Brohm's decision to return for his senior season made Louisville an instant contender for the national title. Brohm has developed into one of the top NFL prospects in his class despite tearing an anterior cruciate ligament and spraining his right thumb the last two years. Brohm threw for 3,049 yards with 16 touchdown passes and only five interceptions last year. He missed two games at midseason and played the rest of the regular season with a brace on his thumb.
Pittsburgh couldn't have asked for much more from Clermond last season in his first year as a starter. Clermond tied for the team lead with 5½ sacks and topped the Big East with 16½ tackles for loss. He also ranked 15th in the nation with 1.38 tackles for loss per game. Clermond had three tackles for loss against Michigan State and 2½ tackles behind the line against Syracuse.
The player who has helped lead Rutgers' renaissance finished second in the nation and set a Big East single-season record with 1,794 rushing yards last year. Rice also scored 20 touchdowns to finish fifth in the nation in scoring and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Rice also knows how to play in front of unfriendly crowds. All four of his career 200-yard rushing performances have come on the road.
This former linebacker moved to defensive end in the spring of 2006 and soon emerged as one of the Big East's top pass rushers. McClain led the conference with 9½ sacks last year and ranked second to Clermond with 14½ tackles for loss. McClain will hope to match his early season production from a year ago, when he recorded seven sacks in the Orange's first five games.
There might not be a more explosive player in college football. Slaton ranked fourth in the nation in rushing last year with 1,744 yards and 16 touchdowns. Two years into his career, he already ranks third on West Virginia's all-time list in career rushing yards (2,872) and fourth in career rushing touchdowns (33). Slaton and West Virginia quarterback Pat White give the Mountaineers arguably the nation's most dangerous running tandem.
This fourth-year starter earned first-team all-Big East honors last year while finishing the season with 32 tackles – 5½ for loss – and three sacks. Instead of resting on his laurels, Dykes showed so much effort during the offseason that he won the Iron Mountaineer Award that goes to the top performer in the team's winter workout program.
Douglas caught 70 passes for a school-record 1,265 yards last year while leading the Big East in receptions and receiving yards per game. Douglas was one of the nation's hottest receivers at the end of the 2006 season. He caught 26 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games. That included a 10-catch, 165-yard performance in the Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest.
Brian Brohm wasn't the only Big East star to make a resounding recovery from a knee injury last year. After missing the final 10 games of the 2005 season, Foster came back last year and delivered one of the finest years of any defensive tackle in the nation. Foster recorded 51 tackles – 14 for loss – along with six sacks. He also broke up four passes. Foster enters his senior year as a legitimate All-America candidate.
Urrutia's 56-yard touchdown against Miami helped him build his case as one of the nation's top deep threats. He solidified that reputation by adding a 42-yard score against Pittsburgh and a 68-yard touchdown catch against Middle Tennessee. Urrutia has caught 13 touchdown passes over the last two years and had 58 receptions for 973 yards last season. He has caught at least one pass in 15 consecutive games.
Jackson emerged as a big-play performer last year in his first season as a starter. Although he only recorded 57 overall tackles, Jackson compiled nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss to lead the Cardinals in both categories. He also saves his best games for the Cardinals' best foes. He returned a fumble for a touchdown in a victory over West Virginia. In the Orange Bowl triumph over Wake Forest, Jackson had a sack, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.
Barnidge's statistics dispute the notion that a tight end can only catch short passes. He proved he was more than a possession receiver by averaging 16.5 yards per catch last year. Barnidge collected 31 receptions for 511 yards in 2006 and played particularly well late in the season. He caught 13 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns in the Cardinals' final three regular-season games.
This Iowa State transfer still hasn't played a game for South Florida, but his track record indicates he should have a big year. McKenzie recorded 129 tackles for the Cyclones last season and ranked eighth in the nation with 10.8 tackles per game. McKenzie also forced four fumbles, intercepted one pass and delivered 9½ tackles for loss last year as Iowa State's starting middle linebacker. He was granted an NCAA hardship waiver that allowed him to transfer without sitting out a year.
This former walk-on has developed into one of the Big East's top linemen while starring for his hometown team. He didn't allow a sack last season while starting 11 games at left tackle and two games at left guard. Bussey earned first-team all-Big East honors last year for his role in helping Louisville finish second in the nation in total offense.
