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The Big East's best: No. 1, Dion Lewis

A postseason ranking of the Big East's Top 30 players ...

No. 1

Lewis

LewisDion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh, Fr.

Preseason rank: NR

Why him here: I started this exercise by saying the criteria for this list included production in 2009 and future potential. Well, who has a better combination of both of those things than Lewis?

Let's get the incredible numbers out of the way first. Lewis rushed for 1,799 yards -- third best nationally -- and 17 touchdowns while averaging 5.54 yards per carry. His total was the third-highest in Big East history and the second most in school history behind Tony Dorsett. He broke Pitt's freshman rushing record. He ran for over 100 yards 10 times and surpassed 150 yards in each of his last four games. Had the Panthers been able to hold on and beat Cincinnati, his 47-carry, 194-yard, three-touchdown showing in that game would have gone down as one of the most legendary performances in Big East history.

Now combine all that with the fact that he was a true freshman, and it becomes even more spectacular. Nobody saw this coming. Lewis' only major scholarship offers were from Tulane and Miami of Ohio before Pitt's coaches discovered him. Other schools balked at his listed 5-foot-8 frame, not realizing how incredibly strong -- he is said to bench-press nearly 400 pounds -- quick and balanced he is. And Lewis is a tireless worker; I remember visiting with Dave Wannstedt last spring, and even then he was wildly impressed with what Lewis, who enrolled in January, was doing in practice and workouts.

Did Lewis benefit from a terrific offensive line? Sure. But he also had the uncanny ability to make the first defender miss, and to bounce off tacklers for extra yards. He was startlingly durable for a true freshman and seemed to thrive on the extra work. He became the first freshman to win Big East offensive player of the year honors since Michael Vick.

Just for fun, here are what Lewis' numbers would project out to if he stayed all four years: 7,196 career rushing yards and 68 touchdowns. By comparison, Ron Dayne's FBS career record is 6,397 yards.

Of course, that's assuming Lewis maintains his stellar pace and doesn't leave early for the NFL draft. But after his freshman year defied all expectations, anything seems possible in the future for the Big East's top player.

The entire list:

No. 1: Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh

No. 2: Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati

No. 3: Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia

No. 4: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh

No. 5: Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh

No. 6: Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati

No. 7: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

No. 8: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

No. 9: Mick Williams, DT, Pittsburgh

No. 10: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

No. 11: Dorin Dickerson, TE, Pittsburgh

No. 12: Robert Sands, S, West Virginia

No. 13: B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida

No. 14: Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh

No. 15: Tim Brown, WR, Rutgers

No. 16: Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut

No. 17: Arthur Jones, DT, Syracuse

No. 18: Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut

No. 19: Tom Savage, QB, Rutgers

No. 20: Andre Dixon, RB, Connecticut

No. 21: Bill Stull, QB, Pittsburgh

No. 22: Nate Allen, S, South Florida

No. 23: Marcus Easley, WR, Connecticut

No. 24: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

No. 25: Jarrett Brown, QB, West Virginia

No. 26: George Selvie, DE, South Florida

No. 27: Kion Wilson, LB, South Florida

No. 28: Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh

No. 29: Lindsey Witten, DE, Connecticut

No. 30: Jeff Linkenbach, OT, Cincinnati