No. 17. Sean Spence, LB, Miami
2011 stats: His 14 tackles for loss ranked second in the ACC and 31st nationally at 1.27 per game. He tied for fifth place in the ACC with 106 total tackles and ended the year second among all NCAA players with 47 career tackles for loss. Spence averaged 9.64 tackles per game (fourth in conference). He also finished the season with three sacks, one pass breakup and one forced fumble.
Previous ranking: No. 8
Making the case for Spence: He won the team award for the most outstanding player on defense, and was a first-team all-conference selection and a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. He was honored as the ACC’s Linebacker of the Week for three straight weeks after impressive performances against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Not only was he a playmaker on defense, but he was also a team captain, coach on the field, and Miami’s vocal leader on and off the field.
No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State