Now that the season is rapidly approaching, we take a look at each conference for where the teams stack up, who are the best players at each position, some of the story lines to watch, and some of the top talents for the 2010 NFL Draft.
Projected Final Standings:
QB- Tony Pike, Cincinnati, Sr.
RB- Noel Devine, West Virginia, Jr.
RB- Victor Anderson, Louisville, So.
WR- Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati, Sr.
WR- Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh, So.
TE- Nate Byham, Pittsburgh, Sr.
C- Robb Houser, Pittsburgh, Sr.
OL- Anthony Davis, Rutgers, Jr.
OL- Selvish Capers, West Virginia, Sr.
OL- Mike Hicks, Connecticut, Sr.
OL- Jeff Linkenbach, Cincinnati, Sr.
DE- Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh, Jr.
DE- George Selvie, South Florida, Sr.
DT- Arthur Jones, Syracuse, Sr.
DT- Scooter Berry, West Virginia, Jr.
LB- Scott Lustrus, Connecticut, Jr.
LB- Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut, Jr.
LB- Reed Williams, West Virginia, Sr.
CB- Aaron Berry, Pittsburgh, Sr.
CB- Devin McCourty, Rutgers, Jr.
S- Nate Allen, South Florida, Sr.
S- Robert Vaughn, Connecticut, Sr.
Intriguing Story Lines:
1. Greg Paulus Playing at Syracuse
This was the college football headline of the summer. The idea of Paulus playing Divison 1 football is a very rare sight.
Paulus was a former top quarterback recruit out of high school, but he went instead to Duke to play (and ride the bench as a senior) basketball for four years.
It should be quite interesting to see if he can recoup his high school stardom and lead a new, youthful offense in bringing Syracuse out of the Big East pit.
2. Jarrett Brown Replacing Pat White
To make this clear, for what Pat White did for the West Virginia organization, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford would all find it challenging to replace him.
White won four bowl games as the starter, a feat never accomplished before him.
He was constantly the best player on the field, even with the likes of Steve Slaton and Noel Devine lined up beside him.
Jarrett Brown is different from White in that he isn’t as much of a playmaker, but may be a better passer. That could be for the better, as the team may have more deep plays not running the ball.
But it could be worse, as teams don’t have to have ends and linebackers protect the outside from an extremely mobile quarterback.
Brown has Shaq-like shoes to fill, but if he can manage this team into Big East contention once again, it will be a job well done.
3. Can Pitt Put It All Together?
Having Top 10 and Top 15 recruiting classes over a three year stretch usually means one of two things. One, you're Notre Dame, Florida, or USC. Or, two, you should be one of the top teams in the country.
Pittsburgh, under Dave Wanstadt, has done a great job of keeping in-state talent away from Penn State. And they've fouond players outside the state to bolster the team.
Still, the Panthers have questions at quarterback and running back, and at linebacker. Wandstadt needs to get his ultra-talented players to perform this season, or else he could be on the chopping block and have to watch another coach swoop in and reap the reward of his recruiting efforts.
Anything less that Big East top three finish is a failure, and even that may not be good enough.
End of Season Awards:
MVP: Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati
Offensive Player of the Year: Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia
Defensive Player of the Year: George Selvie, DE, South Florida
Newcomer of the Year: Greg Paulus, QB, Syracuse
Surprise Player of the Year: Carlton Mitchell, WR, South Florida
Top 5 NFL Prospects for 2010:
1. Arthur Jones, DT, Syracuse
After considering leaving school early a year ago, Jones returns to fight for the top DT spot in a great draft for the position.
His play at nose tackle for Syracuse made him one of the lone bright spots, as he racked up 13 tackles for a loss last season. His pass rushing dominance in a conference short on quality interior linemen means he should have another huge season.
If so, he may push himself into the top 10 on draft boards.
2. Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
Last year's draft featured more finesse linemen like Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith, and Michael Oher. But Anthony Davis, a likely first rounder in next year's draft if he declares after his junior year, is a load to get past.
At 6'6", 325 pounds, he has the obvious size to run block against the most powerful of lineman. But he also has the athleticism to pass block as well.
If he can work on handling speed rushes on the outside consistently (vs. South Florida and George Selvie, in particular), he could vault himself into the top 10 of next year’s draft.
3. George Selvie, DE, South Florida
When he started at South Florida he had a wide receiver-like body, but Selvie dominated in the pass rush game as soon as he began playing.
Now, three seasons later, Selvie has bulked up to 245 pounds and is an even more devastating pass rusher. He has a wide array of moves and tremendous quickness.
While he has a little more room to bulk up, Selvie is the perfect weight to dominate in college. And he could become a Julius Peppers/Jason Taylor type player at the next level.
If he can improve as an overall defensive end, especially in the run support game, he could emerge as a solid first-rounder.
4. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati
When you watch Mardy Gilyard this season, you could be watching a player very similar to Jeremy Maclin in terms of NFL potential.
He’s not as deadly quick as Maclin, and he doesn’t have the moves to be a dominating return man. But he has great speed, hands, and body positioning for a small guy. Plus he is a better route runner than Maclin.
He is slated as one of the top three seniors coming into the 2010 draft, but he could slide out of round one due to the number of talented junior receivers.
If he can maintain his production from a year ago and show consistent hands as he has during his career, he could emerge more on the national stage.
5. Nate Allen, S, South Florida
In what is projected as one of the best safety classes ever, Nate Allen is holding his own as a first round talent.
Guys like Taylor Mays, Eric Berry, and Myron Rolle have all been tabbed as future pros for years now, so Allen will be jostling with them and others for first round slots at safety.
Allen has great vision for a safety, and understands tackling paths and where the play is going. Those are traits that are so important for a free safety in the NFL.