Tag:Syracuse
Posted on: July 29, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2011 3:48 pm
 

Report: Syracuse RB stabbed in campus brawl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Syracuse police are reporting that one man has been stabbed multiple times after a large fight broke out at a party on Syracuse campus. As of the release of the report the victim had not been named, but the injuries were not considered life threatening.

Multiple sources, including the student newspaper The Daily Orange, are reporting that the victim is Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley.

Gulley played in 10 games for Syracuse in 2010 as a freshman, where he was mostly a threat in the kick return game. Gulley averaged 23.7 yards per return, good enough for fourth in the Big East.

With Delone Carter graduated, Gulley is expected to move into the second-string running back spot behind Antwon Bailey.

The Syracuse athletic department has not been reached for comment.

Keep it here at the Eye on College Football for more on this story as it develops.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), 7/15

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

On certain Fridays we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.

THE FOUR LINKS ...

1. Sure, we love Twitter for its ability to get big news out quickly and allow fans (and, ahem, bloggers) to interact directly with their favorite athletes and coaches. But we love it even more for allowing college football players the chance to Tweet pictures of their teammates dressed up like Harry Potter:



That's Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Love, as photographed by Tide safety Will Lowery. We'll turn this whole site into a Tyler Love tribute page if, in the event Alabama wins another national title, he pulls a wand out of his sock and screams "Accio crystal football!" on the championship dais. 

2.
One of college football's most well-known annual charity events still isn't well-known enough. It's Penn State's yearly "Lift for Life," which last weekend raised nearly $100,000 for kidney cancer research. Over its nine-year run, the event has raised almost $600,000 and is growing each year. A video report:



Well done, Nittany Lions.

3. It was a busy week of comings-and-goings on the personnel front in the SEC. Ole Miss return man/receiver Jesse Grandy is now officially no longer a part of the Rebel roster. Georgia linebacker Richard Samuel has moved back to running back after moving to linebacker last year (and may have a better shot at playing time after Caleb King's recent departure). Former Auburn backup linebacker Jessel Curry has landed at Delaware. And new Virginia Tech lineman Brent Benedict confirmed that a conflict with Bulldog strength-and-conditioning coach Joe Tereshinski was responsible for his leaving Athens.

4. Fans of Michigan submitted designs for a Wolverine mascot as part of a contest at the Detroit News. Even though there's no way to make this work as an actual flesh-and-cloth presence on the sidelines, we thought we'd pass on our favorite anyway:



More schools should totally be represented by vaguely feminine fang-toothed anime killing machines, right? Am I right? (No, I am probably not right.)

AND THE CLOUD ...

We're not sure who's really talking up Southern Miss for an undefeated season (negotiating road trips to both Virginia and Navy in a three-week span won't be easy), but head coach Larry Fedora is surprisingly fine with that talk anyway ... Desmond Howard says Michigan should start retiring numbers again, numbers like, say, just to pick an example totally at random, Desmond Howard's ... Alshon Jeffery took to Twitter to dispel rumors he'd been arrested for a fight ... Former Tennessee receiver (and one-time Lane Kiffin recruiting coup) Nu'Keese Richardson has had another run-in with the law ... The schedule of players to be made available at the annual carnival of cray-cray that is SEC Media Days has been released ... Cam Newton made an appearance (of sorts) in a Jeopardy! Daily Double answer recently ... Mississippi State and Ole Miss play out their rivalry in a who-has-the-best-promotional-Intern
et-video
battle ... and, finally, though the Syracuse version was the first college-themed "pillow pet" to catch the Internet's eye ...



you should know there's a whole zoo of the things out there for purchase.

Posted on: July 7, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 12:40 pm
 

John Mackey passes away

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Former Syracuse and Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey died Wednesday night. He was 69.

Mackey, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, was also a former NFLPA president and helped fight for health care rights for NFL players, especially those who suffered from dementia as Mackey did during the latter years of his life.

"John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined the tight end position. He was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association. He worked closely with our office on many issues through the years, including serving as the first president of the NFL Youth Football Fund. He never stopped fighting the good fight."

“John Mackey's passing is extremely difficult news for all of us," added Syracuse Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross. "John was a true hero, an icon, and a leader in the world. Our hearts go out to his lovely wife, Sylvia, and his family. His impact on Syracuse will never be forgotten as his legacy will last forever. We salute and celebrate John's amazing life, as he has touched us all. God bless John Mackey.”

Mackey was also the inspiration for college football's John Mackey Award, which is given out by the Nassau County Sports Commission every season to the best tight end in college football. The watch list for the 2011 Mackey Award was released Wednesday

Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings: Happy marriages or honeymoons?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Dennis Dodd posted his annual list of Hot Seat Ratings today, so if you haven't perused them all, do so at once. At once, I say! Right now, let's focus on some of the untouchables, the 32 coaches who scored a 0.0-0.5 rating. Suffice it to say none of them are getting fired this year (or even next) without a major, unforeseeable catastrophe befalling the program. But past that, what coaches are truly untouchable, and who's just still on a honeymoon? Here's a look at 15 of those coaches, five for each category in the schools' alphabetical order, listed with Dodd's hot seat ratings.

THE HONEYMOONERS

Gene Chizik, Auburn, 0.0: Hear me out. Chizik is absolutely a 0.0 on Dodd's scale this year, and he would be even if the NCAA somehow finds a way to make Auburn vacate the 2010 BCS Championship (though that seems extremely unlikely at this juncture). But Auburn is expected to struggle this year, and while it's easy now to say that the title has earned Chizik a five-year grace period, what happens if Gus Malzahn gets a high-major head coaching offer and Kiehl Frazier doesn't pan out? If Auburn struggles through two straight .500 seasons and Malzahn takes off, that 0.0 turns into a 2.0 pretty soon.
Will Muschamp, Florida, 0.5: Muschamp is one of the most dynamic and promising new head coaches in the last decade or so, but the fact remains that he's a 39-year-old, first-year head coach at a "win right now" program. Oh, and John Brantley is still his quarterback. If Muschamp can't get his Gators back above the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC East pecking order, his seat's going to ignite in a hurry.
Chip Kelly, Oregon, 0.0: The other coach coming off a 2010 BCS Championship berth also has two things working against him: a track record of only two seasons as head coach, and the possibility of major NCAA violations. For Kelly, the worry is more the latter than the former, and depending on where this business with Willie Lyles and Lache Seastrunk's recruitment ends up, Kelly could find himself in way more hot water than a 22-4 coach has any right to be. That's all "ifs" right now though, so for now, the honeymoon is still on.
Doug Marrone, Syracuse, 0.5: Marrone enters his third year with the Orange after guiding the once-proud program to a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Kansas State last year -- Syracuse's first bowl win since 2001. He's got a solid core of skill players back, but the overall talent level at Syracuse is still low enough that a moderate rash of injuries could be enough to plunge Syracuse back to the level of 3-5 wins in 2011, and that's a good way to snap fans back into remembering that the Pinstripe Bowl is just... the Pinstripe Bowl. Marrone's still got a lot of work to do.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington, 0.5: Like Marrone, Sarkisian has performed the rather remarkable feat of turning around a program that had been mired in sub-mediocrity for the majority of the '00s. But like Marrone, the program's talent level isn't BCS-caliber yet, and unlike Marrone, Sark has to contend with losing a first-round draft pick senior quarterback, Jake Locker. Further, Washington's road schedule is brutal this year; the Huskies'll probably have to win at least two home games between California, Arizona, and Oregon just to get back to .500.

HAPPILY MARRIED

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State, 0.5: That Bobby Bowden transition wasn't so bad after all, was it? That's because Fisher guided FSU to 10 wins in his very first year... unlike the last six years of the Bowden era. Seminole fans are going to start raising expectations to the levels of the mid-'90s, so four losses and an ACC Championship loss aren't going to cut it forever, but Fisher's recruiting well enough to restore FSU to glory quickly.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa, 0.5: How comfortably ensconced at Iowa is Ferentz? He's been coaching at Iowa for 12 years, and in seven of them, Iowa has suffered at least five losses. Ferentz runs a clean coaching staff, but there have been a couple isolated stretches of off-field embarrassments for the Hawkeyes -- and the rhabdo case certainly didn't help matters. But he's well-loved in Iowa City all the same, and the fact that he has turned down offers from Michigan and several NFL teams is not lost on Iowa fans or administrators. Moreover, his teams haven't been bad since his first two years on campus, and he's producing a double-digit win season once per three years; if he keeps that pace up, he'll be at Iowa for as long as he wants.
Charlie Strong, Louisville, 0.5: Strong has only been at Louisville for one season, but he's already got a winning season under his belt (unlike the disastrous reign of his predecessor, Steve Kragthorpe), and he's recruiting well enough (in particular, QB signee Teddy Bridgewater) to keep Louisville winning in perpetuity. If Strong leaves, it's because a powerhouse came calling; he's legit, and everybody at Louisville knows it. If he delivers a BCS win, you can move him into the last category here.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, 0.5: Dantonio has been more successful at Michigan State than Nick Saban was. Mark Dantonio is therefore a better coach than Nick Saban. QED. If Dantonio can avoid any more health scares and start routinely challenging for Big Ten (sigh) Legends division championships, he's set for life in East Lansing. Easier said than done with Nebraska coming to town and Michigan likely to rebound from the recent swoon, though.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska, 0.5: Bo Pelini has done a fine job in his first three years as Nebraska head coach, and on first glance, it appears the young coach is the perfect candidate to lead the Huskers into the Big Ten. There's been an odd sense of impermanence from Pelini's stay at Nebraska though; it's unclear whether it comes from his tempermental sideline behavior (and his brother's) or his itinerant career thus far -- this fourth season as Huskers head coach makes this the longest coaching job Pelini has ever held. Whatever it is, he seems to lack the stable, staid nature of his longer-tenured fellow coaches. That's not insignificant; if a coach can make his fans and boosters believe he's got everything under control when things go south for a year or two, his seat can stay nice and cool for longer. Pelini is respected, but he's not quite there yet.

YOU'LL HAVE TO PRY THEM FROM OUR COLD DEAD HANDS

Nick Saban, Alabama, 0.0: Saban delivered a national championship to Tuscaloosa in his second year there, and his Crimson Tide have finished with three straight AP Top 10 finishes. He's the highest-paid coach in college football for a reason: he earns it.
Chris Peterson, Boise State, 0.5: Peterson basically ruined the WAC for everybody else, going 61-5 as Boise's head man. Sure, you can wonder where he'd be without Kellen Moore, but Peterson did beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl with Jared Zabransky behind center. Now that Utah and TCU are both running off to BCS conferences, expect Boise to dominate the Mountain West for as long as Peterson's there.
Chris Ault, Nevada, 0.0: If this scale could go into negative numbers, Ault would be at least a -10. He's a College Football Hall of Famer who has overseen Nevada's rise from Division II to the upper echelon of the FBS mid-majors. Ault is a true Nevada lifer: he played QB for the Wolfpack in the '60s, and he's on his 26th year as a head coach with the program (his 39th overall in some facet with the Nevada athletic department). He is never, ever, ever getting fired. 
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern, 0.0: Fitzgerald just signed a contract extension that has 10 years on it, but is a de facto lifetime contract. He'll probably be in Evanston for at least the next 20 years. Seems crazy to say something like that about Northwestern football, doesn't it? But here it is and here we are.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 0.0: The Hokies owe as much to Beamer as just about any program and current coach in the country (other than the aforementioned Nevada and Ault or Penn State and Joe Paterno, who might as well get the school named after him upon retirement). When the ACC realigned in 2005 to include a championship game, the divisions were set up to ensure the possibility of Miami and FSU meeting every season. Instead, it's been Virginia Tech dominating the conference, appearing in four of six championship games and winning three. The ACC is Frank Beamer's conference, so the very notion of a hot seat for Beamer is essentially unimaginable.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 5:01 pm
 

What I learned this spring: Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all eight teams completed with their spring games, we wrap up spring practice in the
Big East.

CINCINNATI:
For Cincinnati, the goal this spring was to improve defensively. To be more accurate, improving defensively is not just the "goal" but really an "only option for improvement." Second-year head coach Butch Jones needs to prove that 2010's 4-8 campaign was a fluke, or else the Bearcats' fans will begin to wonder whether or not hiring the coach from Central Michigan was the best move. Cincinnati returns all 11 starters from last year's defense that ranked dead last in the Big East in scoring defense and next to last in total defense. But there have been reasons to believe that the same unit can turn around their performance in 2011.

