OK, so we've taken a look at the candidates to be 1,000-yard rushers, 1,000-yard receivers, 3,000-yard passers and 10-sack collectors in the Big East for 2011. There's one stat left I want to take a look at: 100-tackle men.
Tackle numbers sometimes are overrated since some defenses funnel plays to certain spots and bad defenses can create more opportunities for high tackle numbers. But getting to 100 stops usually means a player is around the ball and making a whole lot of plays.
Five Big East players reached 100 tackles last year, the same number of guys who did it in 2009. This is normally the realm of linebackers, so that's who we'll focus on when compiling this list, with last year's tackle numbers in parenthesis:
1. Sio Moore, LB, Connecticut, Jr. (110): Moore managed triple-digit stops last year even while playing next to tackle hog Lawrence Wilson. With Wilson and Scott Lutrus gone, Moore becomes the leading playmaker at linebacker for what should be a very good defense. He's my pick to lead the league in tackles.
2. JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati, Sr. (111): Schaffer is the league's leading returning tackler, and granted he got a lot of chances last year on the Bearcats' crummy defense. But he has also crossed the century mark two years in a row and has a nose for the ball. He's a solid bet to make it three straight.
3. Marquis Spruill, LB, Syracuse, Soph. (51): Spruill played as a true freshman next to Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, who combined for more than 200 tackles last season. Now that he's the most experienced Orange linebacker and has moved to the middle spot, he will likely pick up a lot of that slack. Also keep an eye on safety Phillip Thomas.
4. Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers, Jr. (77): Greene is a big hitter who had a lot of tackles from his safety spot last year (a sign of Rutgers' defensive struggles). Now he's been moved up to weakside linebacker, which should allow him to use his speed to make plenty of plays in space.
5. Max Gruder, Pittsburgh, Sr., (84): Who knows how the Pitt defense will shake out with a whole new scheme? But a weakside linebacker, Curnelius Arnick, led Tulsa with more than 100 stops last year, and that's where the sure-tackling Gruder lined up this spring.
6. Sam Barrington, LB, South Florida, Jr. (65): No one on the Bulls' no-name defense had more than 71 tackles last year. But Barrington is clearly the leader at the linebacker spot and played both the middle and strongside spots in the spring. He could see an uptick in his stats.
7. Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville, Soph. (88): The lone non-linebacker on this list, Smith was the Big East newcomer of the year and led Louisville in tackles last year. I'm not sure Charlie Strong wants one of his safeties making even more stops in 2011, but Smith has showed he knows how to get to ball carriers.
Note: No West Virginia player has recorded 100 tackles since 2007, and I don't think a single Mountaineer will do it in 2011.