Sports

2012 College Football Season Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats and Connecticut Huskies

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The Big East 2012 football season will have a new look. The West Virginia Mountaineers officially begin play in the Big XII July 1. They’ll be replaced in the football schedule by the Temple Owls. Unless more realignment changes occur this year, the league will expand in 2013 to include Central Florida, Memphis, Houston, Southern Methodist, Boise State and San Diego State.

In this and following posts we provide a snapshot of the eight (2012) conference teams at the end of their spring schedules. Here are the first four:

Cincinnati Bearcats

Head Coach: Butch Jones (third year, 14-11 overall, 10-3 in 2011)

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The Bearcats lose starting quarterback Zach Collaros, tailback Isaiah Pead (2011 Offensive POY), defensive tackles Derek Wolfe (2011 All Big East First Team) and John Hughes, tight end Adrien Robinson, linebacker J.K. Schaffer and more. In fact they’re returning just four starters on offense, and seven on defense.

Munchie Legaux (junior), who started at quarterback when Collaros was injured last season, appears to have the upper hand to lead the offense, although Brandon Kay (senior) had a productive spring. Jordan Luallen (junior quarterback) is expected to see time at receiver. At tailback, look for George Winn (senior) to start, with sophomores Jameel Poteat and Ralph David Abernathy behind him.

On the defensive side, pay attention to newcomer Trenier Orr (redshirt freshman) in the secondary and Camaron Beard (sophomore) on the line.

Cincinnati’s non-conference schedule has home games (Nippert Stadium) against Delaware State (FCS), Miami (Ohio) and Fordham (FCS), with a road game at Toledo and a neutral site game (FedEx Field, Landover, Md.) against Virginia Tech. In their Big East schedule the Bearcats play at home against Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers and South Florida. They travel to play Louisville, Temple and UConn.

The Bearcat’s spring game was canceled due to rain April 14.

Connecticut Huskies

Head Coach: Paul Pasqualoni (second year, 5-7 overall)

UConn started last season with three quarterbacks: Johnny McEntee (walk-on senior in 2012), Scott McCummings (RS sophomore) and Michael Nebrich (sophomore). This year they return all of them, and add JUCO transfer Chandler Whitmer (sophomore) and Casey Cochran (grey shirt, two-time Connecticut Gatorade HS POY). Huskies fans are pining for announcement of a clear starter after Whitmer, who played one year at Illinois, had an outstanding spring game (April 21). The coaching staff is content to allow the competition to continue.

Lyle McCombs (2011 Freshman All American) is a fixture at tailback, and Pasqualoni prefers a workhorse. McCombs is small but rugged. Unless he is injured, Martin Hyppolite (RS junior) and Max DeLorenzo (RS freshman) will likely see limited carries. Fullback Michael Oseicki (RS sophomore) had several catches in the spring game and could prove an effect weapon as a receiver.

Senior WR Michael Smith is back after a year of ineligibility. The Huskies also picked up to transfers, Shakim Philips (RS sophomore, Boston College) and Bryce McNeal (graduate, Clemson). Complementing them will be Tebucky Jones and Geremy Davis (RS sophomores) and converted running back Deshon Foxx (sophomore). UConn is deep at tight end too, with Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt (seniors) joined by Sean McQuillan (redshirt freshman) and incoming JUCO transfer Neil Shortell.

Connecticut’s defense was the Big East’s best against the rush last year, but last against the pass. The unit lost both its starting tackles, but the rest of the starters return. The Huskies will also add much depth in the secondary (which was limited by injury last year) and at linebacker (which was lean on the roster). The defense should determine Connecticut’s fate in 2012.

Connecticut’s non-conference opponents include Massachusetts (inaugural year in FBS), NC State and Buffalo at home, and Maryland and Western Michigan on the road. Connecticut does not have a favorable Big East Schedule though with just three home games: Temple, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Huskies travel to play Rutgers, Syracuse, USF and Louisville.

To follow in the next post: Louisville and Pitt

Great more college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.