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Big East mailbag

We may be snowed in, but nothing stops the Big East mailman.

Nathan from Temple Terrace, Fla., writes: I've thoroughly enjoyed the blog since I found it and it's turned me into an ESPN.com regular. Disregarding for the moment the question of whether either could actually happen, which do you think would be bigger for USF this year: beating Florida in Gainesville or winning the Big East?

Brian Bennett: That's an interesting question. Obviously, topping the Gators would be a huge statement for the Bulls and for new coach Skip Holtz and would really give the entire program a huge credibility boost. On the other hand, South Florida did win at (an admittedly weaker) Florida State last year and still finished 8-5. Some would say Florida was simply in a rebuilding mode post-Tebow if the Bulls pulled the upset. I maintain that winning the Big East and getting to a BCS bowl -- which really energizes a program -- is the biggest possible achievement for South Florida in 2010.


William from Cincinnati writes: Do you see Marcus Barnett getting the opportunity to start for his final season as a Bearcat? With a plethora of really good receivers, I don't see how he could unseat D.J. Woods, Armon Binns, and Vidal Hazelton. Also, why do you think Brian Kelly chose not to use Barnett as much in the 2008/2009 seasons? His 862 yards and 13 TDs as a freshman is pretty good. Was he in Brian Kelly's doghouse and if so why?

Brian Bennett: Barnett's case is a curious one. I remember seeing him walk onto the team bus after practice during Sugar Bowl week and thinking, "Oh, yeah, whatever happened to that guy?" Not only was he a budding star his freshman year, but he even started a game early last year at cornerback before completely disappearing. The whispers from Cincinnati were that he was not a favorite of Kelly's, who may have thought Barnett enjoyed his freshman year production a little too much. Barnett has a lot of work to do to be a factor his senior year, but having a new coaching staff and a fresh set of eyes may do him a world of good.


Jared S. from Chicago writes: I am curious what the starting lineup and depth charts are looking like in the Big East as well as Pitt for the key positions. I know for one thing that I am a little shaky about the QB situation. I do feel however that Anthony Gonzalez and Mark Myers, those new recruits, should take a year or two to develop instead of throwing them in as true freshman. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: It's a little early for depth charts. We'll start seeing some two-deeps when spring practice begins in March or April, but we're a long way away from anything definitive. As for the Pitt quarterback situation, don't expect to see Gonzalez or Myers playing quarterback this year. Dave Wannstedt said as much at his signing day news conference, where he heaped some praise on Tino Sunseri while also mentioning Pat Bostick. I think he feels very comfortable with those two guys, and Pitt does not need to throw a rookie into the fire under center.


Bennett from Syracuse, N.Y., writes: I have been reading a lot about all these high school coaches claiming Syracuse is recreating their foundation for football recruiting. What are your thoughts? Plus people keep saying Rutgers took entire regions away recruiting wise away from Syracuse.

Brian Bennett: Well, we've seen some instances where Rutgers and Syracuse have been fighting over the same kid -- one, linebacker Malcolm Cater, flipped three times between the two schools. It's not mere coincidence that Rutgers' rise happened began about the same time as Syracuse's fall. Greg Robinson and his staff did not do a good job building or continuing relationships in the New York area. Doug Marrone has definitely worked hard to fix that and has made a lot of progress. Now the Orange need to get back to going to bowl games so they can compete for a higher level of recruit in the future.


Tim from West Hartford, Conn., writes: In regards to your question about Connecticut recruiting: I think there are a number of factors that make it difficult to get the best players to stay in Connecticut. First, it is tougher for UConn to nab the players from the southern part of the state, particularly Fairfield County, because that part of the state does not follow UConn sports as closely. Fairfield County gets N.Y. radio and TV stations that cover N.Y. sports. And NY is a pro town; if they do talk college football, they concentrate on big names and don't give UConn much thought.

Connecticut is a small place and there are many transplants. Heck, it is even part of our state flag's motto. "Qui transtinent sustinent" (He who is transplanted shall still sustain.) A lot of people that live here have ties to other parts of the country so it is a pretty normal thing to see kids go elsewhere to play. Additionally, there are a number of coaches in Connecticut that have had personal connections with other big-time programs for years, like BC and Syracuse. I think things are changing, though. Instead of BC, Syracuse, and Penn State, many of the kids that are growing up in Connecticut today are dreaming of going to UConn to play football. That wasn't happening 10 years ago.

Brian Bennett: Thanks for the insight, Tim, and that makes a lot of sense. I hope people in that part of the state realize what they have in UConn and Randy Edsall. The Huskies have proved that you don't have to leave the state to be a part of a winning program and make it to the NFL.