We are counting down the top 25 players in the Big East, one player at a time.
Up today: Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville.
Making the case: This was a close one between Smith and Heyman, which is why they are featured in back-to-back spots. Smith was a huge solidifying force in the secondary this season. Not only was the group young, it also lost starting safety Shenard Holton midway through the season and had to deal with the loss of Anthony Conner as well. Even though Smith is just a sophomore, he was the de facto veteran with freshmen Calvin Pryor and Andrew Johnson starting, along with newcomer Adrian Bushell. He played like one, finishing the season with 84 tackles, tied for second in the Big East with nine pass breakups and also tied for second in the league with three forced fumbles. For his efforts, Smith made the Big East first team.
Preseason ranking: No. 14.
No. 25 Ryne Giddins, DE, USF
No. 24 Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia
No. 23 Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers
No. 22 Antwon Bailey, RB, Syracuse
No. 21 Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn
No. 20 Dexter Heyman, LB, Louisville