- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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We continue our countdown of the top players in the Big East.
Up today: Zach Collaros, QB, Cincinnati.
Making the case: This is a case where the stats do not tell the full story. The true measure of his importance to this team and the Big East is in what happened to the Bearcats after he broke his ankle against West Virginia in November. Cincinnati lost its grip on the league race with Collaros out, though it did manage to win a share of the championship. With a healthy Collaros, the Bearcats may have very well been in the BCS. His veteran leadership and experience were sorely missed down the stretch, particularly in a stinging loss to Rutgers.
Collaros might not have had his best season statistically. He still threw far too many head-scratching interceptions (15 touchdowns to 10 INTs). But the way he was able to rally back and play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl -- guiding the team to its first bowl win since 2007 -- speaks volumes about what he truly brought to his team. League coaches noticed well before that performance, voting him to the Big East second team.
Preseason ranking: No. 3.
No. 25 Ryne Giddins, DE, USF
No. 24 Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia
No. 23 Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers
No. 22 Antwon Bailey, RB, Syracuse
No. 21 Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn
No. 20 Dexter Heyman, LB, Louisville
No. 19 Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville
No. 18 Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
No. 17 Aaron Donald, DE, Pitt
No. 16 Trevardo Williams, DE, UConn
No. 15 Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
No. 14 Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia
No. 13 Bruce Irvin, DE West Virginia
No. 12 Najee Goode, LB, West Virginia
No. 11 Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn
No. 10 JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati