Big East pre-spring power rankings

Today at the NFP marks the sixth of seven pre-spring conference power rankings, continuing the series with the Big East.

Click here for the ACC pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Monday.
Click here for the SEC pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Tuesday.
Click here for the Big Ten pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Wednesday.
Click here for the Pac-12 pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Thursday.
Click here for the Big 12 pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Friday.

After spring practice season, we will revisit these rankings before the dog days of summer kick in.

Here is the schedule for the rest of the week:

Sunday: non-AQs

Click here to see when your favorite Big East team begins spring practice.

1. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights enter spring drills trying to acclimate themselves to new head coach Kyle Flood and a reshuffled staff. The offense will remain a pro-style scheme under new coordinator Dave Brock, while newly promoted defensive coordinator Robb Smith will use a similar 4-3 scheme. So expect the same aggressive, physical mindset on both sides of the ball. Most importantly, though, Flood has to sell himself this spring as a head coach to his players. And either Chas Dodd or Gary Nova has to run with the starting quarterback job.

2. Louisville: Charlie Strong has the Cardinals on the rise, and there’s no question that their program is becoming more and more marketable to a Big 12 that may want to eventually move back to 12 members. In the meantime, Strong continues to build a solid defense, a unit that will be helped by early-enrollee linebackers Keith Brown and James Burgess. Offensively, Teddy Bridgewater will continue to mature and improve as a quarterback.

Munchie LegauxICONMunchie Legaux is a candidate to replace the prolific Zach Collaros at Cincinnati.

3. Cincinnati: The Bearcats must replace a lot of veteran talent, starting with quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead. Munchie Legaux and Jordan Luallen have playing experience, so it will be interesting to see how close that QB battle is this spring. At running back, George Winn, Jameel Poteat and Ralph David Abernathy IV will likely split reps until the freshmen arrive this summer. On defense, Butch Jones hopes his unit can continue to play well after rebounding nicely from a disastrous 2010.

4. South Florida: It’s a big season for Skip Holtz and USF. The Bulls have plenty of talent and experience, but can they put it all together and seriously compete for a Big East crown? New defensive coordinator Chris Cosh takes over — the team’s third coordinator in four years. With starting safety Jerrell Young and starting cornerback Quenton Washington gone, the secondary is a concern.

5. Pittsburgh: The Panthers will begin the Paul Chryst era, and all eyes will be on the former Wisconsin offensive coordinator as he makes his head-coaching debut. Chryst is exceptional at maximizing the talent of his QB, so we’ll see if Tino Sunseri can play better in a more traditional offense. Besides getting acclimated to one another, the coaching staff needs to identify offensive linemen that can play consistently well and protect the QB.

6. Connecticut: The Huskies need to replace three-year starting center Moe Petrus and tackle Mike Ryan, and offensive coordinator George DeLeone will now coach the O-Line in an attempt to straighten out that unit. But the biggest concern for UConn is the play at the quarterback position, where highly touted freshman Casey Cochran will look to handle the playbook and compete well enough to possibly earn the starting job in the fall.

7. Syracuse: Doug Marrone and the Orange need to establish a better presence along the defensive line, where pass rushing was a weakness last fall. Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich are gone, so keep an eye on junior college transfers Zian Jones and Markus Pierce-Brewster this summer.

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