- Adam Rittenberg, College Football
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As signing day approaches, Adam Rittenberg takes a look at the recruiting needs for each team in the Big East:
After a record-setting offensive season, Cincinnati will continue to pile up weapons for coach Brian Kelly's system. As quarterback Ben Mauk awaits a ruling from the NCAA on whether he can return for another season, the Bearcats would be wise to add depth under center. Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones could help, but a top-shelf recruit provides insurance. The secondary and particularly the safety spot is a concern after the losses of leading tackler Haruki Nakamura and Anthony Williams. Cincinnati loses three running backs -- Greg Moore, Butler Benton and Bradley Glatthaar -- and needs a game-ready ball carrier.
The Huskies are a promising young team that will sign a smallish class, but several needs must be addressed. They already have added a likely successor to Tyler Lorenzen at quarterback in Notre Dame transfer Zach Frazer, but upgrades on the offensive line and at wide receiver are also necessary. All-Big East guard Donald Thomas is gone, and UConn could add to its defensive front seven. Depth on the line gets thinner in 2009, and the Huskies must replace middle linebacker Danny Lansanah (team-high 121 tackles, 4 INTs).
The urgency for a quick turnaround at Louisville is reflected in a class that features eight junior-college signees. Tackle becomes a key area after the loss of Breno Giacomini and the impending loss of second-team all-league honoree George Bussey. Quarterback Hunter Cantwell needs weapons at wide receiver and tight end after saying goodbye to Harry Douglas and Gary Barnidge, who combined for 1,824 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. The Cardinals also would be wise to pick up a kicker after losing former Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody.
Ranking ahead of only Syracuse in scoring offense, passing offense and rushing offense last season, Pitt sorely needs skill players who can stretch the field. The quarterback position is uncertain and needs more options, but an immediate contributor at wide receiver takes precedence. The Panthers lose both of their starting tackles (Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn) and need help up front. First-team all-league running back LeSean McCoy is back, but Pitt should build more depth there.
After losing one of the nation's most productive running backs in Ray Rice, Rutgers would be well served to enhance its ground game in recruiting. Rice ranked second nationally in rushing attempts with 380, a load that must be shared this coming season. Coach Greg Schiano first must address the offensive line after losing all-conference tackles Jeremy Zuttah and Pedro Sosa. An upgrade in speed is key after Rutgers ranked last in the Big East in kickoff return average (20.8 ypr) and sixth in punt return average (8.1 ypr).
Superstar defensive end George Selvie is back, but he needs some help. The Bulls took a personnel hit on defense and must rebuild depth, particularly in the secondary, which loses all-conference cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. Another standout pass-rusher would help matters, especially with Selvie's projected departure after the 2008 season. Do-it-all quarterback Matt Grothe is back, but he could use another good running back to complement Mike Ford.
There are no mysteries here. After ranking 114th nationally in total offense and 116th in scoring, the Orange need playmakers who can step in right away. A capable running back could see the field immediately for a team that ranked second to last nationally in rushing (62.8 ypg). Syracuse had a serviceable passing game but still needs solid wide receivers to complement Mike Williams. The offensive line loses two starters and needs greater depth, particularly at tackle.
It's unrealistic to expect coach Bill Stewart's first recruiting class to be a cure-all, but several areas should be upgraded. The Mountaineers need to build depth in their secondary after losing free safety Ryan Mundy and cornerbacks Antonio Lewis and Larry Williams. Also gone is top pass-rusher Johnny Dingle (19 TFLs, 9 sacks) and nose tackle Keilen Dykes, making the defensive line a priority. Running back Noel Devine will move into a featured role alongside QB Pat White, but the Mountaineers could use some insurance at the running back position after Steve Slaton's departure to the NFL.
Adam Rittenberg is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As signing day approaches, Adam Rittenberg takes a look at the recruiting needs for each team in the Big East.