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February 1, 2010

Rivals.com Spring Practice Primer: Big East

We're two days from National Signing Day, and that also means the start of spring practice is just around the corner.

The first team to open spring ball? It's Duke, on Feb. 15. (Uhh, that's two weeks from today.)

To get you primed for spring practice, here's a look at the start dates for all 120 FBS teams plus the overriding problem each program must deal with during spring drills.

Big East Spring Practice Primer

CINCINNATI
Practice begins: March 17.
Spring game: April 24.
Biggest task: Cincinnati's 12-0 regular season masked the Bearcats' dismal defense. The Sugar Bowl, on the other hand, exposed all of Cincinnati's deficiencies. Just by gaining experience, Cincinnati should improve on that side of the ball. But the Bearcats have work to do defensively with a new coaching staff. In the front seven, Cincinnati must replace its leader in tackles (Andre Revels), tackles for loss (Alex Daniels) and sacks (Ricardo Mathews). The pressure will be on rising sophomores Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills and Walter Stewart.

CONNECTICUT
Practice begins: March 16.
Spring game: April 17.
Biggest task: Starting LB Greg Lloyd tore an ACL at the end of the November, meaning the returning veterans at that position will shuffle around for the spring. Scott Lutrus, an all-conference performer at strongside linebacker, will move to the middle. Jory Johnson, a key backup as a redshirt freshman last year, will move into Lutrus' old spot. On offense, Zach Frazer and Cody Endres will continue to vie for the starting quarterback job.

LOUISVILLE
Practice begins: March 24.
Spring game: April 16.
Biggest task: How much improvement can a new coaching staff make in one spring? New coach Charlie Strong will have a tall task on defense because most of the best talent was seniors. On offense, coordinator Mike Sanford, Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Utah, will have some intriguing pieces to work with in WR Doug Beaumont and RBs Darius Ashley and Victor Anderson

PITTSBURGH
Practice begins: March 18.
Spring game: April 17.
Biggest task: With Bill Stull gone, Pittsburgh must find another quarterback to hand the ball to Dion Lewis while being dangerous enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest. That quarterback will be Tino Sunseri or Pat Bostick. Bostick started for most of the 2007 season, but he redshirted last season -- when Sunseri won the backup quarterback job as a redshirt freshman. The Panthers also have to replace the heart of both of their lines -- Pittsburgh graduated a center, both guards and both defensive tackles.

RUTGERS
Practice begins: March 23.
Spring game: April 24.
Biggest task: Rutgers' offense goes into 2010 feeling good about rising sophomore QB Tom Savage and WR Mohamed Sanu. The Scarlet Knights need to make sure the offensive line is playing on the same level. OT Anthony Davis is gone along with multi-year starters Ryan Blasczyk and Kevin Haslam. Untested tackle Devon Watkis will step into one spot, while Desmond Stapleton -- whose brother plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers -- could claim another one. Marlon Romulus is the front-runner at center.

USF
Practice begins: March 16.
Spring game: April 17.
Biggest task: Despite losing George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Bulls should have capable replacements at defensive end. The bigger loss could be in the secondary, where FS Nate Allen and CB Jerome Murphy will leave a void. USF has built a nice tradition of defensive backs, while new coach Skip Holtz's last defense at East Carolina was anchored by stud FS Van Eskridge. The candidates to be the next set of leaders in the Bulls secondary are junior CB Quenton Washington and sophomores Kayvon Webster and Jon Lejiste.

SYRACUSE
Practice begins: March 22.
Spring game: April 17.
Biggest task: Quarterback remains a question mark. Senior Greg Paulus gave the Orange a boost early in the season, but Syracuse is starting over at the position this spring. Ryan Nassib played some last season, but he was more of a change-up from Paulus. Redshirt freshman Charley Loeb will get a look this spring. Syracuse still has not hired an offensive coordinator to replace Rob Spence, who was fired after the season.

WEST VIRGINIA
Practice begins: April 6.
Spring game: April 30.
Biggest task: West Virginia got a boost with RB Noel Devine deciding to stay for his senior season. That takes a little pressure off sophomore QB Geno Smith. Smith will be ready for spring despite recently breaking a bone in his foot. He is coming off an uneven performance in the Gator Bowl, when he was 8-for-15 for 92 yards subbing for starter Jarrett Brown.

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