Big East Team Capsules
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #10

Here's a snapshot of each Big East football team, in order of predicted finish according to Big East Preview 2001, elsewhere in this issue.

1. Miami Hurricanes

9/1

@ Penn State

9/8

Rutgers

9/15

Washington

9/27

@ Pittsburgh

10/6

Troy State

10/13

@ FSU

10/25

WVU

11/3

Temple

11/10

@ BC

11/17

Syracuse

12/1

@ VT

Returning Starters: 13 (5 offense, 8 defense). The Canes also bring back Najeh Davenport, Jeremy Shockey, and Clinton Portis, who are all first time starters but have significant experience.

Key Returning Players: QB Ken Dorsey, FB Najeh Davenport, RB Clinton Portis, 4 of 5 offensive linemen, CB Mike Rumph, SS Edward Reed.

Big Losses: WR's Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, and Andre King; RB James Jackson, DT Damione Lewis, LB Dan Morgan.

Strengths: Quarterback and offensive line. Dorsey has a great grasp of the offense, and the line is deep and experienced.

Weakness: Defensive line. The Canes will be solid here, but they don't have any outstanding DL's, and the second string has no experience.

Prognosis: In addition to having great talent all the way around, the Canes are loaded at the two most important units on the team: offensive line and quarterback. If Dorsey gets hurt, all bets are off, but if he and the offensive line stay healthy, beating the Canes will be tough. New Coach Larry Coker is the wild card here. Is he going to be lousy, great, or somewhere in between?

2. Virginia Tech Hokies

9/1

UConn

9/8

West. Michigan

9/22

@ Rutgers

9/29

Central FL

10/6

@ WVU

10/13

BC

10/27

Syracuse

11/3

@ Pittsburgh

11/10

@ Temple

11/17

@ UVa

12/1

Miami

Returning Starters: 15 (6 offense, 9 defense). The Hokies also return at least six very experienced defensive backups.

Key Returning Players: C Steve DeMasi, FL Andre Davis, RB Lee Suggs, FB Jarrett Ferguson, 8 defensive linemen, LB's Jake Houseright and Ben Taylor, CB Ronyell Whitaker.

Big Losses: MV.

Strengths: The defense and running backs. After feeling its way around last year, Tech's young defense has matured and should be ready to take charge. Lee Suggs, Jarrett Ferguson, Keith Burnell, and Kevin Jones are a great group of running backs.

Weaknesses: Offensive line and quarterback. Only DeMasi returns from last year's line. The new starters have varying amounts of experience and will be good in time, but beyond the first string, it gets very thin. QB is also a big fat question mark.

Prognosis: If Vick was still on the roster, the Hokies would be a shoo-in pick to win the league, because they have Miami at home. As it is, Tech will have to rely on the defense (which should be very good) and hope that a soft early-season schedule gives them time to find a quarterback and mold an offensive line. Tech needs to be careful at Pittsburgh, at WVU, and then get (and make) some breaks at home against Miami.

3. Pittsburgh Panthers

9/1

ETSU

9/8

South Florida

9/15

UAB

9/27

Miami

10/6

@ Notre Dame

10/13

Syracuse

10/20

@ BC

10/27

@ Temple

11/3

VT

11/10

@ Rutgers

11/24

@ WVU

Returning Starters: 17 (6 offense, 11 defense). The defense in particular is deep and experienced, from front to back.

Key Returning Players: QB David Priestley, WR Antonio Bryant, DE Bryan Knight, a host of linebackers, CB Shawn Robinson, FS Ramon Walker.

Big Losses: QB John Turman, WR Latef Grim, RB Kevan Barlow, C Jeff McCurley

Strengths: Antonio Bryant and the defense. Bryant is a known quantity whose credentials speak for themselves. But the Pitt defense, despite finishing 29th in total defense and leading the Big East with 35 sacks last year (Knight had 11.5), is still flying below the radar.

Weakness: Running back. Pittsburgh does not have a single tailback with any game experience, and the position is up for grabs among a pair of redshirt freshmen and a handful of true freshmen.

Prognosis: While the schedule favors the Panthers (Syracuse, Miami, and VT are all at home), their defense will need to step it up if they want to have a shot at the Big East title. While Bryant is stellar, the Panthers lost WR Latef Grim and their running game, both of which took pressure off of Bryant. If the QB, running backs, and Bryant's fellow receivers don't step up, he won't be able to carry the load himself, and the Panthers will not be able to knock off Miami or Tech. If they want to justify their #3 preseason rank and continue to get respect, they need to knock off either Tech or Miami, and they need to take care of business against everyone else in the league.

4. Syracuse Orangemen

8/26

GT (KO Classic)

9/1

@ Tennessee

9/8

Central FL

9/15

ECU

9/22

Auburn

10/6

@ Rutgers

10/13

@ Pittsburgh

10/20

Temple

10/27

@ VT

11/10

WVU

11/17

@ Miami

11/24

BC

Returning Starters: 12 (6 offense, 6 defense). 7 of the 12 returning starters are on the offensive line and defensive backfield.

Key Returning Players: QB Troy Nunes, WR Malik Campbell, DE Dwight Freeney, LB Clifton Smith, SS Keeon Walker, and FS Quentin Harris.

Big Losses: RB Dee Brown, DE Duke Pettijohn, LB Morlon Greenwood, CB Will Allen.

Strengths: The offensive line has 4 returning starters and is anchored by 4 seniors, three of whom started last year. The Orangemen are also experienced in the defensive backfield.

Weaknesses: Just three -- quarterback, quarterback, and quarterback. And the placekicker, Mike Shafer, is pretty bad, too (7 of 20 on field goals last year, including key misses in losses to Cincinnati and Boston College).

Prognosis: Freeney is a monster and a Big East defensive player of the year candidate, but the rest of the defensive line is first-time starters and inexperienced, so he may face double-teams. And the Orange are still hunting for a quarterback to replace Donovan McNabb, who left three years ago. With a schedule that includes home games against East Carolina and Auburn, plus road games against Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Virginia Tech, the Orangemen will have difficulty extending their streak of 14 straight winning records. But with home Big East games against Temple, WVU, and BC, they've got the inside track on finishing fourth in the Big East.

5. Boston College Eagles

9/1

WVU

9/8

@ Standford

9/22

@ Navy

9/29

Army

10/6

Temple

10/13

@ VT

10/20

Pittsburgh

10/27

Notre Dame

11/10

Miami

11/17

@ Rutgers

11/24

@ Syracuse

Returning Starters: 14 (5 offense, 9 defense).

Key Returning Players: WR Dedrick Dewalt, TB William Green, CB Lenny Walls.

Big Losses: QB Tim Hasselbeck.

Strengths: A defense that was decimated by injuries last year is now fairly deep and experienced. Green is a great runner, and the BC offensive line should be solid again.

Weaknesses: No glaring holes, other than a general lack of team speed and lack of inspired play.

Prognosis: BC's problem is that they lack fire in their bellies. They usually beat teams they should, but then they get walloped by teams like VT, Miami, and other bowl teams. The Eagles have rebuilt themselves from a gambling scandal, but they're still looking for a break-through victory. I'm not making the mistake of saying they'll get it this year, so look for them to finish fifth in the Big East. Green is a prize, and new starting QB Brian St. Pierre was a big-time recruit several years ago, but I think the Eagles will once again fail to get over the hump. They'll bring back 14 starters in 2002, though, so maybe then but not this year.

6. West Virginia Mountaineers

9/1

@ BC

9/8

Ohio

9/15

@ Maryland

9/22

Kent State

10/6

VT

10/13

@ Notre Dame

10/25

@ Miami

11/3

Rutgers

11/10

@ Syracuse

11/17

Temple

11/24

Pittsburgh

Returning Starters: 13 (4 offense, 9 defense).

