The majority of top NFL talent in the Big East belongs to Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Because of that, it's no surprise that they're the front runners to win the conference this year. But there's also a good amount of talent throughout the conference.
The conference had three players taken in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft and could again in 2011. Here's a look at the conference's best. Juniors have an asterisk after their name.
Jonathan Baldwin | 6'5, 220 pounds | WR | Pittsburgh *
Some consider Baldwin just as good or better than Georgia's A.J. Green and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd. Baldwin has great leaping ability and does a great job high pointing the ball. For as big as he is, though, Baldwin is a scary vertical threat. He has good deep speed and good hands. He really attacks the ball and has enough upper body strength to out-muscle defensive backs. What Baldwin needs to show in 2009 that he has a better understanding of how to run crisp routes.
Romeus showed flashes of being a great pass rusher in 2009. He's strong at the point of attack and has enough foot quickness to get around the corner. But there were plenty of other times where his impact was non-existant. Part of Romeus' problem was his conditioning. Romeus is a player to watch. He could go up or down dramatically this season. He needs to show better explosion and consistency.
Armon Binns | 6'4, 200 pounds | WR | Cincinnati
At times in 2009, Binns looked far superior to Mardy Gilyard. He's very good at making a play on the football, thanks in large part to his agility and body control. What separates top receivers from Binns is a lack of playing strength. He's poor off the line, either getting jammed or working too far to the sideline.
Noel Devine | 5'8, 176 pounds | RB | West Virginia
Devine has been a highlight reel player since high school. Get him the ball and open space and he can make things happen. Devine has had lapses of ineffectiveness, especially in the receiving game, and struggles as a blocker. He's also really undersized, but his speed and quickness will get him a spot in the NFL.
Jeff Pinkston | 6'4, 308 pounds | OT | Pittsburgh
Mechanically speaking, Pinkston is incredibly sound. He keeps a good base to handle power rushers and gets his hands up high. Pinkston does well keeping low in his stance and keeps balance on the move. What hinders Pinkston – and should force him to the right side – is his feet. He's a little heavy footed and doesn't kick outside fast enough to handle speed rushers.
Jabaal Sheard | 6'3, 255 pounds | DE | Pittsburgh
Sheard is a good effort defensive end who plays hard against the run and pass. He plays with a lot of smarts and diagnoses plays quickly. What makes Sheard so intriguing is his pass rush. He has a good variety of moves to generate pressure. Where Sheard needs to improve is shedding blocks. He can get held up at the line and be neutralized. May be a 3-4 linebacker type.
Zach Hurd | 6'7, 325 pounds | G | Connecticut
Hurd started all 12 games last season at right guard and has a physical playing style. He's strong at the point of attack and is a powerful finisher. Needs to get better knee bend. He's tall for an interior lineman and will lose some leverage. Struggles when asked to work into the second level.
Scott Lutrus | 6'3, 240 pounds | MLB | Connecticut
Although he doesn't have the best range and is by no means a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, Lutrus is solid. He's quick to diagnose plays and will make a roster because he can play the run and pass. Seems to know when to play with patience, particularly when rushing the passer. He's had some injury issues, so that and a lack of athleticism hampers his prospects.
Robert Sands | 6'4, 221 pounds | FS | West Virginia *
Sands is a fan favorite. He's big, athletic and dynamic making plays in the open field. He's shown good range for the Mountaineers playing the run and pass. He's especially adept at breaking on the ball while it's in mid air. When he plays the deep middle, Sands does a great job reading the quarterback's eyes. Where Sands struggles some is in his tackling. He goes after the ball carriers legs and can get in trouble in one-on-one situations. He hits hard, but his tackling technique need some work.
Other notables to keep an eye on:
Zach Frazer | 6'4, 236 pounds | QB | Connecticut
Delone Carter | 5'9, 216 pounds | RB | Syracuse
Vidal Hazelton | 6'2, 210 pounds | WR | Cincinnati
Jock Sanders | 5'7, 180 pounds | WR | West Virginia
Ryan Bartholomew | 6'1, 298 pounds | C | Syracuse
Greg Marshall | 6'4, 262 pounds | DE | South Florida
Lawrence Wilson | 6'1, 220 pounds | OLB | Connecticut
Brandon Hogan | 5'10, 190 pounds | CB | West Virginia
Dom DeCicco | 6'3, 225 pounds | SS | Pittsburgh
Derek Wolfe | 6'5, 298 pounds | DE | Cincinnati *
Alex Hoffman | 6'5, 293 pounds | G | Cincinnati *