NEWPORT, R.I. – No regrets. Not when it comes to Tyler Palko and his horrific start last season.
Pittsburgh's highly-recruited quarterback appeared to be in danger of being benched just two games after being named the starter. He went 6-of-19 for 49 yards in the opener against Ohio and threw three costly picks in a loss to Nebraska a week later.
Palko came under heavy criticism from the media and fans, many of which felt he deserved to be demoted. He rebounded in a remarkable fashion, going on a ten-game tear that left him with 3,080 passing yards and 24 touchdown passes – numbers that surprisingly propelled the Panthers into a BCS game.
Palko said he wouldn't have had it any other way at the Big East media day Tuesday. He wouldn't erase the stats from his first two games even if he could.
"I learned the hard way and I think that is great," the 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior said. "Sometimes you have to scrape rock bottom before you enjoy great success."
Palko, whose father is a football coach, said his confidence never wavered during the entire season.
"I never questioned my ability and I don't worry about opinions," Palko said. "One day the media is your friend and the next day they are one of your critics. I don't read papers or worry about that kind of stuff."
Palko could put up some of the top stats of any quarterback this fall despite new coach Dave Wannstedt publicly saying that he wants to run the ball more.
The Panthers return their two top receivers in Greg Lee and Joe DelSardo, who combined for 97 catches and 1,870 yards in 2004.
Palko is also getting the chance to work under offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, who has coached quarterbacks and offenses in the NFL for the last 11 years. Cavanaugh was the quarterback on Pitt's 1976 national title team.
"Coach Cavanaugh has been awesome," Palko said. "There is no better teacher. He has helped me how to handle some things as a person. In the spring weeks we also tweaked some things and did some fine tuning."
IS HALL TOP FIVE? Does South Florida's Andre Hall belong in the conversation about the nation's top running backs? The senior who led the Big East with 1,357 rushing yards last season certainly thinks so. "I'm definitely one of the top five backs in the country," Hall said. "Personally, I think I'm No. 1." With USF's starting quarterback job up for grabs and a young offensive line returning, Hall may struggle to match last season's stats.
ONE VERY HAPPY BEARCAT: Nobody player on Cincinnati's roster may be more pleased about the program's move to the Big East than Adam Roberts. The 6-foot-3, 257-pound senior defensive end from Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of the few Bearcats from the Northeast and the only one from New York. In Conference-USA, Cincinnati mostly played in the Midwest but now its schedule includes games at Syracuse and Rutgers and Roberts get some chances to play in front of family and friends.
BROHM A BIG UGLY? Louisville's Brian Brohm looks and plays the part of the golden boy. The heir to Louisville's great quarterback throne, the 6-foot-4, 224-pound sophomore with bright blond hair was ranked among the top signal callers in the nation coming out of high school. He pushed the nation's highest-rated passer and Conference-USA Player of the Year Stefan Lefors for playing time last season, seeing in action in 11 of 12 games. But, Cardinals offensive lineman Travis Leffew said Brohm's personality is nothing like the hype that surrounds him. "Brian is not a big-headed quarterback like some thought he might be," Leffew said. "He is really personable and down-to-earth. He hangs out with us a lot and acts just like one of the linemen."
HOPES FOR HOKE: Cincinnati sophomore Anthony Hoke (6-1, 245) is moving from defensive end to linebacker and many believe the position switch will greatly benefit the Bearcats. "Anthony has gained some weight and has a lot of power. He is going to surprise some people," Roberts said.
NEXT STOP, MORGANTOWN: With three new schools in the Big East, many players will be heading to destinations they have never been. The one most said they were looking forward to playing at was West Virginia. "We've obviously been to South Florida and Cincinnati and went to Syracuse two years ago," Leffew said. "But, I'm really excited about the game at West Virginia (Oct. 15). "I've heard the atmosphere is crazy there."