2013 Top 25 player countdown: No. 15

No. 15 Kelby Brown, LB, Duke

Previous ranking: Not ranked.

Making the case for Brown: One of the biggest reasons the Duke defense showed major improvement in 2013 was the return of Brown to the middle of the defense. Brown returned after missing 2012 with a knee injury and emerged as one of the best linebackers in the league. He ranked second in the ACC in tackles per game (8.8) and added 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and a team-high eight quarterback hurries.

Four times this season he reached double digits in tackles, including two games in which he had 17 tackles in each game. His most impressive stretch came in three games against Virginia Tech, NC State and Miami, all important victories that helped the Blue Devils clinch the Coastal Division. Brown had double-digit tackles in each game for a combined 41 tackles and was recognized as ACC Linebacker of the Week after each of those contests.

Overall, the Duke defense allowed almost 10 fewer points per game from 2012 to 2013 (36 to 26.6), and the Blue Devils gave up an average of 60 fewer yards per game. Brown was a big reason why.

The countdown