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) 

Concussion concerns lead Ohio QB Conner Krizancic to retire

Ohio Bobcats
Ohio athletics
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The concern over the long-term effects of concussions has prompted yet another college football player to give up the game.

According to the Twitter feed of the Lake County News-Herald‘s John Kampf, Ohio University quarterback Conner Krizancic has decided to retire from the sport of football because of concussion concerns.  Krizancic sustained a concussion in the Bobcats’ spring game earlier this year, the third concussion, including two in high school, he had sustained during his playing career.

Kampf confirmed the player’s decision through his father.

Krizancic originally signed with Minnesota as a three-star prospect in 2014, but the Gophers quickly moved the Ohio product to wide receiver. The desire to play quarterback led Krizancic to transfer from Minnesota to Ohio in January of 2015.

After sitting out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Krizancic joined the Bobcats’ quarterbacking competition this past spring.  Post-spring, though, there had been talk of Krizancic moving back to receiver.

Two projected defensive starters among three suspended for Toledo’s first two games

BOCA RATON, FL - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Jason Candle of the Toledo Rockets celebrates with player after the game against the Temple Owls at FAU Stadium on December 22, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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When Toledo takes the field for the first couple of games this coming season, they’ll do so a little lighter on the defensive side of the ball than expected.

First-year head coach Jason Candle has confirmed that linebackers Jaylen Coleman and Anthony Davis and defensive tackle Marquise Moore have been suspended for the first two games of the upcoming season.  The players will miss the season opener Sept. 2 against Arkansas State and the home opener against Maine Sept. 10 before being eligible to return for the following weekend’s game against Fresno State.

The only reason given by Candle for the suspensions was “violations of athletic department policies.”

Coleman started the first half of the 2015 season before a broken leg sidelined him for the final six games.  According to the Toledo Blade, he was the Rockets’ leading tackler at the time of the injury.

Moore played in all 12 games last season, while Davis played in four.

Heading into summer camp, Coleman and Moore would’ve been projected starters at their respective positions.

New Mexico State’s leading receiver joins Maryland as grad transfer

Teldrick Morgan
New Mexico State athletics
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Teldrick Morgan had been a significant part of New Mexico State’s passing game the past two seasons.  In 2016, he’ll try to play the same role at a Big Ten school.

Maryland announced in a press release that Morgan, a native of Hanover, Maryland, has transferred to the university and will continue his collegiate playing career with the Terps.  As Morgan is coming to College Park as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016.

The upcoming season will be the wide receiver’s final year of eligibility.

“Teldrick brings a great deal to our program and we’re excited that he’s a part of our family,” first-year Terps head coach DJ Durkin said in a statement. “It’s always great to bring a local kid back home, and on top of that he’s very skilled and brings a wealth of experience to our receivers unit.”

Each of the past two seasons, Morgan led the Aggies in receptions.  He caught 75 passes in 2014, although that production dipped to 45 in 2015.  A part of that drop was due to a groin injury that cost the 6-0, 195-pound receiver three games, as well as the continued emergence of Larry Rose III (1,651 yards rushing).

Morgan totaled 120 receptions for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns

Two years after ‘parting ways’ with Baylor, WR Robbie Rhodes dismissed by Bowling Green

Robbie Rhoads
Associated Press
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Some kids/young adults will simply never learn, at least not the easy way.  Case in point: Robbie Rhodes.

In June of 2014, reports surfaced that Rhodes had, ahem, “parted ways” with Baylor “for undisclosed reasons.”  That move came a month after Rhodes was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and tampering with physical evidence, even as charges were never filed against him.  Two months after “parting ways” with BU, Bowling Green announced that the wide receiver had transferred into its football program.

Nearly two years later?  He gone.  Again.

According to the Toledo Blade, Rhodes has been dismissed from the Falcons football team.  The only stated reason was an unspecified violation of team rules.

Rhodes, a four-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 8 receiver in the country that year, appeared in 11 games as a true freshman for the Bears, recording 10 receptions for 157 yards.  After sitting out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Rhodes played in seven games for the Falcons last season, recording three catches for 130 yards.

Rhodes’ departure leaves the Falcons with just two receivers who have caught passes at the collegiate level — Ronnie Moore (third on the team in 2015 with 72 receptions for 954 yards and six touchdowns) and Scott Miller (7-29 last season).