Moffitt certainly knows how to balance responsibilities. This fourth-year starter is a married father who makes the hour-long drive to his family's home in Bushnell, Fla., after practice every night. He shows a similar dedication on the field each Saturday. Moffitt has started 30 consecutive games. He has collected 208 tackles – 26 for loss – over the last two seasons.
Zuttah has played every line position but center during his college career. After starting at left guard as a sophomore, Zuttah made a successful transition to right tackle last year and earned first-team all-Big East honors. Zuttah's contributions helped the 2006 Rutgers team allow just eight sacks, the lowest total in the nation. Zuttah has been selected as one of four team captains for the 2007 season.
Jenkins only intercepted one pass last season, but that's mainly because opposing offenses have learned not to throw near him. The third-year starter still recorded a team-high 15 pass breakups last year. This future first-day draft pick also possesses enough speed to make touchdown-saving tackles on the rare occasions when opposing receivers or running backs break free into South Florida's secondary.
The Big East lost its top overall offensive lineman from last year when All-America center Dan Mozes completed his senior season at West Virginia, but Wood could prove to be every bit as good. This former Rivals.com Freshman All-America selection continued his rapid progress last year by earning second-team all-Big East honors. Wood has started 25 consecutive games over the last two years.
Williams tied a school record and led the Big East with seven interceptions last season on his way to earning first-team all-conference honors. One of those interceptions clinched South Florida's upset of West Virginia. Williams also is a solid run stopper who recorded 49 tackles – an unusually high number for a cornerback – during the 2006 season. Williams and Mike Jenkins give South Florida one of the nation's top cornerback tandems.
Canfield reportedly has dropped 35 pounds during the offseason to better fit Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly's request for linemen who emphasize quickness more than size. The Bearcats are hoping the lighter Canfield continues to deliver big games. Canfield started at right guard last year and played well enough to become a second-team all-Big East selection.
Greene emerged as one of the Scarlet Knights' top defenders the moment he arrived on campus. Greene earned second-team Freshman All-America honors from Rivals.com two years ago after ranking second in the Big East with 116 tackles. He followed up that stellar freshman campaign by recording 82 tackles and a team-high four interceptions last year.
Isdaner wasn't heavily recruited coming out of high school, but he spent the 2006 season showing other college programs just what they'd missed. Isdaner won a starting job at left guard as a redshirt freshman last year and recorded 21 knockdown blocks on his way to becoming a Rivals.com first-team Freshman All-America selection. Isdaner sat out spring practice while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but it shouldn't limit him this fall.
This third-year starter has proved that guys in the secondary can make big plays in the backfield. Wicks collected 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks last year to lead the Mountaineers in both categories. Wicks' pass-rushing prowess shouldn't overshadow his pass coverage skills. He also recorded three interceptions and broke up seven passes last year. Wicks earned first-team all-Big East honors last season after being a second-team selection as a sophomore.
The reigning Lou Groza Award winner has gone 47-for-56 on career field-goal attempts. Carmody went 21-for-25 last year and was a perfect 5-for-5 from at least 40 yards. Carmody finished fifth in the nation last season with 1.62 field goals per game and ranked fourth in the nation in scoring with 9.5 points per game. He already owns school records for career points (341) and career field goals (47).
So many Big East teams are breaking in new punters this year that making all-conference picks at this position was quite a challenge. We decided to put our faith in Brytus, a Purdue transfer who averaged 39.7 yards per attempt in two seasons as the Boilermakers' main punter. In Brytus' last season at Purdue, 35 percent of his punts forced the opposing team to start a drive inside its 20-yard line.
This junior-college transfer made an immediate impact on Pittsburgh's special teams last season. Robinson averaged 27.9 yards per kickoff return in 2006 to rank ninth in the nation in that category. His big season included a touchdown on a 97-yard return of the opening kickoff in a victory over UCF.
Reynaud led West Virginia in receptions last season while also emerging as a threat in the Mountaineers' rushing attack and special-teams units. Reynaud carried the ball 14 times for 221 yards, caught 39 passes for 520 yards and also ranked 14th in the nation with his average of 27.1 yards per kickoff return. He had two touchdown receptions last year and also scored on a 96-yard kickoff return against Maryland.
2007 Rivals.com Preseason All-Big East Second Team
Although he happens to play quarterback, White just might be the nation's best running back. White ranked 16th in the nation in rushing with 1,219 yards and also ran for 18 touchdowns last year. But he's no one-dimensional player. White completed nearly two-thirds of his passes last year for 1,655 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. White won the team's MVP award last year and also was named the MVP of the Gator Bowl victory over Georgia Tech.
Selvie garnered plenty of attention after collecting 3½ tackles for loss, forcing a fumble and scoring on a 9-yard fumble return in South Florida's 24-19 upset of West Virginia. But this guy is no one-game wonder. Selvie finished the 2006 season with 84 tackles, including 15 for losses. Those are astounding numbers for any defensive end, let alone a redshirt freshman who had originally signed with South Florida as a center.
Brown displayed his star potential after replacing an injured Terry Caulley in the Huskies' final five games last season. Brown rushed for 673 yards in those five starts – including a 199-yard outburst against Rutgers and a 205-yard effort against Pittsburgh – to finish his redshirt freshman season with 896 yards and seven touchdowns. The second-team all-Big East selection was the only freshman in the conference to earn all-league recognition last year.
Westerman tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (eight) last year on his way to becoming a second-team all-Big East selection. Connecticut sure knows about this guy. He collected 2½ sacks and blocked a punt to set up a touchdown last year in Rutgers' 24-13 victory over the Huskies. Westerman should team up with defensive tackle Eric Foster to give Rutgers a formidable pass rush.
Stephens-Howling ranked fourth in the Big East in rushing yards per game last year and finished the season with 893 yards and nine touchdowns on 178 carries. The 5-foot-7 dynamo also had soft enough hands to catch 19 passes for 231 yards. Stephens-Howling may not carry the ball quite as often this year following the arrival of freshman phenom LeSean McCoy, but recent history indicates he will make the most of his opportunities.
Byrd won a spot in Cincinnati's lineup almost as soon as he arrived on campus. He now enters his junior season having made 24 consecutive starts. Byrd earned first-team all-Big East honors last year after collecting 8½ tackles for loss and three sacks. Byrd has a penchant for playing well against tough opponents. He forced a fumble against Louisville, had two tackles for loss against Virginia Tech and made five tackles against West Virginia last year.
Cincinnati fans can only hope last season's International Bowl represented a sign of things to come. Goodman was named the MVP of that game after catching seven passes for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 27-24 victory over Western Michigan. Goodman also caught a game-tying touchdown pass with 2:19 left in a 26-23 triumph over Connecticut. He finished the year with 40 catches for 452 yards and five touchdowns.
This former Rivals.com Freshman All-American has been a steady performer his entire career. He has averaged 42 tackles per year over the last three seasons. Jenkins recorded career highs in tackles for loss (8½) and sacks (3½) last season. Jenkins and defensive end Jameel McClain should help make the defensive line one of Syracuse's biggest strengths this season.
Pittsburgh will need Turner more than ever after losing star receiver Derek Kinder to a season-ending knee injury. Turner appears to be up to the challenge. Turner tied for the Big East lead with eight touchdown catches last year on his way to earning second-team Freshman All-America honors from Rivals.com. Turner finished the season with 44 catches for 660 yards. He showed his ability to step up in big games by catching a combined 10 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns in losses to West Virginia and Louisville.
This fifth-year senior has a knack for always finding himself around the football. He has picked off six passes over the last two years and tied for the team lead with four interceptions last season. Lansanah also recorded a team-high 99 tackles last year. Lansanah has 179 tackles – 20½ for loss – over the last two years. No wonder the Huskies have named him one of six team captains for this season.
The steady Brouse caught at least one pass in all but one game last year and finished the season with 19 receptions for 216 yards. Brouse moved into the starting lineup after an injury to Dan Murray and showed improvement as the year progressed. Brouse caught a combined seven passes in November games with Syracuse and Cincinnati. That late-season performance offered indications Brouse could develop into even more of a receiving threat this year.
Putting this first-year starter on an all-conference team represents a leap of faith, but we're confident McKillop will live up this billing. McKillop has the difficult task of replacing H.B. Blades, who collected 433 tackles in his college career. McKillop showed signs of his potential last year by collecting 13 tackles against West Virginia after an injury forced Blades to leave the game. Given a full year as a starter, McKillop could reach the 100-tackle plateau.
Sosa is entering his third year as Rutgers' starting left tackle and has developed into one of the nation's top blockers. He earned second-team all-Big East honors last year while playing a vital role on a Rutgers line that allowed just eight sacks, the lowest total in the nation. Sosa has shown similar progress in the classroom. Last year he received his team's Helen Collins Academic Improvement Award.
Renkart has won the Scarlet Knights' Scholar-Athlete Award each of the last two seasons, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that this linebacker was such a quick study at his new position. After spending his first two seasons at Rutgers as a backup safety, Renkart moved to linebacker last year and adjusted well enough to compile 54 tackles – 11 for losses – along with 3½ sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Stanchek started the 2006 season at guard, but he moved to tackle after an injury to teammate Damien Crissey. He adjusted to the new position well enough to earn second-team all-Big East honors at the end of the season. Stanchek collected 46 knockdown blocks while grading out at an average of 90.3 percent. He should only get better with an extra year of experience.
After starting at strong safety each of the last two years, Davis moved to cornerback this spring and has continued to work out there this preseason. Davis should make a smooth transition. He has started every game the last two seasons and has collected a total of 147 tackles during that time span. Davis also made the Big East all-academic team last year, which indicates he won't need much time to adapt to his new role.
This former tight end took over as South Florida's starting center last year and was named the team's most outstanding offensive lineman. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound center has overcome his relative lack of size for the center position. In fact, he now is recognized as the leader of a South Florida offensive line that returns all five starters from last season.
Mickens helped ruin Rutgers' dreams of an undefeated season last year by picking off two passes in Cincinnati's 30-11 triumph over the Scarlet Knights. That performance helped Mickens finish the season ranked eighth in the nation in passes defended. Mickens has averaged 55 tackles each of the last two seasons and was a second-team all-Big East selection last year.
This former two-star prospect has developed into quite a find for Pittsburgh. Davis has started at left guard each of the last two seasons and has matured into a steadying force for the Panthers' offensive line. Davis is one of four returning starters on Pittsburgh's offensive line, which should help the Panthers open up plenty of holes for LaRod Stephens-Howling and LeSean McCoy.
Girault moved into the starting lineup midway through his true freshman season and has remained there since. He has recorded 216 career tackles and has picked off three passes each of the last three seasons. Girault also is an outstanding postseason performer. He compiled 11 tackles in the Insight Bowl two years ago and delivered a fourth-down sack and an interception in the Texas Bowl last season.
Madison is so versatile that he has played guard, center and tackle during his college career. He started at left guard for the Orange's first six games last season before moving to right tackle and finally starting the last two games of the year at left tackle. Madison should open this season at left guard, but his ability to play anywhere on the line earns him a spot on our team.
This third-year starter has emerged as a leader of Cincinnati's defense while averaging 71 tackles per year over the last two seasons. Nakamura recorded 66 tackles and broke up six passes last season. He also contributes on special teams as a punt returner. Nakamura closed the 2006 season with a nine-tackle effort in the International Bowl victory over Western Michigan.
Ito made the biggest kick in Rutgers history last year when he drilled a 28-yard field goal to cap Rutgers' come-from-behind victory over Louisville. That is just one of many big kicks Ito has made in his prolific career. Ito already owns a school record with 57 career field goals. He ranks third among all active players in career field goals (57) and career points per game (7.8). Ito went 22-for-29 on field-goal attempts last year and tied for second in the nation with 1.69 field goals per game.
This former walk-on performed well enough to win the punting job last year and averaged 38.2 yards per attempt. He contributed to the upset of West Virginia by averaging 44 yards on each of his five punts in that game. Teachey also utilized his athleticism to run for first downs on fake punts twice in a victory over Pittsburgh last season.
Taylor ranked 15th in the nation last year with his average of 12.8 yards per punt return, including a 72-yard return for a touchdown against Army. Taylor also owns a career average of 13.2 yards per punt return and 29.5 yards per kickoff return. He is the fourth player in Connecticut history to return a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in his career.
Johnson caught 37 passes for 494 yards and two touchdowns last year, but this wide receiver also has plenty of other ways to contribute. He had five carries for 51 yards and three touchdowns a year ago and also averaged 22.6 yards per kickoff return. Johnson was named South Florida's offensive playmaker of the year last season.