Big East 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 17

Time to move on in our countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big East in 2012.

No. 17 Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse

Making the case: You would be hard pressed to find a harder hitter in the secondary in the Big East than Thomas, who had the best year of his career in the final season. After fighting through injuries in 2011, Thomas showed how much of an impact he can make on a defense when he is completely healthy. Thomas ended up leading the Orange with 88 tackles, forced three fumbles and had two interceptions to earn a spot on the Big East first-team. The highlight was a monster game in a loss to Cincinnati, in which Thomas had 14 tackles and a forced fumble to earn Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors.

There is no question Thomas was the leader on a defense that showed marked improvement over a season ago, when the Orange ranked last in total defense in the Big East. Syracuse played much better on defense in the second half of the season, and that helped propel this team to a 6-1 record in its final seven games. Thomas is a big reason why.

Previous ranking: NR.

The countdown

No. 18 Scott Vallone, DT, Rutgers

No. 19 Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse

No. 20 Devin Street, WR, Pitt

No. 21 DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

No. 22 Matt Brown, RB, Temple

No. 23 Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

No. 24 Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple

No. 25 Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt