Big East recruiting update

With around two months left until national signing day, it's time to take a look at the status of the recruiting classes in the Big East.

Cincinnati Bearcats

What's happened: First-year coach Butch Jones has stuck to his territory, grabbing eight of the program's 12 verbal commitments from the Midwest, including six from Ohio.

What's next: With the majority of the Bearcats' commitments on offense so far, it is expected that Jones and his staff will address a young defense that has ranked at or near the bottom in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense. Their top target is probably hometown star linebacker Antonio Poole (Cincinnati/Woods), a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder who recently visited Nebraska. Three-star defensive back LaQuentin Smith (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) will make an official visit to Cincinnati on Dec. 11. Although four wide receivers already have committed, the Bearcats are also on the hunt for more wideouts. Another top target, former Miami commit Eli Rogers (Miami/Northwestern), plans to visit Dec. 11.

Connecticut Huskies

What's happened: The Huskies signed two of the top five players in Connecticut this season, but with less than half the class filled, expect coach Randy Edsall and staff to spend extended time in the Southeast. Team speed on defense has been a focus thus far, as Connecticut has signed five players projected to play in the secondary.

What's next: Edsall always has been a strong recruiter in Florida and has his eyes on linebacker Terrance Plummer (Orange Park, Fla./Orange Park). The 6-foot, 215-pounder is still in the playoffs with his team but has UConn at the top of his board with Vanderbilt and South Florida. He'll visit all three schools in December or January. The Huskies also remain in the hunt for defensive back Larry Franklin (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach). The 6-1, 185-pound safety appeared to be all but headed to Michigan State, but the Spartans might not have space for him in their class. UConn was one of the first to offer Franklin during the summer. Another defensive back, Corian Hamilton (Orlando, Fla./Olympia), also plans to take an official to Connecticut in January. The Huskies have some ground to make up, however, as South Florida has surged to the top for the 6-foot, 215-pounder.

Louisville Cardinals

What's happened: In his first full recruiting cycle with the Cardinals, coach Charlie Strong already has landed 20 commitments, including five in the secondary. Quarterback DaMarcus Smith (Louisville, Ky./Seneca) might not be ready immediately but could be the most important recruit in this class.

What's next: If nothing changes, Strong has a solid class in the books with upgrades in the secondary and on the offensive line. Now the Cardinals will aim high for their remaining commits and look for Strong to go into the Southeast and go after some big names. Defensive lineman B.J. Dubose (Oakland Park, Fla./Northeast) is expected to take an official visit after his season ends. Strong would love to pair the 6-3, 240-pounder with promising freshman B.J. Butler. Louisville could also look to sign a second quarterback and offered former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger within the past month. Mettenberger, who's now at Butler Community College in Kansas, recently visited LSU and plans to make a decision in January. According to some reports, Louisville had an in-home visit with Miami commit Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) on Sunday.

Pittsburgh Panthers

What's happened: Pittsburgh continues to recruit Pennsylvania and neighboring states strong, as 12 of the Panthers' 18 commitments are from Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

What's next: Although five of the top 10 players in Pennsylvania remain uncommitted, Pittsburgh does not appear to be in line to receive commitments from any of them. More alarming is that the Panthers appear to be falling out of the picture for highly touted athlete Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's), who now has a top five of Notre Dame, North Carolina, Rutgers, USC and Auburn. With a heavy focus on the running game, it's no surprise that Pittsburgh is heavily involved with supersized offensive lineman Aundrey Walker (Cleveland/Glenville). The 6-5, 350-pounder will take an official visit in January. Pittsburgh is also looking for more depth along the defensive line and is in hot pursuit of defensive end Deion Barnes (Philadelphia/Northeast).

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

What's happened: With Rutgers hovering near the bottom of the Big East in most defensive categories, it's no surprise that 10 of the 16 commitments are projected to play defense.

What's next: The Scarlet Knights are among the top five choices of running back Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's), the top player in New Jersey. The 5-11, 200-pound Under Armour All-American is the type of player whom Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano would describe as a must-have prospect for the program's profile. Rutgers always has been active in Florida and has billboards in choice places along I-95 South heading into Miami-Dade County. Wide receiver Andre Davis (Tampa, Fla./Jefferson), one of the top receivers in Florida, has mentioned Rutgers when talking about his top schools and likely will take an official visit once his season is over.

South Florida Bulls

What's happened: First-year coach Skip Holtz has made good on his promise to recruit players who will help the Bulls get tougher in the trenches with commits from five offensive linemen.

What's next: Holtz also talked about building a fence around Tampa and its surrounding areas, but there are no players from Hillsborough County among his 17 commitments. The good news is that there is plenty of time for that to change. Defensive end Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) says he's a soft commitment to Miami now that Randy Shannon has been fired. He has said the Bulls are in the running, but it's likely that Florida would be his next choice if he splits from the Hurricanes. Three-star athlete Josh Grady (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) is a player the Bulls covet because he could play several different positions. South Florida also will be in the hunt for wide receivers Andre Davis (Tampa, Fla./Jefferson) and Ruben Gonzalez (Tampa, Fla./Robinson).

Syracuse Orange

What's happened: It's been all about improving team speed and size at the receiver position for the Orange, with commitments from Keenan Hale (Atlanta/McCallie) and Dyshawn Davis (Woodbury, N.J./Milford Academy).

What's next: In a season that exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic Orange fans, coach Doug Marrone rode a senior-laden, tough defense to bowl eligibility. An offense ranked in the bottom third of the nation was exposed late in the season, and that's what Marrone likely will focus on with the remaining spots in this class, with one very notable exception. Expect Syracuse to go all in for linebacker Ishaq Williams (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln). The four-star linebacker is the best player in the state and has family ties to the program. Penn State still appears to have the inside track on the 6-4, 220-pounder, but Syracuse is in the top five and likely will get a visit. Three-star athlete Josh Grady (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) says Syracuse will get an official visit after the season. One thing that might improve the Orange's chances with Grady is that they will allow him to compete at quarterback.

West Virginia Mountaineers

What's happened: With the upcoming departures of RBs Noel Devine and Jock Sanders, the Mountaineers' coaching staff has focused on bringing in more weapons for quarterback Geno Smith.

What's next: With a limited crop of talent to choose from in West Virginia, it's important for coach Bill Stewart and his staff to go elsewhere for talent. The Mountaineers have had a strong presence in Florida and continue to look to the Sunshine State for speedy, versatile athletes to plug into their offense. Wide receiver Prince Holloway (Cape Coral, Fla./Cape Coral) has been leaning to West Virginia over Michigan for a while now and will take his official visits now that his season has ended. The Mountaineers also need unique hybrid players to fit into their 3-3-5 defense and are high on the list for defensive end Demetrius Alston (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), a 6-3, 210-pounder who could play outside linebacker or grow into a defensive end.

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.