Spring look around the Big East
As spring practices starts, our Big East notebook addresses the big questions for each team.
This week's Big East spring notebook takes a look at something new at each school in the conference.
Something new: One fresh face is that of 6-foot-4, 215-pound redshirt freshman quarterback Craig Carey, who is expected to challenge incumbent starter Dustin Grutza. Carey helped Cincinnati's Elder High to back-to-back state titles playing tight end. He switched to quarterback his senior year and passed for 1,875 yards, including a school record 391 in one game. Grutza, a competitive, athletic quarterback, had a decent freshman season with 11 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. New quarterbacks coach Dave Warner will be watching closely.
Something new: Starting in July, team meetings will no longer be held in trailers. UConn's $43 million practice facility, complete with offices, a weight room, a training room, study halls and indoor practice fields, is near completion. The only upgrade in previous years was going from one double-wide trailer to two double-wides and a single trailer for meetings among coaches and between position coaches and their players. Also, every practice was held outdoors. UConn left early for the Motor City Bowl last winter because the ice-cold conditions in Storrs were not conducive to good practices.
Something new: As if the Cardinals don't have enough offensive weapons, two stud transfers will bolster an already impressive receiving corps that features 6-6 Mario Urrutia, who led the Big East in yards per catch (21.5) last season. Chris Vaughn is a physical, 6-3 receiver who transferred from Notre Dame and sat out last season. Pat Carter is a 6-2 speedster from Georgia Tech who did the same. This will easily be coach Bobby Petrino's deepest receiving group since he arrived at Louisville four years ago, and it should enable quarterback Brian Brohm to put up ridiculous numbers.
Something new: Josh Lay's old cornerback spot is up for grabs, and a true freshman is ready to make a bid. Jovani Chappel, a 5-9, 175-pound wrecking ball who decommitted from Purdue is already enrolled in classes at Pitt. He will participate in spring practice. Chappel, from Trotwood Madison (Ohio) High School, was the nation's No. 45-ranked cornerback by Scouts Inc. Trotwood's coach, Maurice Douglas, played for Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt when Wannstedt coached the Chicago Bears, which helped in the recruiting process.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Something new: The Scarlet Knights will have a new quarterback -- or maybe two. Redshirt sophomore Mike Teel, who displaced senior Ryan Hart for a spell last season, is a classic drop-back type and has the inside track on the starting spot. Redshirt freshman Jabu Lovelace is more of a scrambler with a rocket arm. Coach Greg Schiano is intrigued with Lovelace and likes the possibilities of using multiple quarterbacks, as he sometimes did last season, when receiver Tiquan Underwood would run the option for a few snaps. "I think it will be an interesting competition [between Teel and Lovelace]," Schiano said. "There's probably a place for both of them."
South Florida Bulls
Something new: Somebody besides star tailback Andre Hall will get most of the carries, as Hall is headed to the NFL. The two leading candidates are redshirt sophomore Ricky Ponton and redshirt freshman Moise Plancher. Ponton had 92 carries for 373 yards and two touchdowns last season. The Bulls also might have a new quarterback if talented sophomore Carlton Hill can unseat senior Pat Julmiste, who was inconsistent last season. Hill can beat teams with his feet as well as his arm.
Something new: The football program now has a $3 million weight-training and conditioning facility, which has glass walls on both sides and is attached to the Manley Field House. Ex-Syracuse star Donovan McNabb made a major contribution to the project. The facility has two levels -- the upper being reserved for cardio work -- and the Syracuse logo imprinted on every weight. As for the depth chart, at least three candidates will vie for Damien Rhodes' old tailback spot: redshirt sophomore Kareem Jones, sophomore Curtis Brinkley and redshirt sophomore Paul Chiara. All had their moments last season. Brinkley returned kicks.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Something new: A flock of true freshmen could provide immediate help in rebuilding three-fifths of the secondary. Four of WVU's slim,15-member recruiting class were defensive backs. Headlining the group is 6-2, 205-pound Greg Davis, one of the top high school players in Virginia last season. Another is Franchot "Boogie" Allen, from Milford (N.Y.) Academy. He turned down Michigan State and Iowa. Allen can play corner or safety. Cornerback Ryan Brinson was the Ohio Big School Player of the Year two years ago as a running back. The fastest of the bunch might be Robert Williams, who turned down Illinois and Minnesota. He tied an Ohio record with five interceptions as a sophomore at Withrow High (Cincinnati).
Joe Starkey covers the Big East for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.