Big East Preview: Underrated and Mostly Unknown

Unless you are talking pay scale, it's generally better to be underrated rather than overrated. The expectations are more manageable. There's a lot more anger at teams and players considered overrated. The overrated are blamed for the expectations they are not meeting. The overrated teams and players bare the blame for the hype given to them.

The underrated have no problems. The expectations are actually below what they can do and so they constantly seem to be exceeding them. At least until everyone notices and then swings the whole thing the other way.

The Big East has plenty of players that are underrated. In no small part because the Big East has several teams to whom few people pay much attention -- quick, name the best player for UConn, Cinci and Syracuse.

Here are some of the players that you should know in the Big East.

Andrew Robinson, QB, Syracuse
We may never know just how good Andrew Robinson is or could be. It is very possible that he may not finish the season standing upright. We already know he can absorb a lot of punishment as evidenced by standing behind an offensive line that gave up 54 sacks last year.

Still, when Robinson had the chance he showed a good arm and accuracy. Beyond the offensive line, his problem was that the receivers showed a propensity for dropping passes, not running good routes and general incompetency.

The one exception was Mike Williams, who hauled in TD passes in 9 straight games and was considered to be one of the best WRs in the conference heading into the 2008. Unfortunately, Williams was ruled academically ineligible this year, and the remaining WRs are mostly freshmen. It's going to be a long year for Robinson.
Mike Mickens, CB, Cincinnati
When Cinci gets any attention, it is for their wide open offense under Brian Kelly. Mike Mickens, however, is the best corner in the Big East. Even while earning 1st team All-American honors last year, no one ever remembers him when discussing Cinci (though, the reason may actually be that no one ever discusses Cinci).

Mickens had 6 interceptions last year, which is actually impressive since teams avoided throwing to his side of the field with increased frequency. His opportunities to make plays were limited.

He is not a physical cornerback at 6-0, 170 pounds, but his athleticism and speed makes him one of the best cover corners.
Scott McKillop, MLB, Pitt
It's hard to think of a pre-season All-American candidate and on the watchlist for multiple defensive player awards as underrated but Scott McKillop never gets the national acclaim as one of the best linebackers in the country when discussed. This despite leading the country in tackles and being second in solo tackles.

McKillop seemingly came out of nowhere after backing up H.B. Blades for the previous couple seasons. The MLB position was supposed to suffer at Pitt, but instead the production surged.

McKillop is not a physical freak of nature, or exceptionally fast. He is in great physical condition and rarely came out of games. He is also a highly intelligent football player, able to read plays quickly and move to where the play is developing.

He also plays solid fundamentals. Wrapping up the ball carrier, rather than trying to level a hit on him.
Andre Dixon/Donald Brown, RBs, UConn
The best running back duo in the Big East. Either one could be the starter, and both have. Essentially the two have been sharing the job because injuries and suspensions have rarely kept the two on the field at the same time.

Their production was remarkably similar. Dixon ran for 828 yards on 167 carries while Brown had 821 yards on 170 touches. Of course, this kind of split production also led to neither running back getting a lot of attention outside of Connecticut.

Brown is more of a bullish, up the middle runner. He is a few inches shorter and a few pounds heavier than Dixon. That makes him the favorite choice to take it in for the score in goal line situations.

Dixon has the edge as the overall back, because he is also a solid receiver. He's more versatile when UConn uses spread formations.
Carlton Williams, SS, USF
He was completely overshadowed in the Bulls secondary last season by cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams who have now moved on to the NFL. Strong Safety Carlton Williams, though, will be a four-year starter for USF after redshirting as a freshman.

Williams played his first season at free safety, then moved to strong in his second year of starting. He's thrived at the position since.

Williams' real value, though, however, has been that his play in the secondary has permitted USF to be very aggressive on defense. Especially with the linebackers. Ben Moffitt was able to excel at middle linebacker while crowding the line. Williams will likely enable, junior college transfer MLB Kion Wilson do the same this season.

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