NCF Nation: Tyrone McKenzie

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

• South Florida posted the lowest APR score of any of the 66 BCS football teams, Brett McMurphy says in the Tampa Tribune.

• Rutgers' terrific showing in the APR is a credit to Greg Schiano and Bob Mulcahey, Paul Franklin writes in the Home News Tribune.

• The Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman wonders how much the APR stuff really means.

• West Virginia recruit Branko Busick, whose father was a professional wrestler, will wrestle for the Mountaineers as well as play football, Bob Hertzel writes in the Times West Virginian.

• Tough break for former South Florida linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who suffered a torn ACL in the New England Patriots' rookie camp and is out for the season, Greg Auman notes in the St. Petersburg Times.

Posted by ESPN.com'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:

Cincinnati

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.

Connecticut

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.

Louisville

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.

Pittsburgh

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.

Rutgers

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.

Syracuse

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
Bills

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 ESPN.com'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):

OFFENSE

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)

DEFENSE

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)

Thoughts:

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.

ESPN.com's All-Big East team

December, 10, 2008
12/10/08
10:56
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Here are my selections for the 2008 All-Big East team:

OFFENSE

QB: Pat White, West Virginia
RB: Donald Brown, Connecticut
RB:
LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh
WR:
Kenny Britt, Rutgers
WR:
Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
TE:
Nate Byham, Pittsburgh
OT:
Ryan Stanchek, West Virginia
OT:
Anthony Davis, Rutgers
OG:
C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh
OG:
Greg Isdaner, West Virginia
C:
Eric Wood, Louisville

DEFENSE

DL: Cody Brown, Connecticut
DL: George Selvie, South Florida
DL:
Connor Barwin, Cincinnati
DL:
Arthur Jones, Syracuse
LB:
Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh
LB:
Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida
LB:
Mortty Ivy, West Virginia
CB:
Mike Mickens, Cincinnati
CB:
Darius Butler, Connecticut
S:
Carlton Williams, South Florida
S:
Courtney Greene, Rutgers

SPECIALISTS

P: Kevin Huber, Cincinnati
K: Pat McAfee, West Virginia
KR:
Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
PR:
Jasper Howard, Connecticut

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

  • Cincinnati has a senior-laden defense and a favorable home schedule. The Bearcats better take advantage by protecting Nippert Stadium, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
  • South Florida's Big East hopes are already on life support, and that haunts the team's veterans, Brett McMurphy writes in the Tampa Tribune.
  • "Why can't we win championships?" senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said. "It's just mind-boggling. We have just as much or more talent than anyone in the conference. We work hard and these coaches work so hard, why can't it be us? It's mind-boggling."
  • The Syracuse offense hasn't been much better with Cam Dantley at quarterback, Donnie Webb says in the Syracuse Post-Standard. Might Andrew Robinson get another chance soon?
  • The Pittsburgh-Notre Dame series has featured numerous star performances over the years and could do so again this weekend with LeSean McCoy and Jimmy Clausen, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • West Virginia is dead last among 119 FBS teams in kickoff coverage, and Ellis Lankster has been shaky fielding punts, Dave Hickman notes in the Charleston Gazette.
  • UConn can't explain why it's so much better at home than on the road, but the Huskies hope the trend continues this Saturday against West Virginia, Dave Solomon writes in the New Haven Register.
  • Scott Long's Louisville teammates plan on wearing his No. 84 in games the rest of the season to show support for the wide receiver, who's out for the season with a knee injury, Rick Bozich writes in The Courier-Journal.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

  • Cincinnati has a senior-laden defense and a favorable home schedule. The Bearcats better take advantage by protecting Nippert Stadium, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
  • South Florida's Big East hopes are already on life support, and that haunts the team's veterans, Brett McMurphy writes in the Tampa Tribune.
  • "Why can't we win championships?" senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said. "It's just mind-boggling. We have just as much or more talent than anyone in the conference. We work hard and these coaches work so hard, why can't it be us? It's mind-boggling."
  • The Syracuse offense hasn't been much better with Cam Dantley at quarterback, Donnie Webb says in the Syracuse Post-Standard. Might Andrew Robinson get another chance soon?
  • The Pittsburgh-Notre Dame series has featured numerous star performances over the years and could do so again this weekend with LeSean McCoy and Jimmy Clausen, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • West Virginia is dead last among 119 FBS teams in kickoff coverage, and Ellis Lankster has been shaky fielding punts, Dave Hickman notes in the Charleston Gazette.
  • UConn can't explain why it's so much better at home than on the road, but the Huskies hope the trend continues this Saturday against West Virginia, Dave Solomon writes in the New Haven Register.
  • Scott Long's Louisville teammates plan on wearing his No. 84 in games the rest of the season to show support for the wide receiver, who's out for the season with a knee injury, Rick Bozich writes in The Courier-Journal.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

  • Louisville is trying not to get complacent after a big win and with Syracuse on tap, C.L. Brown writes in The Courier-Journal. Columnist Rick Bozich wonders who would win if Louisville and Kentucky played again right now. And might it happen in the Papajohns.com Bowl?
  • Dave Wannstedt is hinting at several personnel changes in the wake of Pitt's 54-34 loss to Rutgers, Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • The last time West Virginia and UConn met, the Mountaineers won 66-21. Expect that score to be on both teams' minds this week, Dave Hickman says in the Charleston Gazette.
  • South Florida's Tyrone McKenzie vehemently disagrees with the holding call that went against him on a final-minute field goal try at Louisville, Brett McMurphy writes in the Tampa Tribune. George Selvie is back to his old self, Greg Auman notes in the St. Petersburg Times.
  • The Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner tries to make sense of the Big East race.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Nothing has determined the outcome of the South Florida-Louisville series quite like geography.

