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Big East Football: Freshmen To Watch In 2012

The Big East Conference is in the middle of a major overhaul. Within a few years, we may see the return of Top 50 freshmen shuttling into the conference. For now, there are plenty of three and four star recruits with a chance to emerge as impact players. Here are five talented first-year players that have the ability to make a name for themselves very early in the Big East season.

Darius Hamilton, DE, Rutgers: The New Jersey high school star made headlines in the state by choosing Rutgers over Miami on signing day. The National Defensive Player of the Year helped Don Bosco Prep win a consensus National Championship for the second time in three years by recording 17 sacks in 2011. There is an opening at defensive end at Rutgers that Hamilton is being groomed to fill — quickly. New coach Kyle Flood tried to tone down the expectations by mentioning that players like Kenny Britt and Anthony Davis didn’t start from Day 1, but rather transitioned into a full-time role during their first season.

Rushel Shell, RB, Pittsburgh: After running for over 9,000 yards in his high school career, Shell officially became a collegiate athlete last week during the start of the summer academic season. His addition to the Pitt backfield could prove to be vital. Returning starter Ray Graham is recovering from a serious knee injury and Sophomore Isaac Bennent is back after gaining 237 yards in six games as a freshman. Shell seems eager to learn from Graham, but could take his job by season’s end.

Jason Sylva, MLB, UConn: Connecticut has made a habit — Donald Brown, Will Beatty — of taking mid-grade recruits and molding them into Big East stars. Sylva, a 6-foot-2, 224 pound middle linebacker, might be the next in that line. ESPN Recruiting Analyst Roger Brown called him a potential “blue chipper” in the summer of 2010. While he doesn’t arrive in Storrs a five-star prospect, Sylva has a nose for the football and will be heard from early in the Big East.

Rob Dvoracek, FB/LB, Temple: While it’s unclear the exact role that Dvoracek will have in the Temple offense, he has the skill set to contribute early on special teams, ground game, and run stopping unit. The former Lehigh Valley, PA high school star brings toughness to the Temple backfield as they transition back to the Big East. His skill set could lead to a position shuffle over his collegiate career, but Temple recruited him as a weakside linebacker. Above all else, Temple is bringing in a football player with a nose for making plays.

Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville: Charlie Strong and the Louisville program received tremendous news when Holliman was cleared to play by the NCAA in January. Holliman, ranked as the No. 47 overall player in the class of 2011, spent last season at the Milford Academy. He arrives in Louisville this year as the second ranked prep player in the entire country. Off the radar for a year, Holliman has the ability and maturity to jump back on it quickly this fall.

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Joe Giglio is the ACC and Big East football writer for Rant Sports. 

You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

Joe is also the host of Charm City Sports Talk on WNST.net in Baltimore and member of the Society of American Baseball Research.