The top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 15

We're counting down to the beginning of the season with the top 25 players in the Big 12. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing players from the bottom of the list all the way to No. 1.

Here's more on my criteria.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 15: Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech

2012 numbers: Caught 82 passes for 1053 yards and 12 touchdowns.

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

Making the case for Ward: Believe it or not, but before last season, Texas Tech hadn't had a receiver top 1,000 yards since Michael Crabtree did it in 2007 and 2008, collecting the Biletnikoff Award in both seasons for his efforts. Darrin Moore and Ward both did it last season, but Ward becomes the first Red Raider since Crabtree in 2007 to do it and return. With Michael Brewer likely taking over at quarterback, Ward's presence makes the transition from Seth Doege a bit smoother and gives new coach Kliff Kingsbury a known entity in the all-important passing game.

Ward is one of just two Big 12 receivers who topped 1,000 yards last season and return this year, and he figures to have a great shot to surpass the 1,000-yard mark again in 2013, barring injury. He's an instinctive player who uses his body well and has good hands. The 6-foot, 204-pounder plays physical and is a tough cover for any corner across the league, especially in the red zone. His 12 scores a year ago were tied for eighth-most nationally.

The rest of the list: