Monday, February 8, 2010
Biggest shoes to fill in the Big East
By Brian Bennett
A year ago at this time, the Big East was dealing with the loss of a plethora of stars, including some of the best players in league history. Guys like Pat White, Donald Brown, Kenny Britt, LeSean McCoy and Scott McKillop seemed difficult, if not impossible, to replace.
The league fared just fine in 2009 without those stars, and the good news for 2010 is that many of its top performers will be back. But that's not to say there aren't still some key losses that teams will have to adjust to this spring. Here's a look at the biggest shoes to fill this season in the Big East:
- Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: The Bearcats aren't exactly hurting at wide receiver with Armon Binns, D.J. Woods and USC transfer Vidal Hazelton around. Still, someone must replace Gilyard's leadership and knack for making the big play at crucial times. What might be even more difficult to replace is Gilyard's production on special teams. The two-time Big East special teams player of the year was always a threat to score on kickoffs and punt returns. And hopefully someone will step in Gilyard's role as the best quote in the entire conference.
- Tim Brown, WR, Rutgers: Brown may not have received a ton of attention nationally, but he was vitally important to the Scarlet Knights. The speedster averaged 20.9 yards per catch and amassed 1,150 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as the team's only true deep threat. With a still very young receiving corps surrounding Tom Savage, Rutgers will need to find someone who can stretch the field the way Brown did.
- Mick Williams, DT, Pittsburgh: The 2009 co-defensive player of the year in the conference, Williams was a wildly disruptive force in the middle of that Panthers defensive line, as well as an inspirational leader. With fellow senior tackle Gus Mustakas also gone, Pitt needs more production from backups Myles Caragein and Chas Alecxih, among others.
- Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers: McCourty was an underappreciated gem for the Scarlet Knights, a lockdown cornerback who also was seemingly everywhere on special teams. He was the leader of the secondary. Guys with his skills don't come around that often.
- Reed Williams, LB, West Virginia: The Mountaineers had to deal with Williams' absence for most of 2008 and at times this past season because of various injuries. But it was clear that they were a different team whenever Williams was healthy. A smart player (he's the 2009 Big East football scholar-athlete of the year ) who anchored the defense at middle linebacker, Williams was like a coach on the field.
- George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida: Say what you will about Selvie's dwindling production, but opposing offense still always had to account for him. And Pierre-Paul ascended to star status in his one year on campus. Combined, the two produced 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2009. The Bulls now need the next wave of pass-rushers to emerge, with former stud recruit Ryne Giddins one possible candidate.