By Chaz Bolte originally posted at Football Nation
Cincinnati Bearcats – Isaiah Pead is likely to be the most explosive running back in the Big East in 2011. The Junior had 1,029 yards and 6 TD’s in 10 games last season. He had 213 yards and 4 Touchdowns in the Bearcats 69 – 38 mauling of Rutgers last season. He is on the Preseason watch lists for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s best Running Back and the Maxwell award given to the nation’s best player. As the bearcats try to rebound from last season’s 4-8 debacle Pead is likely to be the one who sets the tone for the team. Jameel Poteat and Darrin Williams are also likely to see action this season.
Pittsburgh Panthers – Junior Ray Graham split time last year with current Philadelphia Eagles rookie Dion Lewis but still managed to rack up 922 yards and 8 Touchdowns averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He is on the 2011 Doak Walker watch list and looks to gain over 1,000 yards this season as the starter. Graham has been an explosive weapon for the Panthers playing the 1a role for the past two seasons. His rushing yards may be affected by Todd Graham’s pass first mentality but he has shown a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield in the past. He can be very dangerous on the screen.
Wisconsin transfer Zach Brown provides a different option as a bigger back. He showed promise as a freshman gaining 568 yards for the Badgers. He never fulfilled his potential but gets one more year to prove his critics wrong. The change of scenery may do the power back well. Incoming freshmen Malcolm Crockett may get a few touches for the Panthers. The 5’8 180 pound running back out of Washington D.C.’s Friendship Collegiate Academy is likely to be the star when Graham takes his talents to the next level.
Louisville Cardinals –Hometown hero Victor Anderson, out of St. Xavier High School, looks to lead the Charlie Strong era off to a strong start as Senior leader of the Cards. He has been named to the 2011 Doak Walker Award Watch List. Anderson has also developed into a dangerous kick returner. Injuries slowed him down in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. If he can stay healthy and live up to the promise he showed as Big east Rookie of the Year in 2008 he could be playing on Sundays next fall. Sophomore Jeremy Wright showed promise last season and is likely to be in the backfield mix for Louisville in 2011. Wright had 327 yards and 4 Touchdowns as a Freshman. Sophomore Senorise Perry and Redshirt Freshmen Kamal Hogan are also likely to see some action this season.
Syracuse Orange – Antwon Bailey will be the starter this season for the Orange after spending last season as the back up to Delone Carter. Bailey has also played QB in the wildcat, lined up at receiver and returned kicks and punts for the Orange. Last season he rushed for 554 yards and 2 TD’s in his first full year as the starter, the 5’7 195 pound Senior will try to follow an impressive offensive line to gain 1,000 yards. However the Orange’s lack of an established power back may take a toll on Bailey who is more of an elusive speed back. Mario Tull is an interesting prospect who could see some action in 2011. The sophomore running back looks much larger than his 6’0 208 pound frame and could be the perfect power accent to Bailey.
USF Bulls – Darrell Scott was a highly coveted prospect in 2007 that chose to play his ball for the Colorado Buffaloes. Although he showed promise as a freshman he saw little playing time as a sophomore and decided to transfer to USF. The 6’1 239 pound running back looks to revive his career with the Bulls and help bolster their rushing attack which was 71st in the nation last season. Scott will have help from Demetris Murray who ran for 542 yards and 4 Touchdowns last season. Auburn transfer Donte Aycock will also see some carries for the run first Bulls in 2011.
WVU Mountaineers – Like Pitt, West Virginia made a big coaching change hiring former Oklahoma State Offensive Coordinator Dana Holgersen to be head coach in waiting, and then soon after the Head Coach. The Mountaineers will now be even more pass happy and Vernard Roberts will likely see a few less carries a game than he would have under Bill Stewart. The 5’9 184 pound freshmen from D.C. enrolled at WVU early and impressed many during the spring game. He has to hold off stiff competition from Sophomore Trey Johnson, freshmen Andrew Buie and Freshmen Dustin Garrison. There aren’t going to be many carries to go around but this is a talented group that will make some big time plays for the Morgantown faithful.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Freshmen Savon Huggins had over 40 Division 1 scholarship offers as a high school senior in 2010 but ultimately chose Rutgers over Notre dame. The Scarlet Knights see him as the best in a very impressive recruiting class that looks to take Rutgers back to the level of national prominence they flirted with in the past decade. The 6’0 200 pound running back out of Jersey City’s St. Peters Prep has been called the biggest recruit that Rutgers has ever landed and if he can live up to the hype he should have a strong career. This season may start off shaky for him as he continues to learn the subtle nuances of the Scarlet Knights offense and get’s used to the speed of College Football but as soon as he is comfortable he will show he is a star. Don’t be surprised if he’s at the top of this list in 2012.
UConn Huskies– D.J. Shoemate is likely to start the season as the starter for the Huskies. The 5’11 218 pound California native transferred from USC two years ago and has spent most of his stint with the Huskies as a backup Fullback. This year he will go to try to be a leader on an offense that is hurting at many positions. Lyle McCombs has the potential to be an explosive running back in the Big East if he can stay out of trouble and healthy. The 5’8 164 pound freshmen from Staten Island, NY is likely to take over Shoemate’s position as starter not far into the season. Freshmen Deshon Foxx may also see some time.
Read more: Andrew Buie, Antwon Bailey, Auburn, Big East Football, Big East Preview, Bill Stewart, Chaz Bolte, Cincinnati Bearcats, Colorado Buffaloes, D.J. Shoemate, Dana Holgorsen, Darrell Scott, Darrin Williams, Delone Carter, Demetris Murray, Deshonn Foxx, Donte Aycock, Dustin Garrison, Isiah Pead, Jameel Poteat, jeremy Wright, Kamal Hogan, Louisville Cardinals, Lyle McCombs, Malcom Crockett, Mario Tull, Morgantown, NCAA, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh Panthers, Ray Graham, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Savon Huggins, Senorise Perry, St. Peter’s Prep, Syracuse Orange, Transfer, Trey Johnson, UConn, USC Transfer, USF Bulls, Vernard Roberts, Victor Anderson, Wisconsin Badgers, WVU, Zach Brown