I'm borrowing a page from the playbook of SEC blogger Chris Low and taking a moment to honor the Big East's top seniors in the 2010 season.
The league was full of young players, particularly at quarterback. But each team also was blessed with excellent seniors who provided leadership on and off the field. Today I recognize one outstanding elder statesman from each team:
Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut: A rock on defense for the Huskies as a four-year starter, Wilson covers a ton of ground with his speed and instincts for the game. He led the league in tackles for a second straight year. And when his team needed a big play in the season finale against South Florida with the BCS bid on the line, he came up with a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati: Senior leadership was an issue for the Bearcats all season during a disappointing 4-8 campaign. But Binns was always reliable and became unstoppable as the year went on. He led the Big East in every major receiving category, finishing 14th nationally with 1,101 receiving yards.
Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville: Head coach Charlie Strong placed a lot on Powell's shoulders in the preseason, calling the quiet tailback the face of the program. Powell responded with, by far, the best season of his career, rushing for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns. He doesn't say a lot, but he leads by example. And he runs as if each cent of his scholarship check depends on it.
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh: When Sheard was arrested after a fight this preseason, Pitt coaches were quick to say the incident was way out of character for a guy who saved a woman from a burning house in high school. He showed his real character this season, picking up the slack for injured teammate Greg Romeus and turning into the most feared pass-rusher in the Big East while winning the league's defensive player of the year award. Sheard was also a leader in the locker room, calling guys out for their effort when the team struggled early this season.
Alex Silvestro, DE, Rutgers: Silvestro came to Rutgers weighing only about 220 pounds, but stepped in at defensive tackle when the Scarlet Knights needed help at the position. He moved between that and defensive end in his career and always contributed. The three-year starter led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this year, earning defensive MVP honors for the Scarlet Knights.
Mistral Raymond, CB, South Florida: Raymond walked onto the team two years ago and quickly became one of the most respected members of the Bulls. His lanky frame allowed him to play corner or safety, depending on the team's needs, and he was the best defensive back South Florida had this season. He was one of the many seniors who stepped up and helped the Bulls turn their season around after a 0-2 start in Big East play.
Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse: Smith moved all around in his Orange career, from running back to defensive end to outside linebacker and finally to middle linebacker. He took each move in stride and wound up as a three-year starter and cornerstone for the program's revival. He's shooting for his fourth straight all-Big East academic team honor as well.
Chris Neild, DT, West Virginia: The Mountaineers were loaded with valuable seniors -- Noel Devine, Jock Sanders, J.T. Thomas, Anthony Leonard and on and on and on. Few did so much important work with so little glory than Neild, whose job is to plug up the middle of the 3-3-5 defense by crashing into two offensive linemen on every play. Neild finished with only 31 tackles, but his stats don't begin to measure his true worth to one of the nation's top defenses.