I hope everybody had a terrific Fourth of July weekend. Just think: on the next major holiday weekend, we'll have college football to watch.
I wrapped up the weekend with the finale in the Big East Top 25 players list, and, as expected, there was plenty of reaction to it in the ol' mailbag. Let's get to some of your comments and complaints.
Bradley from Little Birch, W. Va., writes: Really, really disappointed in your No. 1 pick. Here is why it bothers me: Yes, call me a homer, call me narrow minded, I don't care, still think I am right. Dion Lewis played on a team last year that had a great line in that offense. Plus the QB he played with could throw the ball to someone other than the opposing defense. Though Noel Devine did not have those key elements, he still averaged more yards per carry on the team that won head to head. I have really enjoyed following the blog and think you have done a great job. As a loyal reader I want you to know you have hurt me, wounded in my own Dojo.
Brian Bennett: Sorry to inflict pain on you, Bradley. Hey, I won't argue too vociferously with anyone who wants to say Devine is the best player in the Big East. He's incredible and we all know that. I just find it hard to quibble with Lewis at No. 1, given the amazing year he had and the fact that he's the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in the league with a bright future.
By the way, this Devine vs. Lewis thing is so fun that I think I'll be tracking it in the blog throughout the year.
David L. from Oradell, N.J., writes: I just want to start out by saying I'm glad a knowledgable guy like yourself is the main voice for the Big East conference. You seem to know your stuff -- for the most part. I have been following your Big East countdown every week and a lot of your choices are just down right strange and there is really no substance behind a few of them. For example: No. 21 Steve Beauharnais from Rutgers. Really? A large portion of your criteria is based on what that particular player did the previous year. If that's the case I have no idea why that guy is even on the list.
What about All Big East first team CB Brandon Hogan? Im sure there is a linebacker on USF who could have made it over your 21st choice.
Brian Bennett: Of course these lists are subjective. You could ask 25 people for their Top 25 list and get 25 different ones. All I can say is I put a lot of thought and effort into it and based it on what I've seen both in games and in practices and what the coaches tell me. If you go back and look at what Beauharnais did at the end of last season, you'll see that he was quickly emerging as a star, and that only continued in the spring. While I like the Bulls' linebackers, especially Sam Barrington, none of them is as accomplished as Beauharnais already is.
I thought Hogan had a disappointing year overall in 2009, and in the spring he found himself in Bill Stewart's doghouse. He certainly has the ability to be the best cornerback in the league, but there's a reason why he went from No. 24 on my preseason list a year ago to missing the cut in the postseason version.
Derrick W. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I usually don't get too much into preseason rankings of teams and players; however your choice to say Vidal Hazleton is the 20th best player in the league has me perplexed. I have seen Vidal up close and personal my son practices with him everyday and says he's a beast. This does not take away from the fact he hasn't played a down of football in two years!! As they say on 'MNF,' COME ON MAN!!!!
Brian Bennett: I've seen Hazelton practice as well, and I agree with your assessment. Some readers criticized me for even putting him on the list since he hasn't played in two years and his last season at USC was underwhelming at best. Past production has to count for something, which is why he's only No. 20. But he has a chance to climb much higher than that.
Rich B. from Bloomfield, N.J. writes: Like Jonathan Baldwin at the No. 3 spot. I have concerns, however, about his games against RU and Cuse. He was shut down in both of those (granted against RU it was against a first-round pick as a CB) ... but what about Syracuse? Both games he was held to only one catch with a combined 22 yds and no TDs. Interesting, no?
Brian Bennett: There isn't a whole lot to dislike about Baldwin, who had more than 1,100 yards receiving last year and is the toughest matchup for any defensive back in the league. Did he dominate every game? No. But let's remember he was a true sophomore, and teams can decide to take a receiver out of a game with double teams and rolling coverages, much like North Carolina tried to do in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. I'd like to see Pitt make more of an effort at times to force the ball his way, because he can catch everything. But I'm not worried about him because of a Syracuse game that his team won 37-10.
B. from Louisville writes: You must be a Kentucky fan, you don't want people to think you're a homer or something. Not one single Louisville player in the Big East's 25 best? This blog is a joke.
Brian Bennett: Well, it's not a socialist blog. I'm not going to make sure every team is represented just to make everybody happy. The Cardinals don't have a lot of elite talent, though Charlie Strong is changing that rapidly. If Victor Anderson can stay healthy, I expect him to make this list in the postseason.
Eddie L. from Tampa writes: I am a big fan of your blog; however, I see USF has only one player listed in your top 25, and you place South Florida just above 'Cuse and Louisville in the conference. I will take great joy when our "commuter" school provides the greatest upset of the year Week 2 in Gainsville and squeaks out a Big East championship. I will confess our consistency has not been the greatest, but why do you rank us among 'Cuse and Louisville?
Brian Bennett: As I've said before, the Bulls have loads of talent, but don't underestimate just how inexperienced they are at several key positions. Other than B.J. Daniels, they just don't have many stars who have proved anything yet. That doesn't mean they can't bust out and have a big year (though I'd be stunned if they won at The Swamp). It just means that I prefer to take a wait-and-see attitude on teams this young.