Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 20

The official list of the Big 12's top 25 players is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing the list day by day here on the blog. Here's a refresher on my exact criteria.

No. 20: Orie Lemon, LB, Oklahoma State

2010 numbers: Made 133 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also broke up three passes.

Most recent ranking: Lemon was unranked in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Lemon: Lemon came back from a serious knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2009 season and provided valuable senior leadership for a Cowboys defense that was one of the league's most improved from the beginning of the season to its end. Granted, his 101 solo tackles (third-most nationally) were nice for Bill Young's defense to have, too. Lemon was better than ever and staked a solid claim as one of the Big 12's best linebackers. The 6-foot-1 star has good speed for a 243-pounder and earned a spot on the All-Big 12 first team. He'll be missed next year, but without him, 2010 could have been a very different season for the Cowboys defense.

The rest of the list:

  • No. 21: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska

  • No. 22: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

  • No. 23: Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma

  • No. 24: Tim Barnes, C, Missouri

  • No. 25: Lyle Leong, WR, Texas Tech