Top 25 player countdown: No. 23

No. 23. Bruce Taylor, LB, Virginia Tech

2011 stats: He missed six games with a foot injury last year, but he started the first eight games of the season and had 53 tackles, seven tackles for loss, five sacks and 16 quarterback hurries.

Previous ranking: Not ranked.

Making the case for Taylor: He can be one of the best defenders in the ACC and move up this list quickly if his foot heals properly. Taylor missed spring practices, though, and the defense is hoping he returns to his 2010 form when he had a breakout season. Taylor has a great combination of size (6-foot-2, 253 pounds), speed and athleticism. He has good instincts and was leading the team in tackles, tackles for loss and quarterback hurries when he was injured against Boston College last year.

  • No. 24 Bud Noel, CB, Wake Forest

  • No. 25 Nikita Whitlock, NG, Wake Forest