For the first time since most of the active roster arrived on campus, there is no turnover on the defensive staff. For the last three years, the defense has had to spend their spring learning a new system. Instead the defense has been able to spend the spring focusing on fundamentals, while simply reviewing last year's scheme. In theory, this should lead to more development for a unit that struggled to prevent big plays and close out games in the fourth quarter. Offensively, quarterback Zach Collaros has continued to grow more comfortable and looks ready to try and sign his name in the Cincinnati record books. Collaros led the Big East in passing yards and touchdowns last season, and has spent spring focusing on his accuracy (also threw a league-high 14 interceptions). Highly-touted transfer wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins did not get to showcase his full arsenal due to a nagging hamstring this spring, but should make an impact lining up opposite returning starter D.J. Woods. Many of the Bearcats' spring workouts and spring game were based much more on situational drills, which tend to reveal very little about the team as a whole, but the pieces seem to be aligning for a bounce back season for Cincinnati.

CONNECTICUT: New head coach Paul Pasqualoni has quite a challenge ahead trying follow up the most successful season in program history. Unfortunately Pasqualoni, a veteran of the Big East and Connecticut native, has to try and repeat the success with two new coordinators and without the 2010 Big East Offensive MVP Jordan Todman. Wrapping up the spring, it is evident that expectations for repeating as Big East champs should be tempered. However, the Huskies do have the pieces in place to return to the postseason for the fifth straight year.

The Huskies' biggest question marks still exist in the offensive backfield, where a true starting quarterback has yet to be named and USC-transfer D.J. Shoemate is still settling in to a Todman-less rotation. Connecticut finished dead last in passing offense last season, and it will be difficult to improve that aspect of their game without a starter. Michael Box, Scott McCummings, Michael Nebrich, and Johnny McEntee(of YouTube trick-shot fame), are all competing for a premiere spot in the quarterback rotation. The hope is that behind a talented offensive line Shoemate will be able to get the running game going against a weak early season schedule, allowing whoever wins the job some time to get comfortable.

Defensively, Connecticut should be fine heading into the fall. They are under the direction of new defensive coordinator Don Brown, who's defensive unit at Maryland forced 29 turnovers last season -- good for third in the ACC. The Huskies return their entire defensive line and secondary, and that experience could anchor a unit that could end up being one of the better defenses in the conference.

LOUISVILLE: It was very difficult to learn anything about Louisville this spring due to a roster that was decimated by injury. By the end of spring practice, head coach Charlie Strong was left with only 38 healthy scholarship players on the roster. Fourteen of the injured players took no part in spring drills, the rest were injured during workouts. For a team that is looking to replace 13 departed starters on the offensive and defensive units, it was a frustrating spring of indecision.

Most of the starting jobs are wide open in the Louisville depth chart, but junior Will Stein was able to use the spring to create some separation in the quarterback competition. Stein has already gotten a vote of confidence from Strong, and the high school state champion has waited patiently behind Justin Burke and Adam Froman for his opportunity to start under center. Cardinals fans entered spring salivating over early enrollee Teddy Bridgewater, but practice showed that the top-rated dual threat quarterback in the nation still has some learning to do before getting the keys to the offense. Stein completed 10 of 17 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the spring "game," but Strong was most pleased that there were zero interceptions. The starting quarterback's primary responsibility is to manage the game, as the Cardinals offense will once again rely on their running game in 2011.

But with Bilal Powell gone, the responsibility will fall on Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson to replicate the best rushing offense in the Big East last year. Wright demonstrated his explosive potential in his freshman season, and Anderson was a 1,000 yard rusher in 2008 before shoulder injuries kept him limited in 2009 and 2010. Wright missed spring workouts with a knee injury, but Anderson enjoyed one of his best springs of his career. If the duo can be healthy at the same time, they could form one of the most dangerous rushing tandems in the conference.

PITTSBURGH: Another team entering the 2011 season with a new coach, the Panthers are not afraid to promote their new brand of "high-octane" football under head coach Todd Graham. Just a quick click over to the newly redesigned GoPittFootball.com should give just a taste of the kind of what Pittsburgh fans are hoping for out of the program's newest era. Graham comes to the Panthers fresh off a productive year at Tulsa, where his offense ranked 5th nationally in total offense with 505.6 yards per game. Dave Wannstedt had an awkward exit with his firing/forced resignation, particularly when he obviously still had the support of the team. But the squad seems to have embraced the new staff, and Graham believes that Pitt can be back in Big East title contention in 2011.

Learning the new offense has been the most important task for returning quarterback Tino Suneri. The junior signal-caller was inconsistent throughout 2010, finishing the season with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The son of Sal Sunseri, currently a linebackers coach at Alabama, Sunseri quickly acclimated himself with the new scheme and has finished the spring as the undisputed starting quarterback. In Pittsburgh's Blue-Gold game, Sunseri lit the rainy skies on fire tossing the ball 55 times (37 completions) for 416 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While the Sunseri will likely put up big numbers this fall in the new spread scheme, the offense has no plans of abandoning the run. Ray Graham returns from a strong sophomore campaign, picking up 922 yards and 8 touchdowns while sharing snaps with Dion Lewis. This year he'll be joined by Desmond Brown in the backfield, who was the leading rusher in the spring game with 64 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Defensively, Pittsburgh has also been adapting to changes with defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Patterson has been a longtime Graham assistant, and knows that the offense will dominate the headlines. But with spring practice in the bag, Patterson seems pleased with what he has seen out of the unit - particularly the defensive line.

"That front group has a chance to do some special things," Patterson said. "I feel really good about all those guys and what they are capable of. I think in our shceme they are going to be able to make a lot of plays against both the run and the pass."

Pittsburgh's defense will feature three down lineman, with a fourth "Panther linebacker" on the line of scrimmage upright on most downs. The Panthers have several athletic defenders who could fill this position, one early guess is Brandon Lindsey - who led the team with 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2010. If the defense can force some turnovers to give the offense good field position, one of the Panthers' strengths could be putting teams away early. In the Big East, which is short on big-name, gun-slinging quarterbacks, that could be a huge advantage.

RUTGERS: Of all the teams looking to bounce back in 2011, Rutgers probably has the farthest climb to return to the prominence that led to five straight postseason appearances from 2005-2009. The Scarlet Knights return 17 starters from last year's 4-8 squad, and they are still one of the youngest teams in the league. Head coach Greg Schiano has some of the exact same concerns heading into the new season, though he has stressed that he feels like this squad has grown this spring.

"Fundamentally we made significant improvement, and I think we grew a little with our confidence," Schiano explained following the Scarlet-White spring game. "This summer is going to be critical as it is every summer, but probably more so than any summer we've had here.

"The youngsters have to get tougher, they have to get more disciplined, they have to get more consistent. And again, this summer will be huge."

One of the biggest concerns is on the offensive line. Last season the Scarlet Knights were dead last in Division I in sacks allowed, letting the quarterback drop a whopping 61 times. Sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd has grown more comfortable in the pro-style scheme of new coordinator Frank Cignetti. But Dodd's supposed comfort and improvement in spring could all change when the non-contact jersey comes off in September. If the offensive line shows an about-face in 2011, the Scarlet Knights have talented (but young) skill position players who could help take Rutgers back to the postseason.

All spring the reports from Piscataway have been praising the work of redshirt freshman Brandon Coleman. The 6-6 wide receiver entered Rutgers with high expectations, but any doubters have been silenced since he took the field this spring. Coleman put on a show for the 21,120 in attendance for the spring game with a 78 yard, two touchdown performance. Maybe he was setting the standard for another touted underclassmen who was watching from the sidelines, incoming freshman running back Savon Huggins. The No. 1 recruit in the state of New Jersey, Huggins was a signing day steal that invigorated the Rutgers fan base. He has not even received his high school diploma, but he already carries expectations from a fan base that pines for the next Ray Rice. But again, Huggins will have virtually no chance to showcase his talents without some help from the offensive line. If the Scarlet Knights are going to get back to the postseason, they still have some growing to do before September.

SOUTH FLORIDA: South Florida was the first team in the Big East to wrap up spring practice, holding their final scrimmage almost a month ago. It was an awkward spring schedule, getting started early and having to dance around conflicts for Raymond-James Stadium, but at the conclusion the Bulls appear to be about in the same position as they were a year ago. The Bulls averaged a 7-point margin of defeat and 4-point margin of victory in league play last season, making their season this close to magical and that close to disastrous. Still, head coach Skip Holtz was able to get USF back to the postseason and pull down a bowl victory - the Bulls' third in a row.

South Florida's time in the Big East could be categorized as "good-but-not-great." They have made a bowl every year (4-2 record), but never finished higher than tied for third in the league standings. At the end of spring practice the Bulls look good, but still have some work to do to reach greatness. Starting quarterback B.J. Daniels returns for junior season behind an inexperienced offensive line with a set of receivers that have been less than impressive. But similar to 2010, the playmaking ability of the offensive backfield will make South Florida a threat against most defenses in the league. Demetris Murray returns at running back after picking up 533 yards and four touchdowns as a backup to Moise Plancher a year ago. He will be joined by a pair of transfers, Darrell Scott (Colorado) and Dontae Aycock (Auburn). Both backs are larger than the 5-10, 206 pound Murray, and should compliment his style well. Scott finished the spring listed as the No. 2 running back, despite being setback by a nagging hamstring injury. Defensively the Bulls return six starters from a unit that, in typical Bulls fashion, stacks up right in the middle of the conference. They lose some run-stoppers on the defensive line, but the coaching staff has been pleased with the unit as a whole - particularly the linebackers. If the Bulls are going to go from good to great in 2011, they will need to focus on developing their wide receivers more this summer. Otherwise it might be another vanilla bowl game season for South Florida.

SYRACUSE: Coming into the spring, my one question for Syracuse was how head coach Doug Marrone planned to repeat the success of 2010 with so many playmakers missing from that Pinstripe Bowl-winning squad. But with spring practice in the books, it seems like the Orange are prepared to prove that last season was not a fluke - but the beginning of a new chapter in Syracuse football. The Orange jumped out to strong start last season with solid defense and running the ball. With all-Big East linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith gone, the responsibility has fallen on sophomore Marquis Spruill to anchor that corps as he makes the move to middle linebacker. Marrone believes that the strengths in the defense this season will be with the defensive ends and safeties. Seniors Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich will begin as starters, but expect to see a good amount of junior Brandon Sharpe as well after a strong spring. In the defensive backfield Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas return as starting safeties while corners Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson both earned high praise for their efforts during the spring.

Offensively the number one question is how to replace Delone Carter. The 1,233 yard rusher from 2010 carried the Orange on his back when Ryan Nassib and the passing game sputtered, carrying the ball at least 18 times in eight different games. Antwon Bailey was exceptional as Carter's backup, but some people wonder whether the 5-7 running back can be an "every-down back." Bailey will be backed up by another speedster, the 5-9 Prince-Tyson Gulley. Orange fans are hoping that an improved passing game will help alleviate that pressure, and that responsibility falls on Nassib. Luckily, the offensive line returns 4 of 5 starters from last year and redshirt senior tight end Nick Provo showed his ability as a big, reliable target for when Nassib gets in trouble. The players claim that last year's success has changed the attitude this spring, and now they have a new belief in themselves. Talk is great in March and April, but we'll check back in on these guys in August.

WEST VIRGINIA:
The Mountaineers fell one game short of returning to a BCS bowl game in 2010, after an inability to score led to two early season conference losses. The Mountaineers offense eventually got going, finishing the regular season with at least 35 points in 3 of 4 straight victories. So in the interest of preparing for the future, and ensuring offensive stability, athletic director Oliver Luck arranged for the arrival of Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. His impact has been obvious and immediate on the West Virginia offense, with quarterback Geno Smith falling comfortably into Holgorsen's spread system from day one. Smith finished the spring by throwing for 388 yards and four touchdowns in the spring game. Even against a talented Mountaineer defense, Smith was able to connect with his wide receivers for 44, 67, and a 38 yard touchdown pass. Holgorsen plans on supplying Smith with a deep rotation of running backs and receivers, pushing the ball horizontally and vertically. If Smith continues to improve on his already hot start in the new system, the Mountaineers should have no problem scoring the ball against the Big East defenses.

Defensively it is hard to make judgements based on performance against their own offense, but West Virginia does still have some work to do in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has admitted he is already anxious to get back to camp, particularly after seeing how the unit performed in the spring game. The unit only returns four starters from last year, with defensive line likely being the Mountaineers strength. In Casteel's 3-3-5 scheme, the pressure is on the secondary to be everywhere on the field at once. Despite a wealth of athleticism at that position, there is still plenty of gelling left for the unit. But if the offense is putting up 30+ points per game (which they may), it should give the defense some time to come together before conference play begins.

Posted on: April 18, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Big East and ESPN discussing extension

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Big East and ESPN have had a business relationship for 32 years and the two entities are currently at work to make sure that relationship lasts even longer. The current television deal between ESPN and the Big East runs through 2013, but both sides are currently negotiating a new deal, and early indications are that the new deal will be extremely helpful for the Big East. At the moment, the Big East receives $36 million annually from its deal with ESPN. The new contract that is in the preliminary rounds of discussion could see the conference more than tripling that income.