Key Returning Players: QB Brad Lewis, RB Avon Cobourne, DT Antwan Lake, DT David Upchurch, LB Grant Wiley, LB Kyle Kayden.

Big Losses: 4 of 5 offensive linemen, WR Khori Ivy,

Strengths: Defensive tackle and linebacker. Grant Wiley was last year's BE Rookie of the Year and is a great linebacker.

Weaknesses: Offensive line and possibly defensive backs. WVU is rebuilding the OL, and last year, the 'Neers gave up 233 yards passing per game, 89th in the country. But the DB's reportedly performed well in the spring.

Prognosis: WVU is a great unknown that could finish anywhere from 3rd to 6th, or even 7th, in the league. Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has installed a wide-open shotgun offense, and former VT defensive coordinator Phil Elmassion has come in and installed the "attack" defense. WVU will be good in time, but they may not have the personnel yet to run either the new offensive or defensive scheme well. They're a work in progress.

7. Temple Owls

8/30

Navy

9/8

Toledo

9/15

UConn

9/22

@ Bowling Green

10/6

@ BC

10/13

Rutgers

10/20

@ Syracuse

10/27

Pittsburgh

11/3

@ Miami

11/10

VT

11/17

@ WVU

Returning Starters: 19 -- yes, 19 -- or even 20, depending upon which source you quote (9 offense, 10 defense).

Key Returning Players: QB Devin Scott, RB Tanardo Sharps, WR Greg Muckerson, DT Dan Klecko, LB Chonn Lacey, SS Lafton Thompson

Big Losses: LB LeVar Talley

Strengths: Offensive backfield and defensive line. QB Devin Scott is experienced, RB Sharps had 1,542 all-purpose yards last year, and FB Jason McKie is good run-blocker who can catch. As for the DL, they're deep and experienced; the top 8 DL's have earned 19 varsity letters among them, an average of almost 2.5 letters per player.

Weaknesses: The left side of the offensive line is young and relatively inexperienced.

Prognosis: Temple doesn't have a wealth of game-breaking talent, but if they can play together and take advantage of their experience (18 of their projected 22 starters are juniors or seniors), they can rack up some wins. Unfortunately, their league games against teams they're trying to catch up to -- WVU, Syracuse, and BC -- are all on the road. The Temple defense, which in 2000 was 43rd in the country against the run, 28th against the pass, and 33rd overall, should do well. But the offense, in particular QB Scott, must pick up some of the load if the Owls want to win more than 3 or 4 games.

8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

8/30

@ Buffalo

9/8

@ Miami

9/15

California

9/22

Virginia Tech

9/29

UConn

10/6

Syracuse

10/13

@ Temple

10/20

Navy

11/3

@ WVU

11/10

Pittsburgh

11/17

BC

Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense). Two of the returning starters are projected as backups this year.

Key Returning Players: TE L.J. Smith, RB Dennis Thomas, CB Brandon Haw, SS Tarell Freeney.

Big Losses: QB Mike McMahon, a four-year starter, WR Walter King, OL Rich Mazza.

Strengths: Offensive line (which isn't all that good, but is a strength for Rutgers), defensive backs.

Weaknesses: Defensive line and linebackers (in 2000, Rutgers finished 100th nationally in defense, 111th against the run).

Prognosis: New coach Greg Schiano is in the early stages of a rebirth of Rutgers football that is going well in recruiting, but must now pay some dividends on the field. Rutgers has some great recruits to lean on, including three running backs (led by Rikki Cook), some good defensive linemen (headlined by Davon Clark), and a top-notch QB, Ryan Cubit (son of the new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit). The new guys are good, but the problem is, they're new, and they'll get thrown into the fire early. Help should be on the way in future years, though, because Schiano is tearing it up in recruiting -- his verbal commitments so far are even better than last year. This year, Rutgers has two built-in wins in Buffalo and UConn, but after that, it'll be tough. Home games against California and Navy provide other opportunities for wins, but that's about it, unless the Knights can pull an upset.

 

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