Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Big East's most irreplaceable players
By Brian Bennett
ESPN's "College Football Live" is running down its list of the most irreplaceable players for the 2010 season. You may recall that I presented the list of the most indispensable players for the Big East earlier this spring. It's time to revisit that list, with one change among my choices:
Cincinnati: Derek Wolfe, DT. Virtually all of the Bearcats' question marks are located on the defensive side of the ball, and Wolfe is their best and most dominant defensive linemen. That's a position that's already thin in experience and numbers, and losing him as the run-stuffer would be tough to overcome.
Connecticut: Lawrence Wilson, LB. UConn has a lot of depth and not a ton of superstars. But Wilson had a Big East-best 140 tackles last year and is one of the Huskies' most athletic defenders. Linebacker is not a position loaded with a lot of experienced backups for UConn, making Wilson irreplaceable.
Louisville: Johnny Patrick, CB. The Cardinals' defensive backfield looked scary at times this spring -- scary for them, not opposing offenses. Patrick is the one rock back there as one of the league's better cornerbacks. Without him, things could really get frightening.
Pittsburgh: The "College Football Live" staff chose Dion Lewis, but I think Pitt could run the ball effectively with Ray Graham and others without Lewis. I chose safety Dom DeCicco earlier in the spring. But now, after seeing Pitt in practice, I'd have to vote for left tackle Jason Pinkston. The senior is an invaluable anchor on the offensive line, especially with questions at center and guard.
Rutgers: Tom Savage, QB. No-brainer here. Rutgers' only other options right now are Steve Shimko, incoming freshman Chas Dodd or moving receiver Mohamed Sanu or tight end D.C. Jefferson under center. None of those would portend good things.
South Florida: B.J. Daniels, QB. Just as obvious and correct as the Savage pick. Daniels is the only player who's taken a collegiate snap at quarterback currently on the depth chart, if you don't count receiver Evan Landi.
Syracuse: Derrell Smith, LB. Syracuse managed to beat Rutgers while Smith was injured late in the year, but his leadership and playmaking ability from the middle linebacker spot would be hard to replace for long stretches of the season.
West Virginia: Chris Neild, DT. Coley White played well enough this spring to make the Mountaineers believe they could win without Geno Smith. Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders could step in for Noel Devine if needed. While the defensive line should be deeper than it was a year ago, neither West Virginia nor many other teams have many guys like Neild who can take on two or even three blockers on every play.