Got talent? Here is a breakdown of where your favorite college football team stands going into National Signing Day on Wednesday, according to CollegeFootballNews.com (Rankings based on CFN’s preseason team rankings within the conference)
1. West Virginia (10-3)
What’s needed now: More receivers. Head coach Dana Holgorsen got a few nice prospects last year for the offense, but this year he’s loading up on receivers to make his high-octane attack shine. The offense has more than its share of star prospects from recent classes, but therew will be more to assure that the passing game remains among the nation’s most dangerous.
Team concerns: Not much. A few starters in the secondary have to be replaced, and a little bit of help is needed on the offensive front, but there’s a reason WVU will be ranked in the preseason top 10 and possibly the top five. The 2012 class will be saved for the future with so many established players already in place. The offense is about to get more explosive and deeper.
2. Louisville (7-6)
What’s needed now: The lines. The defensive line needs prospects to develop for 2014 and beyond. The interior of the offensive line is set for a while with John Miller and Jake Smith at guard, but needs quality depth. The Cardinals won’t go heavy on tackles, but they’ll have more than their share of blockers.
Team concerns: The kicking game. The Cardinals are loaded with underclassmen who played a huge role in last year’s success, and while senior experience is going to be a problem, the fundamentals of the team are strong. However, the punters are gone, including Chris Philpott, who also served as placekicker. Josh Appleby out of Alabama will challenge for the starting kicker gig.
3. Rutgers (9-4)
What’s Needed Now: Receivers. Last year, head coach Greg Schiano brought in a terrific class of running backs, and the speed and talent in the defensive backfield was addressed in previous seasons. Now it’s on to the passing game to find QBs Chas Dodd and Gary Nova some playmakers. Schiano will have a terrific class of wideouts.
Team concerns: The defensive line. Three starters are gone and only tackle Scott Vallone is returning. There are enough decent prospects to be fine for the next few years, but the 2013 class will have to work hard to upgrade the front. Is kicker Nick DeLouisa ready to take over for San San Te? Kyle Federico out of Florida will get a shot at the job.
4. Cincinnati (10-3)
What’s Needed Now: After a few years of going after receivers and skill players, the Bearcats need to strengthen a secondary that’ll be fine for the next two years but needs prospects for 2014 and beyond. Offense won’t be ignored, with head coach Butch Jones going after as many top players for the passing game as possible. Small and speedy Dennis Norfleet could be an instant impact running back.
Team concerns: The offensive line loses three starters and needs a new left side. This year’s class isn’t going to address the line, but it’ll be the biggest concern this offseason. Defensive tackle is also a problem with Derek Wolfe and John Hughes leaving, but don’t expect any of the new recruits to make a difference this year.
5. South Florida (5-7)
What’s Needed Now: The lines. Skip Holtz has loaded up on skill players the last few years, and the defensive front was addressed heavily three years ago. The D could use a boost up front for down the road, while the offensive line has a depth issue that has to be addressed as soon as possible. Holtz is mining the junior college ranks and is going outside of the state to bring in talent.
Team concerns: The secondary loses a few key starters and needs more options for nickel and dime packages. Holtz is has a few junior college transfers coming in to help, but this will be a need over the next few classes. The defensive front needs more players for the rotation, and this class should bring them.
6. Pitt (6-7)
What’s needed now: Keeping Todd Graham’s recruits. New head coach Paul Chryst is behind and has to rally, but first he has to make sure the key recruits from the former head man — including superstar running back prospect Rushel Shell — are happy. Why did Chryst succeed as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator? Offensive linemen, but that will wait until the 2013 class. This year will focus on signing the best players possible in an abbreviated recruiting cycle.
Team concerns: The defensive front seven. Only two starters are back — end Aaron Donald and linebacker Todd Thomas — meaning the stars from the 2010 class have to start shining. The offensive line needs work after losing three starters and both backups at tackle. This class isn’t expected to have any immediate answers for either concern.
7. Syracuse (5-7)
What’s Needed Now: The defensive line needs prospects. The Orange have tried everything possible over the last few classes to get more talent for the offense, and now is when it all has to kick in. Three starters are gone off the defensive front along with most of the top backups, so any lineman who comes in must be prepared to play immediately.
Team Concerns: The defensive line is the biggest problem, but the offensive backfield is getting the most attention. Charley Loeb is expected to take over the starting quarterback job, but he needs a battle, and there have to be other options from recent classes. It’ll be a wild open fight for the quarterback pecking order.
8. Connecticut (5-7)
What’s needed now: Quarterbacks. Paul Pasqualoni didn’t have a chance to do much of anything last year, and it showed with a mediocre class that might have been the weakest in the Big East. This year, he needs an upgrade in talent, but he also needs to find a quarterback to build around — or at least challenge Scott McCummings and Mike Nebrich down the road. The running game was bad last year, but the passing game has to improve quickly if Johnny McEntee can’t get the job done.
Team Concerns: Defensive tackle. The Huskies have a nice defensive back with seven returning, and they look great on the end, but the middle of the line is an issue with Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes gone. This year’s class doesn’t seem to be concentrating on the line, but it’s going to be an issue next year.