Butch Jones

Big East spring storylines

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Unscathed by the first round of conference realignment in 2010, the Big East was by far the most impacted by conference realignment 2.0 this past summer and fall. Now, Big East teams head into spring practice for the final time before dramatic changes alter the look of the conference beginning in 2013.

But there will be one noticeable absence, as West Virginia will be playing in the Big 12 this fall. The Mountaineers have acted as the Big East’s lifeboat since 2005, contributing to three of the conference’s four BCS bowl wins under the “new” Big East lineup.

That new lineup is about to get, well, newer. Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and SMU will all join as either all-sports members or football-only members beginning in 2013. But what does the Big East have in store for the transition year? Can any of the seven remaining members* — or eight if Temple joins immediately — emerge as a Top 25 team and show up to the BCS party like the Mountaineers have done before?

Those answers begin in spring practices. Here’s what to watch.

New coaches, old philosophies
It’s easy to rag on the Big East, but consider the following: since 2006, at least one Big East school per year has gone through a coaching change, and Cincinnati, Louisville and Pittsburgh have endured a few. It’s tough, if not downright impossible, to achieve any kind of consistency with that sort of coaching turnover. Pitt and Rutgers are the latest Big East schools to see their coach depart, with Todd Graham going to Arizona State and Greg Schiano testing the NFL waters, respectively. But both programs rebounded with decent, albeit unproven, head coaching hires in Paul Chryst and Kyle Flood. For the Panthers, Chryst will look to re-establish the ground-and-pound identity that went on hiatus under Graham. Expect the Scarlet Knights to maintain similar offensive and defensive philosophies.

Quarterbacks club
With Geno Smith (WVU) and Zach Collaros (Cincy) gone, the Big East lost its two best quarterbacks. Now, the conference is left with a mixed bag of signal callers that are either young (Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Munchie Legaux of Cincinnati come to mind), inconsistent (South Florida’s 10th year senior B.J. Daniels) or TBD (Rutgers, UConn and Pitt).  The quarterback is the most important position in football, and right now, there isn’t much star power at that position in the Big East. Who has a good spring, and more importantly, who carries it over to the fall, will be a storyline to watch.

Drinking the Orange Kool-Aid
Remember when Syracuse was good and the Carrier Dome was one hell of a tough place to play in college football? Remember when Paul Pasqualoni was coaching future NFL stars like Donovan McNabb and Dwight Freeney? The Orange’s gridiron success seems a distant memory now –their last 10-win season came in 2001 — but believe it or not, Syracuse is still a good brand. It just needs some on-the-field success to match. Doug Marrone looks like he can be the guy to get Syracuse back to glory, but as we saw last season, injuries and suspensions can sour any team’s chances of winning. The key for the Orange will be to stay healthy during the spring and summer months. Do that, and Syracuse has a chance for a Big East championship in 2012.

Can USF hit the Bulls-eye?
As I mentioned above, South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels has had a productive, but up-and-down career in Tampa. That has to change if the Bulls are going to be a legit contender for the Big East title. Thankfully, Daniels will have arguably the deepest and most talented group of receivers to throw to this year, with leading receiver Sterling Griffin returning after missing part of last season with an injury. The Bulls will also be breaking in a new defensive coordinator, their third in four years, with Chris Cosh. USF has talent, and they look great every year on paper. It just hasn’t translated into meaningful victories. Yet.

Cincinnati’s offensive production
Collaros is gone and Big East Offensive Player of the Year, running back Isaiah Pead, is off to the NFL. Those two combined for just over two-thirds of the Bearcats’ offense last year. Who steps up in spring practices? Cincy has a young group of running backs, including touted back Jameel Poteat, and coach Butch Jones may go with a rotation at that position, much like WVU did this past year. The Bearcats also return their top two receivers from last season, Anthony McClung and Kenbrell Thompkins.

(*note: Syracuse and Pitt will be leaving for the ACC; exactly when is still being determined) 

Michigan reportedly adds ex-Vikings QBs coach as offensive analyst

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Jim Harbaugh has added more experience and another “name” to his Michigan football staff.

According to NFL.com‘s Albert Breer, Harbaugh has hired Scott Turner as an offensive analyst.  Harbaugh’s nine-man on-field coaching staff is already full, but Turner could be in line to join that group if/when the NCAA approves a 10th assistant.

Turner, the son of former Washington, Oakland and San Diego head coach Norv Turner, spent the past three seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Turner has spent the past six seasons in the NFL.  His last job at the collegiate level came as the wide receivers coach at Pittsburgh in 2010.

It was previously reported that Harbaugh had, controversially in the eyes of some, hired former NFL offensive coordinator Michael Johnson Sr. to an undetermined off-field position.  Johnson, the father of the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2019, ultimately took an on-field job at Oregon.

Montell Cozart becomes third Kansas QB to leave in two months

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 29:  Quarterback Montell Cozart #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks looks to throw against the Oklahoma Sooners October 29, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Jayhawks 56-3. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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If it wasn’t clear before, it is now — Kansas’ quarterback room will have a decidedly different look this coming season.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Montell Cozart announced his decision to transfer from the Jayhawks and finish his playing career elsewhere. The quarterback described it as “a tough decision that brought along a lot of prayer, sleepless nights, and meaningful talks with my family.”

Cozart started five games as a true sophomore in 2014, then started three of the first four games of the 2015 season before a shoulder injury ultimately sidelined him for the remainder of the year.  After starting seven games this past season, he lost his job just past the midway point and never got it back.

He received a medical hardship waiver for the 2015 season, giving the graduate another year of eligibility he can use immediately in 2017.

Early last month, Ryan Willis announced his decision to transfer from Kansas to Virginia Tech. Less than four weeks later, Deondre Ford followed his former teammate out the door as well.

Redshirt freshman Carter Stanley took over as the starter for the three last games of the 2016 season and is pencilled in as the starter heading into the offseason. KU also added Peyton Bender, a transfer from Washington State by way of the junior college ranks who’s eligible to play immediately in 2017 and will pose a stiff test for the incumbent.

Virginia confirms addition of Notre Dame transfer John Montelus

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 10:  A general view of the game between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Miami Hurricanes at Scott Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
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Two months after deciding to leave Notre Dame, John Montelus officially has a new college football home.

On its official Twitter account Tuesday, Virginia announced that Montelus has signed his grant-in-aid papers with the university and will play his final season for the Cavaliers.  As a graduate transfer, the offensive lineman is eligible to play immediately.

Over his four seasons with the Fighting Irish, Montelus played in just six games. A four-star 2013 recruit, Montelus was rated as the No. 8 guard in the country and the the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Massachusetts.

Montelus is actually one of two Irish linemen joining the Cavaliers as transfers, with Colin McGovern confirming last month that he’ll be doing the same. UVa. has yet to officially announce his addition to the roster.

Starting D-lineman one of two dismissed by Duke

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 19:  Clayton Thorson #18 of the Northwestern Wildcats tries to get away from Marquies Price #91 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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In the midst of spring practice, Duke has seen its defensive line take a twin hit unrelated to any health issues.

Tuesday afternoon, the football program announced that a pair of sophomore defensive linemen, Brandon Boyce and Marquies Price (pictured), have been dismissed by David Cutcliffe.  Other than failing to meet the standards of a Blue Devil football player, no specific reason for the dismissals were given.

Both had been expected to contribute significantly this coming season.

Price started all 11 games in which he played during the 2016 season, and started 14 in his career.  His six quarterback hurries last year were second on the team.

Boyce played in 21 games during his time with the Blue Devils.  Eight of those appearances came in 2016.

In mid-August, it was announced that Boyce was one of two football players suspended for the first three games of last season.  Unspecified violations of team rules was the only reason given for that punitive measure.