Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 15

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. 15: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

2010 numbers: Dennard made 30 tackles, intercepted four passes and returned one for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble and broke up seven passes.

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

Making the case for Dennard: Admittedly, I'm a little higher on Dennard than others who cover the conference, considering I gave him the second cornerback slot on my All-Big 12 first team. He had to settle for second-team on the media and coaches' All-Big 12 teams.

That said, this isn't about numbers. Dennard, next to his teammate, Prince Amukamara, is the Big 12's second-best shutdown corner. Squeezing a ball into receivers covered by Dennard is extremely difficult: Ask Jake Locker. Want to know why Dennard didn't make a tackle against Washington in the Huskers' 56-21 win? Locker completed only 4-of-20 passes and one of those 20 made it into Dennard's hands. He promptly returned it 31 yards for a score.

He was one of the Big 12's breakout stars in 2010, but still didn't quite get enough respect nationally because he lined up across from Amukamara. Even still, there are at least a few people who cover Nebraska football for a living who would agree that there's definitely a debate about who Nebraska's best cornerback in 2010 was.

Perhaps the scariest thing about Dennard is he's still going to get better. He has decent size for a corner (5-10, 195), but he'll have a great shot at being an All-American as a senior in 2011 in the Big Ten.

The rest of the list: