Football is almost back.
Well, it's only spring practice, but at least there will be some actual gridiron action to talk about starting next week in the Big East. Four league teams -- UConn, South Florida, Cincinnati and Pitt -- all begin spring drills next week. I'll be following all of the developments and hitting the road to see as many teams as I can in person.
I've already interviewed most of the league's head coaches and written about what to watch this spring. Some things we won't really know until the games begin in the fall, like how the three teams with new head coaches respond to the change or whether there's a new balance of power in the league. But here are the five questions that should have some answers this spring that I find the most intriguing as teams get back on the practice field:
1. Whither B.J. and Geno? South Florida and West Virginia fans anxiously await the status of their sophomore quarterbacks. B.J. Daniels will go through only limited drills after offseason shoulder surgery, while Geno Smith's availability after a January foot injury is questionable. Neither team has any depth at the position, and both quarterbacks need as much seasoning as possible to make 2010 a success. Just how much will each do this spring?
2. Who'll catch on at UConn and Rutgers? We were asking the same question at this time last year, wondering who would emerge at receiver for both the Huskies and Scarlet Knights. The answers came in the form of Marcus Easley (Huskies) and Mohamed Sanu (Scarlet Knights), who both came out of seemingly nowhere to make big spring impressions that led to great 2009 seasons. Both teams are back in the same boat this year, with Easley having graduated and Sanu needing some help like Tim Brown did a year ago. Each team has several young candidates who should be more mature and wiser than in the spring of '09. Each is looking for a spring success story like Easley and Sanu.
3. Who will lead Pitt and Louisville? The Pittsburgh quarterback battle might be the most interesting and most important competition of the spring, seeing as how the Panthers are potential Big East favorites. Dave Wannstedt has said he'd like to have a starter named between Tino Sunseri and Pat Bostick going into the summer. Louisville has a free-for-all competition with Adam Froman, Justin Burke and Will Stein all having started games a year ago, and whoever emerges from the field might have to go and win the job again in the fall against a newcomer.
4. What do the offenses at Cincinnati and Syracuse look like? New Bearcats coach Butch Jones runs a similar offense to predecessor Brian Kelly, preferring a high-tempo, no-huddle spread. Still, he will bring subtle differences, and with Zach Collaros under center you can count on more quarterback runs. The chemistry between Collaros and highly touted USC transfer Vidal Hazelton will also be something to watch. At Syracuse, head coach Doug Marrone takes over the offense as his own coordinator. Will the Orange run a lot of motion and misdirection stuff like they did in an upset of Rutgers near the end of the year, when some suggested Marrone was calling the shots? And which receivers will step up to help Ryan Nassib and the passing game?
5. Who are the new stars? By April of last year, the buzz was high on guys like Dion Lewis, Sanu and Easley, who ended up having great falls. Who will be the spring sensations and breakout names of this spring?
Those are my biggest questions, and I'd like to hear what pressing questions you have for your teams this spring. Fortunately, we'll all start getting some answers next week.