Sources indicate the early numbers range from $110 million to $130 million annually, but conference sources describe those figures as a starting point for any negotiation. The initial offer would fall short of the $155 million annual payout the ACC will receive from ESPN in a deal that kicks in this summer. But the bold push by ESPN shows the network wants to lock down college rights in the face of increasing competition.

Now, while you might think that the Big East would be in a rush to sign any deal that more than triples its income, that's not the case. Not everybody within the conference is as willing to sign with ESPN right now, but would rather test the open market. Which seems somewhat ridiculous. If your boss came up to you today and said he wanted to triple your salary, odds are that you wouldn't tell the boss that you'd like to see what you'd rather test unemployment first.

Of course, the job economy is quite different than the television rights for major college conferences at the moment.

Just look at the Big 12. A year ago at this time people were basically writing the eulogy for the Big 12 as the conference was losing Nebraska and Colorado, and seemed to be on the precipice of losing Texas and Oklahoma as well. As we know now, the Big 12 did not die, and just signed a new deal with Fox Sports last week that is going to bring in $90 million a year for the conference, while Texas and Oklahoma are busy starting their own networks. Also, if the Big 12 could get $90 million, then you know Larry Scott and the Pac-12 are sitting around licking their chops.

So odds are that if the Big East did decide to test the open market, it may be able to get more than what ESPN is already offering, even if it may still wind up being ESPN signing the check. Now, obviously, the reason the Big East is able to command so much money is not because of football. The conference's basketball league is what really drives the price up, but this new deal could go a long way in improving the conference in football.

If nothing else, it may help keep schools like Pitt and Syracuse around and not looking to relocate. After all, just because the Big Ten says it's done expanding, that doesn't mean it is, and both Pitt and Syracuse came up as expansion candidates with the Big Ten before the conference decided to stop at Nebraska.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Big East Spring Game Watch (April 15-16)

Posted by Chip Patterson

This weekend, five of the eight Big East teams will wrap up their spring practice with an annual spring game. Some teams will engage in game-like scenarios in front of thousands of onlookers, while other teams will engage in a more “drill-centric” display for their eager fans. Regardless of the setup, there are always pertinent questions to be answered whenever a team takes the field competitively. Here are your things to watch in the Big East spring games April 15-16.

Cincinnati - 5:30 p.m. Nippert Stadium
The Cincinnati Bearcats have claimed to be “all in” with head coach Butch Jones heading into his second season, and Saturday will be a chance to prove it to the public in “Bearcat Bowl V.” There won't be many new faces on the field for the Bearcats, with 18 starters returning from 2010's squad. One aspect worth keeping an eye on will be the performance of Cincinnati's secondary against the first-team offense. Quarterback Zach Collaros , a unanimous All-Big East first-team selection, not only gets D.J. Woods back at receiver but also junior college transfer Kenbrell Thompkins . Thompkins was a high-profile recruit committed to Tennessee before Lane Kiffin's departure. The Bearcats were burned through the air often last season, and some of the best competition around will be wearing the same jersey.

Connecticut - 5:00 p.m. Rentschler Field
Veteran coach Paul Pasqualoni has taken a more laid back approach to spring practice than some of his colleagues, but he believes it will pay off. As opposed to keeping things out of the spotlight, Pasqualoni has made the Huskies spring workouts as open as possible. The result has been a host of high school coaches at nearly every practice. The new coaching staff seems comfortable with the personnel, and the players have responded positively as well. Pasqualoni plans to showcase all aspects of the team, so more than anything it will be a glimpse of the Connecticut future. Even in the Fiesta Bowl the Huskies’ roster was filled with names unknown to the average college football fan, let’s see if any stand out on Saturday.

Louisville - 7 p.m. Friday, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
A little bit of everything. Head coach Charlie Strong has kept spring practice closed to media and the public, making Friday night’s scrimmage both a first and last look at the Cardinals until fall practice. Unfortunately, even Friday’s look won’t be anywhere close to the lineup that Strong hopes to have on the field in September. As of Thursday morning, 22 different Cardinals were sitting out of workouts because of injury or rehabilitation. The situation has gotten so bad that they were forced to hold practice at 5:30 a.m. in order to accommodate the class schedules of the few healthy offensive linemen. The injuries also will restrict the activity in Friday night’s Spring Game, which will be exclusively be an offense/defense scrimmage-type format.

