Ranking the Big 12's top 25 players: No. 8

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.

We're now in the top 10, so these picks might get a little ugly. Got beef? Let's squash it. Send your complaints here.

Next up on the list:

No. 8: Kenny Vaccaro, DB, Texas

2011 numbers: Made 82 tackles, eight tackles for loss and had two sacks. Intercepted two passes and broke up eight more.

Most recent ranking: Vaccaro was ranked No. 20 in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Vaccaro: It's close, but I'm taking Vaccaro as the most talented player on an absolutely loaded Texas defense. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Brownwood, Texas native is equal parts speedy and physical. He's the hardest hitter on the Longhorns' defense, and its most versatile player.

He can play traditional safety, but Texas loves to bring him up closer to the line of scrimmage. He plays bigger than 218 pounds and can help in run support, but the man they used to call Machete (Vaccaro requested via Twitter the nickname be axed this offseason. "I feel like zorro or something," he wrote.), was a runaway pick for the All-Big 12 first team and earned honorable mention for Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2012, he just might win the whole thing. Quarterbacks have to know where he is before the snap on every play, but all too often, it seems like he's everywhere. Expect a big season from Vaccaro, who easily cracks our top 10 entering his senior season. He's been a contributor for all three seasons and became a first-year starter in 2011. Expect an ascension to stardom this season, and for the rest of the league outside Austin to recognize it.

The rest of the list: