Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater checks in as the No. 1 quarterback in the Big East.
The 2012 college football season is still months away, but it's never too early to preview. Athlon continues its countdown to the upcoming season and spring previews by ranking the quarterbacks in each of the BCS conferences. The rankings take into account last season's production, what each player is expected to do in 2012 and the surrounding personnel.
Here's how Athlon ranks the eight quarterbacks in the Big East for 2012:
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (SO)
Passing Stats: 2,129 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs
Rushing Stats: 89 att., 66 yards, 4 TDs
Bridgewater was one of Louisville’s top incoming freshmen last season, ranking as Athlon’s No. 6 quarterback for the 2011 recruiting class. He took over as the Cardinals’ starting quarterback against Marshall and led the team to a share of the Big East title and victories over Rutgers, West Virginia and South Florida. Bridgewater finished with 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns, but showed his inexperience by tossing 12 picks. The Cardinals should be the favorites to win the Big East title in 2012, and Bridgewater should build off a solid freshman performance with a sophomore campaign.
2. B.J. Daniels, South Florida (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,585 yards, 13 TDs, 7 INTs, 58.9%
Rushing Stats: 132 att., 601 yards, 6 TDs
It’s a close call between Daniels and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib for the No. 2 spot. Daniels threw for a career high in passing yards last season (2,604) and added 601 yards and six scores on the ground. He also tossed only seven picks and posted a career best 58.9 completion percentage. Although Daniels has been up and down throughout his career, the senior could have his best statistical season in 2012. The Bulls have surrounded Daniels with a solid cast of weapons and it certainly helps to have the same offensive scheme in place for the third consecutive season.
3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,685 yards, 22 TDs, 9 INTs, 62.4%
Rushing Stats: 65 att., 39 yards, 2 TDs
Nassib and South Florida’s B.J. Daniels are neck-and-neck for the No. 2 spot among Big East quarterbacks. Nassib had a solid junior campaign, throwing for 2,685 yards and 22 scores. He also completed 62.4 percent of his passes, while averaging 224 yards through the air per game. Nassib will have to shoulder more of the offensive workload in 2012, as running back Antwon Bailey has finished his eligibility and there's no proven player ready to handle the workload on the ground. Syracuse will also have to replace receivers Van Chew and Dorian Graham, along with tight end Nick Provo, but regain the services of receiver Marcus Sales. If the Orange want to return to the postseason, Nassib needs to have a similar statistical year, while keeping his interceptions under 10 once again.
4. Gary Nova, Rutgers (SO)
Passing Stats: 1,553 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs, 51.1%
Rushing Stats: 23 att., -114 yds., 0 TD
Nova and Chas Dodd shared the quarterback duties last season, with both players throwing for over 1,000 yards and 10 scores. Nova played in 10 games and tossed 11 touchdowns, but also threw nine picks and completed only 51.1 percent of his throws. Nova and Dodd are locked into a tight battle this spring for the starting job, but the guess here is that Nova emerges as Rutgers’ No. 1 quarterback. Considering Nova has yet to play a full season and is only a sophomore, there will be a few ups and downs. Rutgers also has a new offensive coordinator this year, which will require some adjustment from both quarterbacks. Although Dodd has the edge in experience, Nova has more talent and brings the necessary arm strength to help stretch the field.
5. Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati (JR)
Passing Stats: 749 yards, 5 TDs, 4 INTs, 47.4%
Rushing Stats: 41 att., 185 yards, 2 TDs
Legaux was thrown into the fire last year and despite his inexperience, kept Cincinnati in the thick of the Big East title race. Starter Zach Collaros suffered an ankle injury against West Virginia, forcing Legaux to start the next three games. The Bearcats went 2-1 in Legaux’s three starts, and he finished the year with more touchdowns (five) than interceptions (four). However, Legaux is far from a finished product, as indicated by his 47.4 completion percentage. The junior has talent and his experience should help him emerge as a solid quarterback in Big East play.
6. Chris Coyer, Temple (JR)
Passing Stats: 463 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INT, 60%
Rushing Stats: 69 att., 562 yards, 3 TDs
With Temple moving from the MAC to the Big East, it’s tough to figure out where Temple’s players stack up in the new conference. After all, the Owls have been playing MAC competition, and the defenses in the Big East should provide a tougher test each week. Coyer is a promising quarterback, but there needs to be a bigger sample size to rank him higher on this list. He threw for just 463 yards in limited action, but displayed his value as a runner by recording 562 yards and three touchdowns. With a rebuilt offensive line and running back Bernard Pierce off to the NFL, the Owls need Coyer to carry the offense in 2012.
7. Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,616 yards, 10 TDs, 11 INTs, 64.2%
Rushing Stats: 154 att., 86 yards, 4 TDs
Sunseri has been the source of frustration for Pittsburgh fans over the last two years. In his first season as a starter in 2010, Sunseri threw for 2,572 yards and 16 scores. He didn’t improve those numbers by much in 2011, throwing for 2,616 yards and 10 touchdowns. In fairness to Sunseri, Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles last year were largely due to the scheme not fitting the personnel. New coach Paul Chryst should do a better job of adapting his scheme to Sunseri and the offensive line can’t be any worse than it was in 2011. Expect Sunseri to play better in 2012, but for now, he checks in as the No. 7 quarterback in the Big East.
8. Johnny McEntee Connecticut (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,110 yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs, 51.3%
Rushing Stats: 55 att., -148 yards, 0 TD
The race to start the season opener for Connecticut is wide open, with five quarterbacks competing for snaps. The edge in this space goes to McEntee after starting all 12 games for the Huskies last season. McEntee had virtually no experience going into the 2011 season and certainly struggled to move the ball through the air for the Connecticut offense. He finished with 2,110 yards and 12 touchdowns, but also tossed eight picks and posted a disappointing 51.3 completion percentage. There’s no guarantee McEntee wins the job this spring, as junior college recruit Chandler Whitmer and incoming freshman Casey Cochran will push for playing time. Considering how little McEntee improved last year, if he wins the job this spring, it would seem to be a bad sign for the Huskies’ offense.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Related Big East Content
Ranking the Big East Coaches for 2012
Ranking College Football's Top 25 Coaches for 2012
Big East 2012 Schedule Analysis
College Football's Top Quarterback Battles to Watch
Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat