Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater highlights the list of rising sophomores and juniors who look to make a name for themselves in 2012. All five players have been named to various preseason watch lists, perhaps a sign that football in the Big East may not be dead after all.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Sophomore, QB, Louisville
Bridgewater began last season as a backup to Will Stein, but he quickly supplanted the junior after a breakout performance against arch-rival Kentucky. The highly-touted freshman from Miami threw two touchdown passes in the Cards' 24-17 upset, and his solid play continued, leading Louisville to an appearance in the Belk Bowl. The nation took notice, as Bridgewater has been named to the watch list of the Maxwell Award, given annually to the best player in college football.
2. DeDe Lattimore, Junior, LB, South Florida
Among the team leaders in tackles the last two seasons -- he led the team in tackles in 2011 as a sophomore -- Lattimore has been named to the preaseason Lombardi Award watch list. Lattimore was instrumental in the Bulls' upset of Notre Dame in South Bend last season, recording nine tackles and an interception.
3. Lyle McCombs, Sophomore, RB, Connecticut
No longer a secret in Big East circles, the diminutive Husky -- McCombs stands just 5 feet, 8 inches tall -- is poised to become a household name across the country. A candidate of both the Doak Walker and Maxwell awards, McCombs looks to build on his 1,151-yard freshman season. Against Rutgers, the league's best defense in 2011, McCombs rushed for just under 100 yards and two scores in a 40-22 UConn victory. He'll have a chance to make his name early, as the Huskies have an early home tilt against North Carolina State , a bowl team a season ago.
4. Devin Street, Junior, WR, Pittsburgh
One of 48 finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, the speedy street has benifitted from playing opposite fellow Panthers receiver Mike Shanahan. Street sparked Pitt in an early season loss at Iowa last year with a 66-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He finished the game with seven catches for 138 yards -- his best outing of the season. An early season game with Virginia Tech will act both as an ACC tune-up for the Panthers -- who will join the league in 2013 -- and a chance for Street to show NFL scouts what he can do against on the nation's top defenses.
5. Hakeem Smith, Junior, S, Louisville
A finalist for both the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski awards, Smith tied for second on the team in tackles a season ago after leading the team in stops as a freshman. Smith has already received various accolades in the Big East, but he will soon be a fixture on the national stage as perhaps the country's best safety. There is room for improvement, however, as Smith has recorded just a one interception in two years.