Six players remain in the Top 25 countdown of the best players in the Big East for 2011.
Up today: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati
Making the case: Wolfe went from good player to outstanding player throughout the course of his senior season, becoming one of the top tackles in the nation en route to Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year honors. He finished ranked No. 4 in the country in tackles for loss with 21.5, and just outside the Top 10 with 9.5 sacks. One of the biggest improvements the Bearcats made as a defense was up front, and Wolfe was a huge reason why.
In several interviews last year, Wolfe said he felt he was able to get off blocks quicker because he improved the positioning of his hands. Taking boxing last summer helped specifically in that area. Wolfe also was better conditioned, and immensely helped because of the added depth on the line. All of that added up to a season to remember, along with being honored with one of the top awards in the Big East.
"Whenever you work hard something is going to come back for you," Wolfe said. "That's what I always preach to people. I did everything I possibly could to make myself better each and every day."
Preseason ranking: No. 21.
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
No. 19 Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville
No. 18 Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
No. 17 Aaron Donald, DE, Pitt
No. 16 Trevardo Williams, DE, UConn
No. 15 Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
No. 14 Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia
No. 13 Bruce Irvin, DE West Virginia
No. 12 Najee Goode, LB, West Virginia
No. 11 Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn
No. 10 JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati
No. 9 Zach Collaros, QB, Cincinnati
No. 8 Ray Graham, RB, Pitt
No. 7 Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia