Ranking the Big 12's top 25 players: No. 10

Our official list of the Big 12's top 25 players entering the 2012 season marches on. Here's more on my criteria for who makes it, who doesn't and who lands where.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day leading up to the season.

Next up on the list:

No. 10: A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State

2011 numbers: Made 117 tackles, returned his only interception 78 yards for a touchdown. Made 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Also broke up six passes.

Most recent ranking: Klein was ranked No. 9 in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Klein: Klein's been a constant the past two seasons for ISU at linebacker, and returns for a third season as starter and a campaign for yet another bowl game. He shared last year's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors with Oklahoma's Frank Alexander, but Klein doesn't get near the recognition he would if he played for a program with a bigger profile.

That's a shame. Klein's got underrated physical attributes and his biggest asset is his toughness. The 6-foot-2, 244-pounder still apparently has something to prove. Despite winning the defensive player of the year, the media voted him second-team all-conference after the 2011 season.

He and Jake Knott form one of the nation's top 1-2 punches at linebacker, and each can exact punishment on ballcarriers. The only big change that needs to happen is making those hits closer to the line of scrimmage if Iowa State's defense is going to see big improvement.

The rest of the list: