This week, teams around the nation will move from preseason camp mode and into game-week preparation.
We’re starting to see coaches name starting quarterbacks and settle on position battles.
Although questions are still out there before the season, some weigh more heavily than others. As the preseason winds down, we’re picking who we believe to be “pivotal players,” or in other words, key players who need to step up where their teams need them most.
Athlon Sports’ characteristics of a “pivotal player:”
• He plays for a conference or division contender.
• He plays at a position of weakness for his team.
• He’s an unestablished player with potential to solidify his team’s position of weakness.
We continue our look at pivotal players with the Big East with more conferences to follow.
BIG EAST PIVOTAL PLAYERS
Sterling Griffin, WR, USF
Griffin missed four games and still led the Bulls in receptions (43) and yards (530) and tied for the lead in touchdown catches (three). Quarterback B.J. Daniels was at his best with his top receiver in the lineup. The Bulls are desperate for another impact skill player on offense beyond the quarterback. Receiver has struggled with injuries, a lack of depth and inconsistency in recent years, and the Bulls haven’t had a 1,000-yard running back since 2004. The whole receiving corps could be a strength for USF in 2012, but Griffin could be the focal point here.
Related:Big East impact freshmen
Cory King, OL, Pittsburgh
Ray Graham’s knee will be under close watch, as will Tino Sunseri’s ability to get rid of the ball. First-year coach Paul Chryst is watching the offensive line just as closely. Guard Chris Jacobson, who missed all but three games last season, and center Kyle Turnley are reliable veterans on the line, but King is a little green. The junior was a backup guard before he was moved to left tackle following the suspension of Juantez Hollins for the season. Pitt quarterbacks were sacked 64 times last season, 17 more than any other team.
Related:Ray Graham checks in among nation’s top 10 running backs
Munchie Legaux, QB, Cincinnati
Legaux is the likely successor to Zach Collaros after filling in for three starts at the end of last season. With Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead gone, Cincinnati is starting from scratch in the backfield. The Bearcats look to go with a running back by committee, putting more pressure on Legaux to carry the offense. Although he hasn’t been formally named the starter, Legaux is assumed to get the call after completing 55 of 116 passes for 749 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions last season.
Related: Big East coaches anonymously scout league opponents
Gary Nova, QB, Rutgers
Quarterback has been a revolving door for Rutgers the last two seasons with four different starters -- Dom Natale (the 2010 opener only), Tom Savage, Chas Dodd and Gary Nova. After starting five games midseason in 2011, the sophomore Nova won the job in fall camp. With Nova named starter, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood hopes to maintain stability that’s been lacking at the position in recent years. With one of the top defenses in the Big East, an improving offensive line and running back Jawan Jamison, quarterback is the glaring void for Rutgers’ bid at a Big East title. Nova, though, must cut down on turnovers. He threw nine interceptions in the final six games he played.
Related:Breaking down Rutgers, other quarterback battles
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater needs a go-to receiver, and it won’t be Michaelee Harris, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Parker caught only 18 passes as a freshman last season, but he flashed big-play potential. He caught six touchdown passes and averaged 16.1 yards per reception -- both led all Cardinals receivers. He could be a breakout player in the Big East.
Related:Louisville’s Bridgewater checks in at No. 25 in Athlon’s top quarterback list
Other “Pivotal Players” so far: