Top 25 player countdown: No. 8

No. 8. Joe Vellano, DL, Maryland

2011 stats: He started all 12 games and led the FBS in tackles by a lineman with 7.8 per game. He finished with 94 total tackles, including 7.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also had two caused fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four pass breakups.

Previous ranking: No. 19

Making the case for Vellano: He made the case for himself last year when he almost single-handedly stopped Georgia Tech’s running game with 20 tackles (14 solo). His ability to make game-changing plays from the tackle position is remarkable. He’s a quick, hard-nosed player who is following in his father’s footsteps. Paul Vellano was an All-American defensive tackle for Maryland (1972-73), and Joe Vellano is good enough to continue that legacy, but this year he will be moving to end in the 3-4 scheme. Vellano is a team captain, the anchor of the line, and suddenly he’s also the face of Maryland’s program.