By: Al Burke
Spotlight on the Big East
Who will be the key offensive players in the race for the Big East title in 2012? Some will be established stars, some replacing former stars and a smattering of new faces who hope to be the stars of tomorrow (or this season anyway). Opinions, objections and abuse (maybe not that one) are always welcome. Feel free to leave comments below or contact me on Twitter.
QB Munchie Legaux – after the quality at QB the Bearcats had with Zach Collaros, Legaux’s inconsistency was something of a shock to the system. He was thrown into the fire as a freshman when Collaros went down with mixed results. He’s a good athlete with a strong arm, and has some game experience under his belt now. He looked better in the spring, and with 3 OLs, 2 WRs and enough RBs for a decent committee approach, any post-season hopes in Cinci may rest on his shoulders.
2011 Stats: Passing 116-55-749-5-4, Rushing 41-185-2.
QB Chandler Whitmer – QB was the biggest offensive failing of the Huskies in 2011, and many seasons prior, and the hope is prolific JUCO Whitmer can turn things around and provide a passing attack not seem in Storrs since the days of Dan Orlovsky. The former Illinois recruit will be breaking in some new receivers, but will have a strong running attack to bail him out while he adjusts to the higher level.
2011 Stats: Passing 316-180-3022-25-14, Rushing 48-63-2. (Butler CC)
QB Teddy Bridgewater – the freshman was outstanding last year, taking over in week 3 and leading the Cardinals to 6 wins and a bowl game (5-2 finish), despite a suspect ground game and a line that allowed 41 sacks. That number could have been even higher if not for Bridgewater’s impressive mobility, but it was his poise and veteran moxie that earned him some freshman all-American votes. The scary thing is, he’s looked great in camp and could be poised for a huge year, assuming of course that the OL improves too.
2011 Stats: Passing 296-191-2129-14-12, Rushing 89-66-4.
RB Ray Graham – or to be more precise, Graham’s knee. The rusher was second in the nation in 2011 before a week 8 ACL tear cut his season short, yet he still made 1st team all-conference. After sitting out in the spring, Graham has looked good in the fall but won’t truly be tested until week 1 against Youngstown State. There are options behind him, and the passing game should be much improved, but the team and its fragile ego will struggle if one of their leaders goes down again.
2011 Stats: Rushing 164-958-9, Receiving 30-200-0.
WR Brandon Coleman – playing musical QBs and an inconsistent running attack couldn’t keep the Scarlet Knights out of the postseason in 2011, and it was due to one guy (on offense anyway) – Mohammed Sanu. Despite every defender knowing he was getting the ball, he was still incredibly productive and got a lot of his yards the hard way – in the middle of the pitch. He’s in the NFL now, so someone needs to step up, and Coleman looks like he could be the man. He exploded over the second half of the season and averaged 30 yards a catch. He has great height and size, and is one to watch for the future.
2011 Stats: Receiving 17-552-6.
QB BJ Daniels – Not often you’ll see a 3-year starter here, but Daniels has underachieved since promising so much on replacing Matt Grothe in 2009. He’s a fine runner with a strong arm and can be accurate on occasion, something he needs to improve on. The major concern with Daniels is he just hasn’t won over the team the way Grothe had, despite playing just as hard. USF have a solid team this year, but the QB is the key to this offense, so they rise and fall with Daniels.
2011 Stats: Passing 365-215-2585-13-7, Rushing 132-601-6
RB Jerome Smith – After 4 consecutive 1000 yard rushers, the RB cupboard looked somewhat bare going into 2012. However, what the unit lacked wasn’t talent, but experience. Jerome Smith’s 37 carries lead all returning rushers, and word on the street is he’s the man to replace Antwon Bailey as the starter. They’ll need him. Ryan Nassib is solid, but hasn’t quite emerged as expected, so the difference in games will have to come on the ground. Smith is a power-packer 220 lbs who can run over and around would-be tacklers. With potentially 3 OLs returning, he could be in for a decent season.
2011 Stats: Rushing 37-134-1, Receiving 1-4-0.
QB Chris Coyer – star RB Bernard Pierce may have moved on, but the Owls will be effective on the ground courtesy of transfer Montel Harris and last year’s #2 Matt Brown. But the move to the Big East means just plowing over opponents week-in, week-out won’t work. Coyer is an excellent runner who flashed some potential as a passer when he took over in the last 4 games, but he has to show he can do it for 12. He is tailor-made for the offensive system, and has displayed leadership beyond his years. There’s no doubt he can run the ball, but can he pass effectively enough to keep defenses from loading up against the run?
2011 Stats: Passing 50-30-463-6-0, Rushing 69-562-3.