- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Continuing our countdown of the 25 best players in the Big East from the 2010 season, based on last year's performance.
Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse, Sr.
Preseason rank: 24
2010 numbers: Led the Orange with 114 tackles, including nine for loss. Also had 1.5 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles.
Making the case for Smith: The senior built on his breakthrough junior campaign by finishing second in the Big East in total tackles. Syracuse's defense led the way to the program's turnaround, as the Orange pressure scheme caused fits for opponents like West Virginia, South Florida, Cincinnati and Rutgers.
The linebackers were a major part of defensive coordinator Scott Shafer's game plan, and Smith provided leadership and skill from the middle linebacker position. A second team All-Big East selection, Smith has been invited to the NFL combine and could be a late-round pick or free agent pickup.