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The Big East's best: No. 14

Jumping back into our countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big East, based on their performance and impact in the 2010 season ...

No. 14

Robert Sands, S, West Virginia, Jr.

Preseason rank: No. 8

2010 numbers: Had 53 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, plus an interception and a forced fumble.

Making the case for Sands: Like the player before him on this list, Jon Baldwin, Sands is a physically gifted athlete who skipped his senior year to start his career in the NFL. And like Baldwin, Sands didn't have quite the season most expected of him in 2010.

Part of the reason may have been health. He seemed to be nursing an injury for much of the season, and perhaps that took away a little bit of his playmaking ability. Yet it's hard to be disappointed about Sands' season, since he was an anchor on one of the best defenses in the country. His presence as a hard-hitting, 6-foot-5 safety who could come up to help the run or defend in pass coverage was unlike anything any other Big East team had to offer. Sands gave defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel an unbelievable security blanket.

Sands put up excellent numbers at the NFL Combine and should make a solid pro. He leaves West Virginia as a two-time first-team All-Big East player and undoubtedly one of the top players from 2010.

Previously

No. 25: Zach Hurd, OG, Connecticut

No. 24: Dave Teggart, K, Connecticut

No. 23: Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse

No. 22: J.T. Thomas, LB, West Virginia

No. 21: Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

No. 20: Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh

No. 19: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

No. 18: Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati

No. 17: Kendall Reyes, DL, Connecticut

No. 16: Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh

No. 15: Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh