When trying to project for the season ahead, we talk a lot about returning players and new head coaches. But don't forget the men wearing the headsets.
There are several new coordinators in the Big East this season. Which ones will have the biggest impact? That's not the same as asking who will do the best job; rather, it's who might make the most difference on their side of the ball this year. Here are the top candidates as I see them:
Tim Banks and John Jancek, Cincinnati: We know the Bearcats' offense is going to be good. The key will be whether co-coordinators Banks and Jancek can stiffen up the defense, which faded badly down the stretch at the end of last year. They'll switch back to a 4-3, which better fits this year's personnel, and promise to deliver more pressure.
Mark Snyder, South Florida: Snyder wasn't given much of a chance to build his program at Marshall, so he's back to being a defensive coordinator. That's great news for the Bulls, because he was one of the best in the business at Ohio State. South Florida's defense became a little predictable last year; matching up Snyder's smarts with the speed and talent in Florida could be a potent combination. On the offensive side, Todd Fitch will attempt to manufacture a more well-rounded approach than in recent years.
Doug Marrone, Syracuse: The head coach takes over the offensive playcalling duties, and he learned how to do that under a true master while working for the New Orleans Saints' Sean Payton. Expect a more dynamic, multifaceted attack from the Orange like we saw at the end of last season.
Mike Sanford, Louisville: Steve Kragthorpe's disastrous tenure ended with the offense scoring a measly 18 points per game last season while he was calling plays. Injuries hurt the offensive flow, but Kragthorpe's attacks never looked particularly creative or complex throughout his reign. That should change under Sanford, who used to be Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Utah and who will get the most out of Louisville's talent.