Yesterday, we started our post-spring Big East capsules by taking a look at Cincinnati and UConn. Today we look at Louisville and Pitt as we continue to make our way through the eight (2012) conference teams at the end of their spring schedules.
Head Coach: Charlie Strong (third year, 14-12 overall)
Many pundits see Louisville as the 2012 Big East champion. The team is young, talented and has a dynamic head coach. Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who had an impressive first season after replacing the injured Will Stein in the third game, is the conference player everyone is watching with high expectations, particularly after a solid spring game April 14.
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Poise, confidence and toughness are terms commonly attributed to Bridgewater. He’s a legitimate dual threat quarterback but has four running backs that will add to the Cardinals rushing threat. Corvin Lamb (RS freshman), Senorise Perry (junior), Jeremy Wright (junior) and converted quarterback Dominique Brown (junior) are all likely to see regular playing time, keeping opposing defenses guessing and ensuring fresh legs deep into each game. The young receiving corps will feature Michaelee Harris (sophomore), DeVante Parker (sophomore) and Eli Rogers (RS freshman). The only question mark for the offensive unit is the line which, because of inexperience, was inconsistent last year.
The Cardinal’s defensive front seven returns all but one starter, and appears much stronger and larger. The recruiting under Charlie Strong has improved, and the size of the lineman will be a greater problem for opponents than in past seasons.
Louisville’s first game is at home against rival Kentucky. In other non-conference games, the Cardinals face Missouri State and North Carolina in Louisville, and travel to Florida International and Southern Mississippi. The Big East schedule includes home games against South Florida, Cincinnati, Temple and UConn. They Cards play at Pittsburgh, Syracuse and a highly anticipated final regular season game at Rutgers.
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Head Coach: Paul Chryst (first year)
The Panthers are on their fourth head coach in three seasons. Dave Wannstedt was the coach for much of the 2010 season. Mike Haywood was hired and, in the course of a month, fired after being charged with domestic battery. Todd Graham coached the team throughout the 2011 season before bolting to Arizona State. Paul Chryst was hired in the off-season after seven years as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. He brings the promise of a rushing-first offense, we he produced yearly in Madison.
The Panthers had a strong rushing attack last season with Ray Graham (junior), who ran for more than 900 yards before a week-eight injury ended his season. He is still recovering but expected to be healthy for the start of the 2012 season. In the meantime, Isaac Bennett (sophomore) caught people’s attention by rushing for 120 yards in the Panthers' April 14 Blue-Gold game. In addition to Graham and Bennett, the Panthers have E.J. Banks (RS junior), Corey Davis (sophomore) and Pennsylvania's all-time leading high school rusher, Rushel Shell (freshman), as running backs on the roster.
Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri has not had the good fortune to play in a consistent offensive scheme. As he brings his college career to an end, the powerful rushing attack may be his best friend. If the Panthers can move the changes and control time of possession, they’ll keep themselves in games. The Pitt defense was third overall in the conference last season and was particularly tough to run on.
Pitt’s non-conference schedule includes home games against Youngstown State, Virginia Tech and Gardner‐Webb, with Buffalo and Notre Dame on the road. The Panthers play three Big East games at home, Louisville, Temple and Rutgers, while traveling to Cincinnati, Syracuse, Connecticut and South Florida.
To follow in remaining posts: Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse and Temple.
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