NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
No conference will look more different than the Big East over the course of the next three years due to realignment throughout Division One college football. 2012 will be a bridge year of sorts with West Virginia leaving, Temple joining and Boise State among other teams joining in 2013.
The Big East produced a number of very good NFL Draft prospects last year including Patriots 1st round pick Chandler Jones of Syracuse. How will realignment and graduation effect the conference’s draftable prospects?
Continue reading to find out who the top Senior prospects in the Big East are this year.
Drew Frey, SS – Frey is an intelligent play-making safety. Entering his fourth season as a starter, Frey will become the leader of the Bearcats defense. As a junior Frey recorded 73 tackles, 8 pass defensed and 2 interceptions. At 6’3″ Frey has not only the size but also the athleticism to project to the NFL.
Frey was his high schools valedictorian, so he definitely has the brains to pick up more complex defensive schemes.
Walter Stewart, DE/OLB – Cincinnati has produced a number of good NFL pass rushers over the past five years including Connor Barwin and it looks like Walter Stewart will be the next one to make the jump. Stewart is explosive off the edge, thanks in part to a very good first step.
At 6’4″ 248 pounds he has ideal size to play 3-4 OLB, but he also is big enough to play with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 DE. Stewart recorded only six sacks as a Junior but, led the Big East in forced fumbles with four, and both numbers should improve this season. Stewart is an under the radar player right now who could rocket up draft boards as he piles up the sacks this year.
Sio Moore, OLB – The 6’1″ 232 lbs. Moore is a quick, instinctive and somewhat undersized OLB. As a junior Moore posted some very impressive numbers, including 86 tackles and 6 sacks. While his sack numbers are decent at the collegiate level, Moore projects to a weakside linebacker in the NFL, where he will be allowed to run free and chase.
Moore will be in the discussion for Big East defensive player of the year honors this season.
Ryan Griffin, TE – Griffin is UConn’s leading returning receiver after posting 33 catches for 499 yards and 3 touchdowns last season. In a passing offense that is anemic at times those numbers are pretty impressive. Griffin provides a huge target (6’6″ 248 lbs) and better than average speed for a TE. Griffin is able to stretch the field averaging 15.1 yards per reception.
There aren’t many quality TE prospects in college football this season, so Griffin’s name will certainly be in the discussion during draft time.
Mario Benavides, OC – Benavides is perhaps the best interior lineman in the Big East. He has been a starter since his redshirt freshman season and has consistantly improved into one of the best run blockers in the conference. Benavides has become one of the leaders on the Louisville football team, developing a leadership trait that is imperative for centers to have.
NFL quality centers are hard to come by, making Benavides a mid-round draftable prospect.
Adrian Bushell, CB – Bushnell is a transfer from the University of Florida and has only played one season at Louisville. His one season was a good one, emerging as not only the best CB on the team, but one of the best in the conference. Bushnell made his presence felt in all facets of the game, recording 50 tackles, four passes defensed, blocked two kicks and also returned a kick off 100 yards for a touchdown.
Bushnell is a CB to watch this season in the Big East as he moves up draft boards.
Ray Graham, RB – Graham is your typical Pitt running back prospect. He is under 5’10”, but is a shifty workhorse type back who can make people miss and catch the ball out of the backfield. Graham burst onto the scene in 2010 after taking over for Dion Lewis and looked destined for stardom.
Since then Graham has slowed down a little bit, due mainly to a torn ACL, which he suffered last season. Graham needs to prove he is fully healthy and if he does he should be drafted in the mid rounds next April.
Jarred Holley, FS – Holley was an All-Big East selection as a Junior and the top returning free safety to the conference in 2012. Holley has totaled nine career interceptions, although he only had one last season.
While Holley is undersized at 5-10 and 190 he possesses very good speed and range, which puts him in position to make a lot of plays.
Check out the Rutgers, Syracuse, South Florida and Temple prospects on page two.