- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time to move on in our preseason countdown of the top 25 players in the Big East.
If you need a quick refresher, I am projecting the best of the best in the league for this upcoming season, and I am including freshmen and transfers.
No. 8 Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville
Twitter handle: @RealizeDaDream
Making the case: Smith is the best safety in a league that features many really excellent players at the position. Smith heads into his third season as a starter as not only the most experienced player in the secondary but the entire defense as a whole. That should translate extremely well for the Cardinals, who return all four starters in the defensive backfield. Smith has become one of the best tacklers in the Big East, and is known for being a pretty hard hitter as well.
Last season, he made the Big East first team after notching 84 tackles, with nine pass breakups. In one stretch toward the end of the season, he had at least 10 tackles in three straight games. That performance came on the heels of a breakout freshman season in which he won Big East Newcomer of the Year honors after notching 88 tackles and making the second team. Amazing to consider he was rated a two-star prospect out of high school in Georgia.
No. 9 Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse
No. 10 Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn
No. 11 Ryne Giddins, DE, USF
No. 12 Montel Harris, RB, Temple
No. 13 DeDe Lattimore, LB, USF
No. 14 Sio Moore, LB, UConn
No. 15 Walter Stewart, DE, Cincinnati
No. 16 Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers
No. 17 Mario Benavides, C, Louisville
No. 18 Jarred Holley, S, Pitt
No. 19 Scott Vallone, NT, Rutgers
No. 20 Ryan Griffin, TE, UConn
No. 21 Adrian Bushell, CB, Louisville
No. 22 Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse
No. 23 Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers
No. 24 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn
No. 25 Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse