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August 20, 2007

Preseason breakdown: Big East

RIVALS.COM BIG EAST PREVIEW:
Overview | Preseason All-Big First Team | Preseason All-Ten Second Team

HOW THEY WILL FINISH

1. West Virginia

2. Louisville

3. Rutgers

4. South Florida

5. Cincinnati

6. Pittsburgh

7. Connecticut

8. Syracuse

Best offensive player: Louisville QB Brian Brohm. The Big East features plenty of outstanding choices for this honor. Rutgers running back Ray Rice and West Virginia teammates Steve Slaton and Pat White enter the season as legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates. We believe Brohm is the best of the bunch because of the way he's produced even after suffering two major injuries. Brohm also benefits from playing on an offense that features the Big East's two top receivers and its best tight end. Imagine what he can do if he stays healthy an entire season.

Best defensive player: Rutgers DT Eric Foster. This guy isn't the typical defensive tackle who clogs up space to allow teammates to make big plays. He recorded 14 tackles for loss and six sacks last year. Not bad for someone who had missed almost the entire 2005 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Best player you don't know yet: Louisville DT Adrian Grady. Louisville must replace first-round draft pick Amobi Okoye, but the Cardinals are confident their defensive line won't slip a notch with Grady taking over at tackle. Grady already has emerged as the defense's vocal leader. By the time September rolls around, his performance also should speak volumes.

Impact newcomer: Louisville CB Woodny Turenne. Rated as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the 2007 recruiting class by Rivals.com, Turenne should step right into the starting lineup. Don't be surprised if he's the Big East's top defensive back by the end of the season. Turenne will get to prove himself immediately. Louisville goes on the road Sept. 15 to face Kentucky star quarterback Andre' Woodson.

Sleeper recruit: Connecticut QB Tyler Lorenzen. This junior college prospect signed with Connecticut as a three-star prospect last December and already has been named the Huskies' starting quarterback. The Huskies can only hope Lorenzen repeats the success he enjoyed at Palomar (Calif.) Community College, where he completed 69 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

THE BIG EAST'S BEST ...

Quarterbacks: Louisville

Running backs: West Virginia

Wide receivers: Louisville

Tight ends: Louisville

Offensive line: Rutgers

Defensive line: Rutgers

Linebackers: South Florida

Defensive backs: South Florida

Kickers/punters:Louisville

Special teams: Pittsburgh

Assistant coach on the rise: Louisville defensive coordinator Mike Cassity. Louisville's prolific offense justifiably garners the majority of the attention, but the Cardinals proved last year they also can play defense. Louisville finished second in the nation in sacks and 17th in the country in scoring defense last year. Cassity, who turns 54 on Aug. 22, also has proved he can recruit. Rivals.com has named him one of the top 25 recruiters two of the last three years. Cassity's combination of coaching expertise and recruiting prowess should make him a head coaching candidate in the near future.

Assistant coach on the hot seat: West Virginia offensive line coach Greg Frey. He just joined West Virginia's staff in January and obviously isn't in any danger of losing his job anytime soon, but Frey still enters this season under plenty of pressure. He faces the difficult task of replacing Rick Trickett, who enjoyed extraordinary success as West Virginia's offensive line coach before heading to Florida State. Much of West Virginia's success running the ball is predicated on the offensive line's performance. The absence of Trickett and former All-America center Dan Mozes could prevent the line from dominating foes quite as thoroughly this year. If the running game isn't as effective, Frey could get a share of the criticism.

Best position battle: Pittsburgh running back. LaRod Stephens-Howling ranked fourth in the Big East in rushing yards per game last season, but that doesn't mean his job is safe. The arrival of true freshman and former four-star prospect LeSean McCoy has created quite a competition for playing time. Both players should get plenty of opportunities this season, but it remains uncertain which player will receive the majority of the carries.

Boom or bust player: Rutgers QB Mike Teel. He threw more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (12) last year despite throwing for five touchdowns without getting picked off in his final three games. He threw three interceptions in a September victory over Ohio, and his four-interception performance against Cincinnati resulted in a 30-11 loss that ended Rutgers' dreams of a perfect season. Rutgers won't have a problem reaching a bowl game as long as Ray Rice stays healthy, but the Scarlet Knights' chances of winning the Big East title probably depend on whether Teel gains some consistency.

BEST BY POSITION
Quarterback

1. Brian Brohm, Louisville

2. Pat White, West Virginia

3. Matt Grothe, South Florida

4. Mike Teel, Rutgers

5. Ben Mauk, Cincinnati

Receiver

1. Harry Douglas, Louisville

2. Mario Urrutia, Louisville

3. Oderick Turner, Pittsburgh

4. Dominick Goodman, Cincinnati

5. Darius Reynaud, West Virginia

Tight End

1. Gary Barnidge, Louisville

2. Steve Brouse, Connecticut

3. Cedric Hill, South Florida

4. Doug Jones, Cincinnati

5. Scott Kuhn, Louisville

Linebacker

1. Ben Moffitt, South Florida

2. Malik Jackson, Louisville

3. Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida

4. Danny Lansanah, Connecticut

5. Brandon Renkart, Rutgers

Kicker

1. Art Carmody, Louisville

2. Jeremy Ito, Rutgers

3. Patrick Shadle, Syracuse

4. Conor Lee, Pittsburgh

5. Pat McAfee, West Virginia

Running back

1. Steve Slaton, West Virginia

2. Ray Rice, Rutgers

3. Donald Brown, Connecticut

4. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Pittsburgh

5. Anthony Allen, Louisville

Offensive line

1. Eric Wood, Louisville

2. George Bussey, Louisville

3. Jeremy Zuttah, Rutgers

4. Pedro Sosa, Rutgers

5. Greg Isdaner, West Virginia

Defensive line

1. Eric Foster, Rutgers

2. Jameel McClain, Syracuse

3. Joe Clermond, Pittsburgh

4. Keilen Dykes, West Virginia

5. Jamaal Westerman, Rutgers

Defensive back

1. Mike Jenkins, South Florida

2. Eric Wicks, West Virginia

3. Trae Williams, South Florida

4. Courtney Greene, Rutgers

5. Mike Mickens, Cincinnati

Punter

1. Dave Brytus, Pittsburgh

2. Justin Teachey, South Florida

3. Pat McAfee, West Virginia

4. Corey Goettshe, Louisville

5. Kevin Huber, Cincinnati

RIVALS.COM BIG EAST PREVIEW:
Overview | Preseason All-Big First Team | Preseason All-Ten Second Team

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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