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Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Poll: Defensive player of the year

By Matt Fortuna

Teddy Bridgewater appears to be running away in the Big East offensive player of the year poll. Perhaps we'll have some more parity in today's vote.

We're looking at who you think will be the best defensive player in the conference this fall. Keep in mind, this is a conference that had two top-10 defenses in the nation in 2012.

The front-runners for 2013 ...

Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn: Smallwood led the Huskies in tackles last season, tallying 120. Fifteen of those stops were for loss, and he added four sacks, four pass breakups, four passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. He is currently No. 45 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board for the 2014 NFL draft, and he is the top returner on a UConn defense that saw four players from that side of the ball get drafted last month.

Greg Blair, LB, Cincinnati: The Big East's leading tackler from a season ago is back for one more year. Blair amassed 138 stops in 2012, including nine for loss. He added 2.5 sacks, two picks, six pass breakups, eight passes defended, four quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple: Matakevich thrived in his first year of college ball, taking home Big East defensive rookie of the year honors following a campaign that saw him lead the Owls and finish fourth in the conference with 101 tackles, adding three for loss, three pass breakups, three passes defended, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. The Stratford, Conn., native figures to be only better in Year 2 in Philly.

Zach McMillian, CB, Houston: The senior was honorable mention All-Conference USA last season after recording five interceptions, which would have tied for second in the Big East in 2012. He took on bigger role following the career-threatening injury to eventual first-round pick D.J. Hayden, recording a pick in all three games that Hayden missed. He added 51 tackles, six pass breakups and 11 passes defended.

Others: Louisville certainly has a number of players who could figure into the mix -- Preston Brown, Hakeem Smith, Calvin Pryor, to name just a few -- and USF brings back DeDe Lattimore and Ryne Giddins. What about newcomers like SMU's Kenneth Acker or Memphis' Martin Ifedi?