2013 Top 25 player countdown: No. 23

No. 23: Nikita Whitlock, NG, Wake Forest

Previous ranking: Not ranked

Making the case for Whitlock: What Whitlock lacks in size, he compensates for with his athleticism. He’s been the anchor of the Deacs’ defensive front, amassing 116 total tackles during his career, in addition to 30 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He enters the 2013 season just two tackles for loss shy of entering the school's career top-10 list. He is also 2.5 sacks shy of the all-time sacks list. Whitlock’s reputation is gaining steam, as he has been named to three preseason watch lists this summer: the Nagurski (best defensive player) Outland (top interior lineman) and the Bednarik (defensive player of the year). The Deacs’ defense is expected to be its strength this fall, and Whitlock’s leadership and skills up front are a big reason why.

The countdown

  • No. 25 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

  • No. 24 Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina