A tremendous 2012 campaign has helped Bridgewater generate some early Heisman buzz. That's what a 3,718-yard, 27-touchdown season will do for you. Proving he can compete with the best, Bridgewater threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns to lead Louisville to an upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Now, he'll have to see if he can build on his sophomore performance with the expectations set much higher.
2 of 10Brian Pohorylo/Icon SMI
LB Yawin Smallwood
The Big East's top returning defensive player was a menace to opposing tailbacks in 2012. Smallwood recorded 120 tackles and 15 tackles for loss, both third in the conference, respectively. He also had four sacks and two forced fumbles, and that production was a major reason UConn led the conference in total defense. Initially considered raw upon his arrival to campus, Smallwood has blossomed into an elite linebacker in just two seasons.
3 of 10Elsa/Getty Images
WR Brandon Coleman
Standing at 6-foot-6, Coleman knows how to effectively use his size -- especially in the red zone. Quarterback Gary Nova's favorite end zone target caught 10 touchdown passes in 2012, giving him 16 in his two-year Scarlet Knights' career. Coleman has a knack for making big plays, highlighted by his 21.2 career yards per catch average.
4 of 10Chris Szagola/CSM/Landov
LB Tyler Matakevich
The Big East's reigning Rookie of the Year had no trouble adjusting to collegiate competition. Matakevich (32) recorded 9.2 tackles per game last seasons, tops on the Owls and fourth best in the conference. No other conference freshman had more than 6.8 tackles per game, and no other true freshman averaged more than 5.7. As the first Temple freshman to register 100 tackles, Matakevich has a lot of promise heading into his sophomore season.
5 of 10Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
WR DeVante Parker
With the departure of Pitt's Devin Street to the ACC, Parker enters 2013 as the Big East's leading returning receiver. He could be primed for a monster year. If Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going to make a legitimate Heisman run, someone is going to have to emerge as his go-to target. Who better than a big-play receiver who averaged 18.6 yards per catch last season?
6 of 10Bob Levey/Getty Images
RB Charles Sims
A new addition to the Big East, Sims shouldn't take long to become a recognizable name among conference fans. He eclipsed 1,200 yards from scrimmage in each of his three seasons at Houston, and he tallied 851 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns in nine games in 2012. With Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow able to share some of the load, Sims should be able to stay fresh in 2013, making him a great danger to Big East defenses.
7 of 10Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMI
QB Blake Bortles
It's a thin year at quarterback in the Big East outside of Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, but Blake Bortles' entrance into the conference should help fill part of the void. The second most efficient passer in the Conference USA last season, Bortles threw for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He is also capable of moving around a little bit; Bortles averaged more than 30 rushing yards per game excluding negative yardage from sacks.
8 of 10Erik Williams/CSM/Landov
LB Derrick Mathews
Mathews enters the Big East coming off of two huge seasons in the Conference USA. During his freshman and sophomore campaigns, he racked up 232 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. Mathews has also added 10 pounds to his frame in the offseason and will look to step into the role of defensive leader following Phillip Steward's graduation.
9 of 10AP
S Hakeem Smith
The former Big East Rookie of the Year has finished in the top three in tackles at Louisville in each of his three seasons there. The strong safety has also broken up 17 passes and forced four fumbles over the past two seasons. That's pretty impressive for Smith -- particularly considering he was tabbed as a two-star recruit coming out of high school.
10 of 10Jim Owens/Icon SMI
OG Austen Bujnoch
Cincinnati racked up a Big East-best 201.5 yards per game on the ground last year, and Bujnoch's blocking played a huge role in that success. The first-team All-Big East selection also helped keep quarterbacks Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay upright, as the Bearcats limitied opponents to just 15 sacks, the second fewest in the conference. Bujnoch and fellow first-team all-conference lineman Eric Lefeld will both return to anchor Cincy's offensive line in 2013.
You May Like
More College Football
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!