Moving on in our countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big East in 2012.
No. 11 Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
Making the case: Smallwood emerged as one of the top linebackers in the Big East, winning first-team Big East honors after finishing third in the league with 120 tackles. That was good enough to rank him in the Top 20 in the entire nation. He also ranked No. 3 in the league with 15 tackles for loss, and added four sacks. While it is true Smallwood was more productive in the first half of the season than the second, he still had one of the best defensive performances in 2012 against Maryland.
Smallwood was a force in that game, with a game-high 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He not only won Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors; he also was named the Football Writers Association of America/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, the Chuck Bednarik Defensive Player of the Week and the ECAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Previous ranking: NR
No. 12 Greg Blair, LB, Cincinnati
No. 13 Ray Graham/Jawan Jamison, RBs, Pitt/Rutgers
No. 14 Mario Benavides, C, Louisville
No. 15 Adrian Bushell, CB, Louisville
No. 16 Sio Moore, LB, UConn
No. 17 Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
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