Preseason 2012 top 25 countdown: No. 9

Time to move on in our preseason countdown of the top 25 players in the Big East.

If you need a quick refresher, I am projecting the best of the best in the league for this upcoming season, and I am including freshmen and transfers.

No. 9 Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

Twitter handle: @JustinPugh67

Making the case: There is little doubt that Pugh is the best offensive lineman in the Big East, and one of the best overall players in the league. Now going into his third season as a starter, Pugh made the Big East first-team last season and has helped pave the way for 1,000-yard rushers in 2010 and 2011 while doing a good job of protecting the quarterback.

Pugh is on the preseason watch lists for the Lombardi Award (best lineman) and Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), and expectations are high for him to be an all-Big East selection again. But there is one thing to keep in mind. Pugh will miss all of preseason practice and most of September with an upper body injury. The belief is that he will come back better than ever.

The countdown

No. 10 Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn

No. 11 Ryne Giddins, DE, USF

No. 12 Montel Harris, RB, Temple

No. 13 DeDe Lattimore, LB, USF

No. 14 Sio Moore, LB, UConn

No. 15 Walter Stewart, DE, Cincinnati

No. 16 Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers

No. 17 Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

No. 18 Jarred Holley, S, Pitt

No. 19 Scott Vallone, NT, Rutgers

No. 20 Ryan Griffin, TE, UConn

No. 21 Adrian Bushell, CB, Louisville

No. 22 Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse

No. 23 Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers

No. 24 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn

No. 25 Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse