- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The time has come, she says to wild cheers!
Today we begin our countdown of the top 25 players in the Big East in 2012. As you all know, this is quite the time-consuming task every single season. Input has been received from a variety of sources, and several factors are considered in compiling the rankings. The two weighed most heavily: performance and impact on his team. All-conference honors also factored into where all these players stand.
We know there will be plenty of debate as we count down to No. 1. So let the discussion begin!
No. 25 Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt.
Making the case: Donald was one of the best interior linemen in the Big East, as he made the switch from end to tackle. His sack numbers dipped over a year ago, not much of a surprise considering he was not rushing the quarterback from the end. But he did lead the league in tackles for loss with 18.5. Most impressive about that stat -- he was credited with the solo tackle for loss on 18 of those, meaning he did not need any help at all to take players down behind the line.
The reason I do not have Donald ranked higher is because of the inconsistency of the Pitt defense, which alternated between solid and mediocre. Donald was inconsistent himself. He ended the regular season with huge games against Rutgers and USF, with a combined seven tackles for loss. The Panthers won both games. But in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Ole Miss, Donald had one total tackle and the Panthers could not stop the Rebels' run game. Pitt lost.
Donald made the wise choice to stay at Pitt for his senior year. I fully expect him to have a better year in 2013, and to be featured in the ACC preseason top 25 countdown.
Preseason ranking: No. 2.