It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2012, Athlon asked coaches in the Big East to talk anonymously about their opponents.
Big East Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes
Opposing coaches size up the Bearcats:
"Butch Jones had a nice bounce back season. After his 4-8 year replacing Brian Kelly, the Bearcats shocked a lot of people getting to 10 wins. And that was even though they lost quarterback Zach Collaros to injury.
They had the Big East’s offensive and defensive players of the year in running back Isaiah Pead and defensive end Derek Wolfe. But Collaros, Pead, Wolfe and also linebacker J.K. Schaffer, a leader the past three years on defense, are all gone.
This year, they’ll base the offense around quarterback Munchie Legaux, who did an admirable job filling in for Collaros. He’ll have to take over the reins for the Bearcats this season.
Cincinnati may have lost more key contributors than any other league team, but don’t sell Jones’ bunch short. They used the doubts about them last year as motivation to pull off 10 victories.
I think they took too many hits graduation wise to reach double-digit wins, but certainly a bowl trip is not out of the question.
Virginia Tech should be the only potential problem in a very weak non-conference schedule that also includes Delaware State, Miami (Ohio), Fordham and Toledo."
Opposing coaches size up the Huskies:
"Not surprisingly Paul Pasqualoni’s debut season at Connecticut didn’t live up to Randy Edsall’s final season with the Huskies. Edsall bolted for Maryland after leading UConn to the Big East title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Pasqualoni took over for Edsall and had a fairly uneventful season.
The Huskies weren’t real impressive but weren’t horrible either. They were just – I’m not sure how to say this – but average.
They never played an exciting brand of football under Edsall and that has not changed with a new head coach.
Last year, their offense was very, very pedestrian This year looks to be probably more of the same with six starters back on offense and eight starters back on defense.
Even though Johnny McEntee started every game last season, they used Scott McCummings in their wildcat formation. Neither way was particularly threatening from a defensive standpoint.
They do have a good young runner in Lyle McCombs. He’s going to be a good one. Unfortunately he’s about all they have an offense.
Unless they can get more out of the quarterback position, teams will focus on stopping McCombs.
Last year they only managed five wins and I’d say that sounds about right for this season especially with a non-conference schedule with back-to-back games against ACC teams N.C. State and Maryland."
Opposing coaches size up the Cardinals:
"Two years, two bowl games for Charlie Strong. Good for him. I’m glad he’s having success because I think a lot of athletic directors missed the boat on him when he was defensive coordinator at Florida. Only Tom Jurich had the guts and was smart enough to take a chance on him and it’s paying off.
Not surprisingly Strong is winning at Louisville with defense. Last year the Cardinals only allowed more than 25 points twice and nobody scored more than 35 all season. Now they return virtually their entire lineup on the defensive side.
They’re also loaded on offense. Eight starters are back, but none are as significant as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He was thrown into the fire as a freshman last year and I thought he performed tremendously. Defenses sort of figured him out later in the season, but that’s to be expected for a first-year guy. I really think he is a terrific player and his performance can be the difference between Louisville winning the Big East and being a top 25 team or just languishing finishing with another seven-win season."
Opposing coaches size up the Panthers:
"For all the missteps, bad hires and musical chairs that have occurred with Pitt’s head coaching position, I think they’re very fortunate to end up with Paul Chryst. I thought they were in good shape with Todd Graham, after what happened with Mike Haywood. But then Graham bolted after one very mediocre season leaving the Panthers searching for yet another head coach.
Chryst had a great deal of success at Wisconsin and I think that can bring that same success with him to Pittsburgh.
I think Chryst’s style of offense will benefit Tino Sunseri. He’s been a whipping boy of Pitt fans, but I think he’ll do more by being asked to do less in Chryst’s system.
The biggest beneficiary will be Ray Graham. He was having a monster year last season before going down with a knee injury. Graham should get plenty of opportunities in Chryst’s offense.
That should also open up things considerably downfield for receivers Mike Shanahan and Devin Street.
The defense doesn’t return much but that shouldn’t be that big of a concern. If Pitt’s new offensive attack can grind it out, eat the clock and win the time of possession battle, the defense should be more than adequate.
The secondary should be strong. They’ve got some talent back there with safeties Jarred Holley and Andrew Taglianetti and cornerback K’Waun Williams."
Opposing coaches size up the Scarlet Knights:
"Greg Schiano had the best recruiting class in school history locked up. He had his best overall team since he got to Piscataway. All the pieces were in place for Rutgers to finally win a Big East championship under Schiano. But, of course, Schiano left just days before signing day to take the head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So Schiano’s Big East title-less streak won’t end.
I think Rutgers’ non-title streak could end this fall even with new coach Kyle Flood. With West Virginia gone to the Big 12, the Scarlet Knights have the best shot to win the league championship.
Next to Schiano the biggest departure that will have the greatest impact is wide receiver Mohamed Sanu’s decision to leave early for the NFL. He was a game-changer and there’s no question he will be missed.
Other than Sanu, Rutgers has a good core back starting with running back Jawan Jamison.
Quarterbacks Chas Dodd and Gary Nova will battle for starting spot. Dodd had his moments last year, but was inconsistent.
Rutgers has always been tough defensively under Schiano and this year will be no exception.
Linebacker Khaseem Greene is a beast. Offenses have to account for him on every play. Safety Duron Harmon also is one of the league’s best at his position.
The best thing Schiano left Flood was a ridiculously easy non-conference schedule, which should guarantee four wins against Tulane, Howard, Kent State and Army."
Opposing coaches size up the Bulls:
"Skip Holtz is one of the good guys in coaching, but he had to be one of the unluckiest coaches in the country last year. He had a solid first year leading South Florida to a bowl game but last season was a total and complete disaster. A 4-0 start had the Bulls thinking they might be headed to their first BCS bowl in program history. What followed was a disaster, losing seven of their last eight games. It wasn’t necessarily the losses, but how they lost. Other than a blowout at Pittsburgh, they could have easily won the other six games, four losses were by three points each and two others by 10 points or less.
This year is the final one for quarterback B.J. Daniels. He’s had more than his shares of ups and downs. He’s been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, but I think he’s primed for a big year.
I know every year USF is picked as a sleeper team to win the Big East.
Running back Darnell Scott and wide receiver A.J. Love are the biggest losses, but with 17 returning starters this could be the year since Holtz has to have better luck this fall.
While they could compete for the Big East title, they might only go 2-3 in non-conference play visiting Nevada and Miami and hosting Florida State along with gimmies against Ball State and Chattanooga."
Opposing coaches size up the Orange:
"I thought Doug Marrone had finally turned Syracuse’s program around. After an 8-5 debut season, the Orange started last season 5-2 including a home thrashing of West Virginia. They only needed one victory to make a second consecutive bowl game and instead went in the tank. Syracuse ended the season losing their last five games. And they weren’t competitive in most of those contests. Only one was by fewer than 13 points.
So what’s ahead in Marrone’s third season? The first half success or the second half slump? I’d like to hope Marrone could have more success, but with their non-conference schedule I think there will be more losses than wins. They have games against USC, Missouri, Northwestern and Minnesota.
If the Orange is going to have a chance, they’ll need a big year from quarterback Ryan Nassib. There was a lot of hype when he came to Syracuse. Not sure if it was fair or not, but he hasn’t lived up to it. At least not that. That could change this year.
If the defense doesn’t make drastic improvements, that’s not going to matter. They held only three teams to fewer than four touchdowns. They just don’t impress me defensively.
Shamarko Thomas and Marquis Spruill can be big-time defenders, but after that they don’t have much. This is likely their last season in the Big East. I know they’d like to go into the ACC next year on an upswing of a bowl trip. I just don’t see that happening."
Note: The Owls did not play a Big East team last season, so Athlon was unable to get a scouting report from an opposing coach. However, a coach from the MAC offered this on Temple:
"The Big East better watch out, this team is bigger and faster than most may think.
From of a physical standpoint they are certainly ready for the Big East."
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