In their five meetings since 2003, the home team has won every time, and usually quite convincingly. The Bulls have taken the last two in Tampa by a combined 69 points, including last year's 55-17 beatdown. Louisville, meanwhile, has crushed South Florida by a combined score of 72-17 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, site of the series' latest installment Saturday.

Why has this series been so lopsided in favor of the home team?

"That's a good question," USF senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said. "The good thing is, somebody's going to have to break the streak, and hopefully it's us."

The No. 16 Bulls are more concerned with stopping another trend this weekend. More so than home turf, the ground game seems to determine success or failure for South Florida.

Sure, the team has good statistics against the run this year, allowing only 77.3 yards per game and leading the Big East in that category. But the truth is, none of the Bulls' early opponents put much effort or skill into running the ball. The best nonconference team they played, Kansas, made no pretense of handing it off.

Then Pittsburgh came into Raymond James Stadium and ran for 146 yards -- 142 of them by LeSean McCoy -- in a 26-21 win. Even last week against Syracuse, the Bulls gave up 100 yards rushing in the first half to Curtis Brinkley before dominating the second half.

In three of South Florida's four losses last year, opposing running backs had big days. Rutgers' Ray Rice had 181 yards when the Scarlet Knights ended the Bulls' unbeaten season. UConn's Andre Dixon compiled 167 yards the following week in another loss. And in Oregon's 56-21 blowout of the Bulls in the Sun Bowl, Jonathan Stewart amassed 253 yards.

Now comes Louisville, which is averaging 210 yards rushing per game, led by Victor Anderson and Brock Bolen.

"After the Pittsburgh game, I'm sure everyone will try to run the ball on us," senior linebacker Brouce Mompremier said. "We accept that challenge. We love that type of game, that physical game. I've always felt we were a good run defense."

The Bulls say McCoy's big day was an aberration, because injuries to guys like George Selvie, Terrell McClain and Mompremier left them undermanned. The Syracuse second half, in which the Orange mustered nine total yards, is more indicative of what the defense can do at full strength, they believe.

"We were missing a couple of guys, but now we're getting healthy again," McKenzie said. "I hope they try to run the ball down our throats and come out with a game plan to get your nose bloody. That's what football is all about anyway."

Here's their chance to prove they can stop a high-powered rushing attack, and defy the geography rules of this series.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The simple act of putting on his uniform and pads, something he'd done countless times before, brought a wave of emotion over Brouce Mompremier before last Saturday's game against Syracuse.

Less than a month earlier, the South Florida linebacker wasn't sure he'd ever play football again. For a couple of tense hours, he wasn't sure he'd walk again.

Mompremier suffered a scary neck injury when he endured a head-first collision with teammate Carlton Williams in a Sept. 20 game at Florida International. He lay motionless on the turf for several minutes, was taken away on a stretcher and taken by helicopter to a hospital. Teammates and fans feared the worst.

"I was really scared," he said. "Flashing through my mind was, how am I going to live the rest of my life?"

He briefly couldn't feel his arms or legs while he was down on the field. By the time he got to the hospital, he said, he had regained all his feeling and started to calm down. He was released from the hospital the next day with a sore neck and feeling "like there were shocks in my arms."

"I had to drive back to Tampa that day, and the drive was pretty hard for me with all the bumps in the road," Mompremier said.

For a couple of weeks, the senior figured he was finished with football. But he met several times with doctors who assured him that he'd incurred no long-term damage and was no more at risk going forward than any other player.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Lunchtime for me today is in the Baltimore airport. You know what that means ... crab cakes!

Now for the links. First we'll start with some reaction from last night's big win by Pittsburgh over South Florida.

* The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had these relevant stats:

"Pitt outgained the Bulls, 374-245, and held a 36:54-to-22:58 time-of-possession advantage. The Bulls also boasted the conference's best run defense, allowing only 58.8 yards, but the Panthers rushed for 79 of their 146 yards in the second half."

As well as this Dave Wannstedt quote about the victory.

"It sends a message that the kids are focused," Wannstedt said. "West Virginia is always going to be the biggest win, but this is right behind it."

* Greg Auman's story in the St. Petersburg Times had this interesting quote from Bulls linebacker Tyrone McKenzie about the Panthers' winning drive

"I told the defense when we went out there: This is what we get paid for," said linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who had a game-high 15 tackles. "This is why we're a defense, let's go out and finish this thing. ...You don't work so hard to go out there and just (pee) down your leg. We can't do that."

* Looking forward, the Cincinnati Enquirer has a preview of tonight's Cincinnati-Marshall game.

* After a very shaky start, converted receiver Brandon Hogan is getting the hang of playing cornerback, Dave Hickman writes in the Charleston Gazette.

* Rutgers, which has been heavily criticized for the way it has run the business side of the football program, has hired a financial officer to oversee athletic spending, The Star-Ledger reports.

Big East internal affairs

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
11:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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