And then there were two. Time to announce the runner-up in our Big East top 25 player countdown, based on 2010 performance and impact ...
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh, Sr.
Preseason rank: No. 19
2010 numbers: Had 52 tackles, including 14.5 for loss and nine sacks. Also had 15 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles.
Making the case for Sheard: The 2010 season had the potential to be a disastrous one for Sheard. First, he was arrested in a preseason altercation, earning a brief suspension. Then his friend and fellow defensive end, Greg Romeus, got injured, allowing teams to concentrate much of their focus on Sheard's side.
But Sheard stepped out of Romeus' shadow and won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award, just as Romeus had won a share of it in 2009. Despite the presence of near-constant double teams, he finished second in the league in tackles for loss, third in sacks and tied for first in forced fumbles. He commanded so much attention that Brandon Lindsey developed into a star at Romeus' old spot.
Sheard succeeded with a high motor and relentless effort. At 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, he's probably best suited for an outside linebacker position in a 3-4 alignment on an NFL team. Any team interested in drafting him should consider how he responded to adversity in 2010 and how he turned himself into one of the Big East's best players.
No. 25: Zach Hurd, OG, Connecticut
No. 24: Dave Teggart, K, Connecticut
No. 23: Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse
No. 21: Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville
No. 20: Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh
No. 19: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
No. 18: Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati
No. 17: Kendall Reyes, DL, Connecticut
No. 16: Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh
No. 15: Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
No. 14: Robert Sands, S, West Virginia
No. 13: Brandon Lindsey, DE, Pittsburgh
No. 12: Doug Hogue, LB, Syracuse
No. 11: Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia
No. 10: Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida
No. 9: Chris Neild, DT, West Virginia
No. 8: Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut
No. 7: Zach Collaros, QB, Cincinnati
No. 6: Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse
No. 5: Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati
No. 4: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
No. 3: Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville