Spring look around the Big East
This week's Big East spring notebook takes a look at the quarterback situations at each school in the conference.
Redshirt sophomore Dustin Grutza entered spring drills as the starter but faced solid competition from senior Nick Davila and redshirt freshman Craig Carey. Davila, a JC transfer, passed for five touchdowns in mop-up duty last season. Carey is a 6-foot-4 local product with a strong arm. Grutza was fourth in the Big East in total offense last season (165 yards per game) but needs to be more consistent. He has excellent leadership skills and can make plays on the move.
Coach Randy Edsall has declared a wide-open competition, with four candidates listed on the same line of his depth chart: senior Matt Bonislawski; highly touted redshirt freshman Billy Cundiff; and sophomores Dennis Brown and D.J. Hernandez. Bonislawski, injured for part of last season, has the best arm of the three veterans. Hernandez is the most mobile. Those two and Brown each started two or more games last season, while Cundiff's redshirt was preserved. "We'll give them all some time and see where they are," Edsall said.
Coach Bobby Petrino loved what he got last season from first-year starter Brian Brohm but sees room for improvement. "He can improve on getting the ball out of his hand a little quicker," Petrino said. "He can make all the different throws you need -- and with experience, it'll be easier to get it out quicker." Brohm, a junior, is coming off major knee surgery. He's been limited in spring drills but is expected to be 100 percent by August and will have an excellent receiving corps. His backup, sophomore Hunter Cantwell, gained valuable experience late last season.
Two-time All-Big East second team selection Tyler Palko will be shooting for the first team -- and, more importantly, for a few more wins this season. It wasn't easy for Palko to make the transition from Walt Harris' offense to Matt Cavanaugh's, but he started clicking the second half of the season and enters his senior year fifth all-time on Pitt's passing charts with 5,472 yards. He's also a strong leader who was "embarrassed" by the team's 5-6 record in 2005. "I'll never forget it," Palko said. There isn't much experience behind Palko. Sophomore Bill Stull is the top backup.
Sophomore Mike Teel is penciled in as the starter, but redshirt freshman Jabu Lovelace is seeing his share of reps. Coach Greg Schiano plans to use both, taking advantage of Lovelace's running ability with specific packages. "Mike's more of big, traditional pocket passer," Schiano said. "Jabu's a little bit more of the athletic type, moving on his feet. And he's real strong-armed. It'll be an interesting competition. There's probably a place for both of them." Teel must cut down on his interceptions (10 last season). He briefly displaced senior Ryan Hart as the starter but couldn't nail down the job.
It's Carlton Hill's job to lose. Hill, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore, came to USF rated among the 2005 recruits at any position. "He is a hell of an athlete -- and a great kid," coach Jim Leavitt said. "He can throw and run, but he's got to play more football before we really see what we have." Hill saw limited duty last season, as junior starter Pat Julmiste struggled his way to six touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Still, Julmiste had his moments and provides serious competition. Leavitt said Julmiste and redshirt freshman Matt Grothe will get a look.
Perry Patterson, coming off a fairly disastrous junior season, entered spring practice as the starter. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, the 6-4 Patterson has dropped about 20 pounds, down to 240. Now he'll have to adjust to a new position coach, Phil Earley, and a new coordinator, Brian White, who will run a modified form of the West Coast offense. Joe Fields, who started two games, is hovering in the background, and freshman Andrew Robinson arrives with a big reputation.
Sophomore Pat White returns after leading his team to a Sugar Bowl victory. An electrifying runner, White didn't start until halfway through the season but rushed for 875 yards, sixth in the conference and second-most by a quarterback in Big East history. He could stand to improve his passing accuracy, but he looked pretty good in the Sugar Bowl (11-for-14). Last year's part-time starter, Adam Bednarik, still is struggling with shoulder problems, which leaves the backup competition between redshirt freshmen Nate Sowers and Jarrett Brown.
Joe Starkey covers the Big East for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
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