The Big East is bracing for what could be a special season.
Pittsburgh is firmly entrenched in most preseason Top 25 rankings. West Virginia, led by senior Noel Devine, has high expectations and will stop at nothing short of a major bowl berth.
Connecticut returns an impressive 17 starters from a squad that ended 2009 by beating Notre Dame, Syracuse, and South Florida. Cincinnati, minus Brian Kelly, is coming off a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Rutgers, meanwhile, could capture the Big East crown--or finish near the bottom of the conference.
It might be a landmark season for the conference, which is often overlooked in the BCS discussion.
But to keep the momentum, these teams need to recruit at a high-level. Thus far, class of 2011 recruiting has been a mixed bag for Big East teams.
Leading the way has been the Pitt Panthers, who have done a fine job of landing a well-balanced class with several recruits that could see early playing time.
Other programs seemingly have some work to do before National Signing Day.
MaxPreps takes a look at the current recruiting status of each Big East team, with rankings provided by the CBS College Sports Research Rankings and lead researcher Brian Raab.1. Pitt
Number of verbal commitments:
15Top incoming recruit: Jameel PoteatSleeper recruit: Sam ColluraPlay right away: Deonte GibsonComment:
Pitt’s well-documented stranglehold over New Jersey has really powered the Panthers' 2011 recruiting class, as five of the team's verbally committed recruits hail from the Garden State. With Poteat and defensive back Terrell Chestnut, the Panthers have also shown they have a strong footing in eastern Pennsylvania.2. RutgersNumber of verbal commitments:
12Top incoming recruit: Chevelle BuieSleeper recruit: Ben MartinPlay right away: Kyle George Comment:
Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights scored a nice coup when they landed Cocoa running back Chevelle Buie from the Sunshine State. Florida continues to be a solid recruiting ground, as Rutgers also has a verbal commitment from Miami Central lineman Marquis Lucas. The team has lost out to Pitt on a number of key instate recruits, but Rutgers remains in the hunt for top target Savon Huggins.3. LouisvilleNumber of verbal commitments:
15Top incoming recruit: DaMarcus SmithSleeper recruit: Eric Robinson-BerryPlay right away: DeVante ParkerComment:
In his first season, Charlie Strong has done a nice job jump-starting a rebuilding process in the wake of Steve Kragthorpe's unsuccessful tenure. With a nice blend of local recruits and out of state imports, Strong has pinned down key players at several positions of need. Jacquese Kirk could develop into a shutdown corner, while quarterback DaMarcus Smith also has a high celing.4. Cincinnati
Number of verbal commitments:
10Top incoming recruit: Patrick CoyneSleeper recruit: Chris MoorePlay right away: Shaquille WashingtonComment:
The no-nonsense approach of Butch Jones seems to be translating well for the Bearcats after dealing with the high-profile departure of Brian Kelly to Notre Dame. Coyne has the potential to thrive in Jones' version of the spread offense. More importantly, he's a Cincinnati recruit who decided to stay local. In the country's top football city, it's crucial for the Bearcats to convince recruits that they need not leave the Queen City for college.5. West VirginiaNumber of verbal commitments:
10Top incoming recruit: Vance RobertsSleeper recruit: Brain AtheyPlay right away: DeAndre ReavesComment:
There’s no doubt that the Mountaineers have some work to do, but there are some important pieces in place. Twin brothers Vance and Vernard Roberts are a good start. Athey will once again line up behind center for Eden Prairie, so he should enter Morgantown polished and well-coached. Reaves could provide the type of versatile offensive spark that West Virginia will need to replace when Noel Devine graduates.6. South FloridaNumber of verbal commitments:
9Top incoming recruit: Edsel CapriceSleeper recruit: Alex MutPlay right away: Chris Garye Jr.Comment:
It’s not easy for USF to compete with the traditional Florida powers. However, the Bulls have landed players that they weren’t supposed to land in the past, so Skip Holtz and staff will try to pull off some more surprises. Caprice is a ferocious defender adept at shedding blocks. Mut is often overshadowed by teammate Mike Bellamy, but he was highly productive last year, and boasts great speed.7. SyracuseNumber of verbal commitments:
11Top incoming recruit: Oliver VigilleSleeper recruit: Sam RodgersPlay right away: Cameron LynchComment:
Syracuse has done a nice job of securing nearly a dozen verbal commitments already, but their current haul lacks much star power. Head coach Doug Marrone will need to continue to raid other states to find difference makers needed to help resurrect the school’s football program.8. ConnecticutNumber of verbal commitments:
7Top incoming recruit: David StevensonSleeper recruit: Michael NebrichPlay right away: Taariq AllenComment:
For as much success as the Huskies are poised to enjoy on the playing field in 2010, it has yet to translate to the recruiting circuit. Connecticut has landed by far the fewest commitments in the conference. The most comforting news for fans of the Huskies is that there are more than five months until National Signing Day.