2012 Big East top 25 countdown: No. 2

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
3:30
PM ET
We are almost at the end of our preseason countdown of the players I think are going to be the Top 25 guys in the league when the season ends.

You smart cookies out there surely have figured out the top 2.

No. 2 Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

Making the case: Donald is the most complete defensive lineman returning to the Big East, and I believe he will be even better this year for several reasons. First, I think he is much better suited for the 4-3 scheme the Panthers are going back to this season under Dave Huxtable, who has had success at developing defensive linemen.

Second, he will spend all of his time playing inside, where he feels much more comfortable. Last season was the first time Donald had ever played defensive end. He estimates that he split his time evenly between playing inside and outside last year, but most of his 11 sacks came when he lined up inside.

"It was nice to be able to move around from inside to outside, but I think I'm more of an inside guy," he told me during Big East media day.

As a follow up, I asked if that meant having even bigger sack numbers this year. The soft-spoken Donald answered with one word: "Hopefully."

The countdown

No. 3 Ray Graham, RB, Pitt

No. 4 B.J. Daniels, QB, USF

No. 5 Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

No. 6 Trevardo Williams, DE, UConn

No. 7 Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

No. 8 Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville

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

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