|Pitt DT Aaron Donald (left) leads the Big East in TFLs and is one to watch if he declares for the NFL Draft. (US Presswire)|
Here's the latest on the Big East's top players who are projected to go from playing on Saturdays to starring on Sundays.
Why he has the top spot: Nassib has set the Syracuse single-season and career school record for passing yards (9,060) with one game left in his spectacular career. Nassib leads the Big East in passing yards per game (301.6) and is second in touchdowns (25). He ranks 13th in FBS in total yards per game (312.3). Under the tutelage of former Saints' assistant Doug Marrone, Nassib has combined top-end physical tools with a high football IQ. In a 42-41 opening-week loss to Northwestern, he tied a Big East record for completions with 45 and set the conference all-time mark in attempts with 66.
Season stats (12 games): 283 of 448 (63.2 completion percentage), 24 TDs, 9 INTs, 3,619 passing yards.
Player ranking: Nassib's stock is rapidly ascending, and he's ranked No. 43 overall and the No. 4 quarterback in CBSSports.com's latest player rankings. Nassib is projected to be selected in the second round. He's ranked ahead of highly regarded QBs E.J. Manuel, Landry Jones and Aaron Murray. At the start of the season, Nassib was projected to be taken in rounds 3-4.
Up next: When Syracuse faces West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl, the Orange will likely need Nassib to put up one of the best efforts of his career. Syracuse faces an explosive Moutaineers' offense led by potential overall No. 1 draft pick Geno Smith. It will be another opportunity for Nassib to showcase his skills in front of a bevy of NFL scouts. Saturday, Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Why he has the second spot: Greene, the favorite for Big East defensive player of the year, is the only player from the conference to receive a spot on CBSSports.com's All-American team. Although Greene only earned a third-team selection, he had some of the top numbers of any outside linebacker in the nation. He leads the conference in tackles with 125 and forced fumbles with six. The former free safety is one of the hardest hitters in the Big East, as his crushing blow on Cincinnati RB George Winn illustrates.
Season stats (12 games): 125 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 6 FFs, 5 PBUs.
Player ranking: Greene is ranked No. 56 overall and is the fifth-ranked outside linebacker in CBSSports.com's latest player rankings.
Up next: Greene and the Scarlet Knights' defense face one of the nation's top dual threats at quarterback in Virginia Tech junior Logan Thomas in the Russell Athletic Bowl. With 528 rushing yards this season, Thomas is a threat to make plays with his legs. Friday, Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN).
3. WR Alec Lemon, 6-2, 205, Syracuse
Why he has the third spot: Despite being slowed by several nagging injuries early in the season, Lemon finished the regular season as the only receiver in the conference to reach 1,000 receiving yards (1,063). Lemon also leads the Big East in receptions per game (6.4) and receiving yards per game (96.6). When placed in the slot, Lemon has been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Dating to his high school days, Lemon impressed Marrone with his crisp route-running. Lemon may be the perfect addition for a team in search of an inside receiver with a mid-round pick.
Season stats (11 games): 70 receptions, 1,063 receiving yards, 7 TDs, 15.2 yards per catch.
Player ranking: Lemon is ranked No. 281 overall and No. 34 among WRs in CBSSports.com's latest player rankings. Lemon's injuries may have caused the relatively low projection, but he should move up the charts before the spring.
Up next: Lemon closes out his collegiate career in the Pinstripe Bowl against West Virginia. The Mountaineers rank 119th in FBS in pass efficiency defense (162.49).
Why you should watch him? Donald helped the Panthers become bowl eligible with an outstanding effort in Saturday's 27-3 win over South Florida. The Panthers' junior had five tackles, four TFLs and a sack in the victory. Donald's versatility might be one of his greatest strengths. If Donald declares early for the draft, he can be used at tackle, end or 3-technique. He leads the conference in TFLs (18.5) and is sixth in FBS in TFLs per game (1.68).
Season stats (12 games): 63 tackles, 18.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 11 QB hurries, 1 FF.
Player ranking: Donald is not ranked in CBSSports.com's latest player rankings, likely because of his uncertain draft status. There are seven DTs projected in the top 40; Donald could benefit from another season at Pitt.
Up next: The Panthers will face Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, Saturday, Jan. 5, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN). Donald faces a Rebels' rushing offense ranked 55th in FBS (169.67 yards per game).
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.