Selvie (three sacks) and Pitt defensive end Greg Romeus (seven sacks) and tackle Mick Williams (11.5 tackles for loss). Jabaal Sheard, Romeus' counterpart at the other end spot, continues to be one of the more underrated players in the league.
While both lines have some big guys -- Bulls tackle Terrell McClain is 6-foot-3, 306 pounds, and Williams and fellow Pitt tackle Gus Mustakas are strong as oxen -- both lines share preferences for speed over size. Selvie, for example, was a high school center who has worked most of his career to put on weight, while Romeus was a slender high school basketball player who has bulked up to 270 pounds.
|Cliff Welch/Icon SMI|
|South Florida's Jason Pierre-Paul has 8.5 tackles for loss this season.|
One major key to the game will be how both offensive lines hold up under the massive pressure. Pitt has allowed only six sacks in seven games, ranking 13th in the FBS in that statistic. But its O-line has not seen a D-line as fearsome as South Florida's yet.
The Bulls have given up 11 sacks in six games, but Cincinnati had four in last week 34-17 win in Tampa. B.J. Daniels' scrambling ability probably has saved at least a half-dozen or more additional sacks. Still, this unit came into the year as the team's biggest question mark.
"We were supposed to be the weakest link of the team," center Sampson Genus said, "and so far, we're doing pretty well."
I asked Romeus if he and his teammates were looking at this week as a chance to prove they have the Big East's best defensive line. He chuckled.
"We went into the season wanting to be the best in the conference and the country," he said. "That's something we're trying to accomplish every week, regardless of who we're playing."
Yet there's no getting around the fact that Saturday's game will provide a feast for those who like watching the trenches.
"I think it's going to be a defensive game, and obviously it starts up front," Romeus said. "Whichever D-line comes up big will have a big sway in who ends up winning the game."
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
But there were also players who missed all or part of the spring because of injuries, suspension, academics or whatever. And several of them are key parts to their team. Here's a look at some players who need to come through this fall after being absent for at least part of spring ball.
Cincinnati: Linebacker Andre Revels was held out of most of the spring after minor offseason knee surgery. The senior is one of the few experienced players on the Bearcats' defense and will be counted on this fall. Young defensive back Dominique Battle was expected to compete for a starting cornerback job this spring but was sidelined at times with an ankle injury.
Connecticut: The Huskies were remarkably injury- and issue-free this spring. They'll hope that continues this fall.
Louisville: The Cardinals are a different team offensively when receiver Scott Long is healthy. Unfortunately, he missed most of last season with injuries and sat out the spring following ACL surgery. He should be good to go in the summer.
Pittsburgh: Starting cornerback Aaron Berry was suspended for the final part of spring drills for violating team rules. Pitt needs him to have his act together and be on the field.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights had a lot of important players miss time this spring with various injuries, including safety Joe Lefeged, leading returning rusher Kordell Young, running back Jourdan Brooks and several of their young receivers.
South Florida: Seemingly every offensive linemen the Bulls missed time with an injury or another problem this spring. Obviously, Jake Sims (finger), Zach Herman (concussion), Sampson Genus (knee) and Jeremiah Warren (academics) all will be needed in the fall for South Florida to contend.
Syracuse: First-team all-Big East defensive tackle Arthur Jones tore his pectoral muscle before the spring and was unavailable. The timetable for his return isn't clear, but Syracuse would have a hard time without him.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers could use Jock Sanders back in the lineup. The speedy receiver/running back was suspended for the spring after a DUI arrest. He will try to return to the team once he completes his court case.
|J. Meric/Getty Images|
|Coach Jim Leavitt this spring will need to plug holes in the offensive line.|
TAMPA -- South Florida has the two biggest returning stars in the Big East in quarterback Matt Grothe and defensive end George Selvie. But players you probably haven't heard of yet will likely determine how far these Bulls run this season.
"People will say we've got a shot to be decent because of Matt and George," head coach Jim Leavitt said after Tuesday's practice. "It seems like that's the way it will alway be. But there are question marks."
Heck, Leavitt isn't even sure how he's going to field a team for Saturday's spring game because of his offensive line situation.
The Bulls lost four starters from last year's offensive front and have been hampered by injuries this spring. Jake Sims, who started 10 games a year ago, has been out with a hand injury. Zach Hermann, another expected starter, is dealing with a concussion. Jeremiah Warren, who Leavitt figures will at least be a part of the rotation, is concentrating on his academics. And Sampson Genus, who was playing center with Sims out, hurt his knee. On Tuesday, Leavitt had every available offensive lineman snapping the ball.
"Those four might be our starters," Leavitt said. "Right now, we're practicing with a lot of guys who will probably be on our scout team. You take away four starters last fall and with four out now, we might be working third-team guys."
All of the missing starters should be back for the fall, and Leavitt said incoming junior college transfers Jamar Bass and Carlos Savala and true freshman Steve Jacques will compete for playing time right away. But the offensive line has missed a key chance to build chemistry this spring.
"That's been a real negative," Leavitt said. "On the other hand, we're building some depth, if you want to look at the silver lining. We're making our quarterbacks work really hard, which is probably good. But we're probably getting a false sense of confidence on defense.
"When it's all said and done, can we put a good group together (on the offensive line)? I don't know. That's the big question."
This spring has a much different feeling for the Bulls. Leavitt said that in the past two years, he felt like the team was ready to start playing games in April because it had so many experienced players back. This year, they're counting on several young players to step in and contribute.
On the other hand, Leavitt said that maybe this current situation will help prevent the team from going through the midseason backslide that has plagued it the past two seasons. The Bulls climbed to No. 2 in the country in 2007 and No. 10 last season before tumbling into losing streaks.
"We plateaued the last few years and didn't get better," he said. "It will be real interesting to see how it plays out. This team will get a lot better than the last few years. That I know, because we're not as elevated right now, today. So we will get better. That's encouraging to me."
A lot will depend on this summer, when the majority of South Florida's large and highly-touted recruiting class arrives. Leavitt has said that as many as 20 first-year players could see time right away. And he's not afraid to unseat more experienced players who aren't performing up to his standards.
"If it's even, we're going to go after the guys coming in this summer," he said. "It's really important that some of these guys realize that in the fall, there's not going to be as much patience. If you're not at the top of your game then boom, all of a sudden, you might not see the field again."
The Bulls could have the best defensive line in the league, the most experienced quarterback, a cadre of weapons at receiver and running back and as much overall athletic talent as anyone in the Big East. They have holes to fill at linebacker and cornerback, as well as the offensive line. And it remains to be seen if a team relying on so many new players can truly contend for the conference title.
So even with Grothe and Selvie, South Florida has a lot of questions.
"But there are questions all over the Big East," Leavitt said. "There really are. It's going to be a really interesting year again.
"I think this program has a chance to make a move this summer. I really do."
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
West Virginia has been finding pay dirt on the recruiting trail of late and secured another big commitment on Tuesday when Baltimore running back Tavon Austin gave the Mountaineers the good word, Mitch Vingle writes in the Charleston Gazette. Austin, who's 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, owns Maryland records for career rushing yards and touchdowns and seems to be in the same mode as diminutive speedsters Noel Devine and Jock Sanders.
• The Syracuse Post-Standard's Donnie Webb has some nuggets in his blog, including word of Doug Marrone's first high school commitment as Orange coach.
• South Florida receiver Taurus Johnson was added to the East-West Shrine Game roster after Tyrone McKenzie dropped out, Greg Auman notes in the St. Petersburg Times. Auman also says that defensive lineman Sampson Genus will switch to the O-line in 2009 and compete for the starting center role.
West Virginia ran for more than 300 yards and its defense allowed no points in regulation after the first five minutes. And the Mountaineers still lost 17-14 in overtime to Colorado because they hurt themselves continually with penalties and mistakes, Dave Hickman writes in the Charleston Gazette.
The lack of a true power running threat is killing West Virginia, which was just 3 for 13 on third downs last night and is 12 for 34 on the season. What Bill Stewart wanted to avoid has happened: The Mountaineer offense has become too predictable. They have scored just two touchdowns in two games and are 0-2 against major-college competition. It's going to be another long week for Stewart and his guys.
- UConn has been trying to get ready for tonight's key matchup against Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin. Neill Ostrout of the Connecticut Post writes.
"The Huskies have used wide receiver Isis Moore and defensive back Josh Massey -- a former sprinter at Notre Dame-West Haven -- to try and simulate Griffin's speed in practice this week. Edsall admits it's not a true representation.
"We're not going to be able to adjust to the speed until we see it Friday night," Edsall said. "With a guy like this, there will be some missed tackles. It happens in every game when you get those really good athletes."
- The Cincinnati-Miami of Ohio series ain't what it used to be, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Louisville is looking to build off Wednesday's win over Kansas State, C.L. Brown says in The Courier-Journal. And after seeing West Virginia struggle again, the Cardinals and others have to be thinking this league race is wide open.
- Credit Syracuse for not scheduling softly. Tomorrow's game against Northeastern is the Orange's first against an FCS/I-AA team in six years, Dave Rahme writes in the Syracuse Post-Standard. Couldn't come at a better time, either.
- The pressure is on for Pittsburgh redshirt freshman outside linebacker Greg Williams, who was exploited by Buffalo and now must play well against Iowa. Paul Zeise has the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- South Florida nose tackle Sampson Genus will not play tomorrow at Florida International because of an ankle injury, the Tampa Tribune reports.
- Rutgers' defense hasn't forced a turnover in two games and the Scarlet Knights have the second-lowest turnover margin in the FBS, Tom Luicci writes in The Star-Ledger. They'll look to change that against Navy and its triple-option tomorrow.