Pittsburgh - 2 p.m. Heinz Field
New coach Todd Graham has elected to run more of a “true football game” than the offense-defense structure of past spring games. Graham plans to kickoff at least twice, and run at least 60 offensive plays for the Blue and Gold teams. The thought is that the competitive environment will be the best test for players who are still getting used to a new systems and schemes. Not to mention, the 11-man scrimmage should provide for much more entertainment than some of the slow-paced situational scrimmages elsewhere. Even running back Ray Graham said that the Panthers have been treating this like a “game week” and look forward to showing their stuff to the coaches and fans on Saturday.

Syracuse - 11 a.m. Carrier Dome
Similar to Pittsburgh, Syracuse will be mixing up their spring game format this year. For the first time in 20 years the Orange will divide into two teams and conduct a game-like scrimmage, only with limited special teams. The scrimmage will be made of up four, 12-minute quarters with regular officials. The format should give fans a good opportunity to see who the next crop of defensive playmakers will be, as the Orange look to replace Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith. Spring practice has had some extra enthusiasm coming off the 8-5 season, we’ll see how much of that energy is present in a mostly-empty Carrier Dome at 11 in the morning.


Posted on: April 5, 2011 4:07 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 4:08 pm
 

WVU's Casteel under no illusions about new attack

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Say this for West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel: he's not under any illusions about the increased challenge of coaching a defense opposite the fast-paced aerial attack Dana Holgorsen will bring to Morgantown as the Mountaineers' new offensive mastermind:
[H]aving to replace seven starters is about as easy as it sounds.

Supporting an offense that is going to play with a tenacious tempo and try to ring up touchdowns and first downs at an alarming rate is far more demanding.

"Our challenge will be to play a good, solid defense around that," Casteel said, "and if you go and look at the numbers on the other side of the ball with some of the high-tempo offenses, usually ..."

He trailed off, but the point was clear. Elite offenses [and elite defenses] are oftentimes exclusive ...

"We're going to have to make sure we're able to get off the field on third down and able to create turnovers to get off the field," Casteel said.

Casteel is correct that defenses forced to keep up with offenses that take and then leave the field just as quickly typically don't fare as well as those that get more time on the sidelines. As the story from the Charleston Daily Mail points out, only one team that finished in the bottom 20 in FBS in time-of-possession (Syracuse*) also finished in the top 20 in total defense.

Some of that is sheer statistical inevitability -- shorter possessions equals more possessions equals more plays equals more total yards no matter what the quality of the defense -- and adjusting the metric to yards per-play shows that some units (like Oregon's, which improves from 34th to a tie for 11th) are better than total defense gives them credit for. But many of the defenses in the time-of-possession bottom 20 -- Michigan, Texas Tech, Houston -- were just-plain-bad, buckling under the strain of the extra snaps and time spent on the field. 

But if Casteel is right that those teams' experiences show that he has his work cut for him, here's the good news for both he and Mountaineer fans: even if his defense does take a sizable step back as his team's time-of-possession decreases, it won't matter so long as the offense puts those quick possessions to use. 

Consider the fates of some of the other members of that bottom 20 in time-of-possession: Oregon went 12-0 in the regular season and earned a national championship berth; San Diego State went 9-4 for their first winning season since 1998, with those four losses coming by a combined 15 points; Notre Dame shrugged off a massive exodus of offensive talent and major injury troubles to finish the season at 8-5 and on a four-game win streak; Holgorsen's Oklahoma State team went 11-2 in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Even your national champions at Auburn finished 75th in time-of-possession, a major reason they also checked in at a mediocre 55th in yards allowed per-play.

You get the point: if you've got a functioning high-tempo offense, all the defense has to do is keep its head above water (mainly by the third-down conversions and turnovers Casteel mentions; it's no surprise Oregon finished in the top 20 in both categories, is it?) to produce an extremely successful season. 

And so we won't blame Mountaineer fans for being excited about their new coaching marriage. Given both Holgorsen's and Casteel's track records, they should see both halves of that equation put into action sooner rather than later.

*That the Orange remained as successful as they were on defense even as the offense struggled to stay on the field is quite the testament to defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who also enjoyed a successful stint at Stanford under no less a coaching authority than Jim Harbaugh. With Manny Diaz presumably locked up at Texas for the forseeable future, another solid year at Syracuse should make Shafer one of the hottest names on the defensive coordinating market next offseason.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com