2013 Top 25 player countdown: No. 12

No. 12: Nikita Whitlock, NG, Wake Forest

Previous ranking: No. 23

Making the case for Whitlock: Whitlock was often a one-man wrecking crew inside for Wake Forest, filling up the stat sheet across the board despite a frame (5-foot-11, 250 pounds) that could be considered less than imposing for ACC offensive linemen. All the Wylie, Texas, native did was notch 19 tackles for loss, good for the fourth most in the league. His 6.8 tackles per game (82 total) were tied for 18th most in the ACC, and his nine total sacks were tied for eighth most.

Whitlock made his presence felt in other areas, too, breaking up three passes, tallying seven quarterback hurries, forcing two fumbles and blocking two kicks. He was named first-team All-ACC by the media, and second-team by the coaches, who also had him fourth in the conference's defensive player of the year voting. If not for the other-worldly performance of Pitt's Aaron Donald, another undersized interior defensive lineman, we'd have probably been hearing much more about Whitlock nationally this season.

The countdown