For the seventh consecutive year, the Big East held its annual football media day about 40 minutes south of its relatively new downtown Providence headquarters in this seaside resort long home to old New England money and a city famous for its mansions, and the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, coming off a transition year on offense that resulted in a 4-8 record (1-6 Big East), head right smack into another transition year. The defense returns only five starters from last season, and some of those five will be seeing time at new positions. On the other side of the ball, the offense returns 10 starters, but they’re a young group who must adapt to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and his pro-style offense.
2010 was a big step in the right direction for the Toledo Rockets. Following years of sanctions and poor play, the team returned to postseason play with an 8-4 regular season record (7-1 MAC) that earned them a spot in the Little Caesar’s Pizza (Motor City) Bowl. The Rockets were led by a ball-hawking defense that finished eighth in the FBS with 20 interceptions and a balanced offense that gained over 2000 yards both passing and rushing.
Rhode Island has reason to be optimistic heading into the 2011 season. Despite finishing 5-6 (4-4 CAA) last season, the Rams return a veteran group of players on offense, including a solid offensive line, and weapons across the running back and wide receiver position. Although the defense has been decimated by graduation, Rams head coach Joe Trainer has a talented group of players ready to contribute.
Wake Forest is coming off a brutal season, as the Demon Deacons lost nine in a row at one point, finishing the season 3-9, including 1-7 in the ACC. Seven times, Wake Forest allowed 30 points or more, as it finished 110th in the NCAA in points against (35.8). Worse yet, the offense struggled, scoring just 22.8 points per game. But there is optimism in Winston-Salem heading into the upcoming season, with a maturing nucleus of stars.
Syracuse enjoyed one of its best years in recent memory on defense, as the Orange held opponents to 19.3 points a game, good with 17th in the NCAA. But much of that unit from last year is gone, as the Orange will have to replace more than half of its starters. Still, Marrone has some experience to work with.