Big East mailbag

Keep the e-mails flowing, and it will be spring practice time before you know it.

Sgt. Robert Jackson from Montgomery, W. Va., writes: Hey, there Brian! Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog, I'm currently deployed overseas and I follow it everytime I hit a computer! I just wanted to ask you how quickly you think Dana Holgorsen will have an impact on WVU's offense compared to the time it took Coach Rod several years ago?

Brian Bennett: Thanks, Robert, and thanks for all you do. I think we'll see a quick impact by Dana Holgorsen, because for one thing that is his track record. Here are the offensive totals in his first year as coordinator at both Houston and Oklahoma State.

  • Houston (2008): 562.8 yards per game (second nationally) and 40.6 points (10th)

  • Oklahoma State (2010): 520.2 yards per game (third nationally) and 44.2 points (third).

Rodriguez's offense didn't really hit its stride until he found Pat White and Steve Slaton. Holgorsen has shown an ability to adapt his players to his system, and I think the Mountaineers are in good shape to adjust to it with the players they have, starting with Geno Smith.

Mike from W. Va. writes: Your prediction for the best running back in the BE in 2011? Also, the best over all offense?

Brian Bennett: Based on stats alone, you'd have to say Isaiah Pead, who finished fourth in rushing last year at 1,029 yards and is the leading returning rusher. However, it does seem like there are games when he is either shut down or forgotten about. I think you have to look at Ray Graham and what he might be able to do as the lone returning tailback for Pittsburgh, and the way Todd Graham will set up that offense. And whoever emerges as the leading ball carrier at UConn usually puts up big stats. As for the top offense, I'd say it's a competition between Cincinnati and West Virginia right now.

Dave from Parts Unknown writes: UConn is sending six players, all of whom were two-star recruits, to the NFL combine. Sort of puts the recruiting rankings into perspective, no?

Brian Bennett: And don't forget that the Huskies had four players drafted in the first two rounds of the 2009 draft, plus two more draft picks last year. It's not your potential as much as what you do with it.

Alex from N.J. writes: I am very excited coming off the outstanding Rutgers recruiting performance and the hiring of a new offensive coordinator. Speaking of which, does Pitt officially regret firing Dave Wannstedt? The school did not seem to have a real plan after his firing and botched the first try. I just cannot see how that program has improved its prospects. I know one thing, RU has benefited most from that fiasco, locking up some new coaches, including a great NJ recruiter in Jeff Hafley.

Brian Bennett: Rutgers did a good job of swooping in and taking some players away during Pitt's turmoil, not to mention adding three former Panthers assistants. There's no question that Pittsburgh botched its first hire in replacing Wannstedt. Ultimately, though, the judgment will be whether Graham can win at a higher level than Wannstedt. If that happens, along with a more exciting offensive attack, then Pitt won't have any regrets.

Afram M. from Palm Harbor, Fla., writes: I noticed that most of the high-profile teams have live mascots or do other exciting pre-game acts as they run onto the field. That sort of stuff really pumps up players and fans and seems to help recruiting as well. It doesn't seem like any of the Big East teams do anything like that. I know the athletic directors at USF are too chicken to do anything exciting in fears of a lawsuit. How come none of the other Big East teams step up their efforts with things that will excite players and draw national attention?

Brian Bennett: I agree that the pregame festivities leave something to be desired around the league. There's nothing nearly as exciting as Ralphie running onto the field with Colorado, or the Sooner Schooner or even the Oregon duck on the motorcycle.

West Virginia has the Mountaineers and his musket, and Rutgers has the knight on horseback, but it's not quite the same. UConn has a Husky on the sidelines, and Cincinnati has a live bearcat at games, but neither is intimidating. (Nor would a live cardinal impress anyone). And I don't think anyone would get too excited if this thing came running out of the tunnel first. The league's marketing departments have some work to do.