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. 12: Kerry Hyder, DL, Texas Tech
2012 numbers: Made 56 tackles and 14 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks. He also broke up four passes.
Most recent ranking: Hyder was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.
Making the case for Hyder: Hyder had contributed to Tech's defense in 2010 and emerged as a starter in 2011, but last season was a major breakout season for Hyder, a key cog in one of the Big 12's most improved defenses.
To really understand his importance, look no further than his performance in conference play. Hyder made 10.5 tackles for loss in those nine games, which was actually one more than Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Devonte Fields. That total ranked third in the Big 12. The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder has uncommon athleticism for his size, and he's shown clear improvement as his career's moved forward. He had a pair of sacks against Iowa State and made 2.5 tackles for loss in a triple overtime win against TCU. That helped him earn All-Big 12 honors and a status moving into 2013 as one of the Big 12's best defensive linemen. Don't overlook him in the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year race this season.
The rest of the list:
No. 13: Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
No. 14: B.J. Finney, C, Kansas State
No. 15: Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech
No. 17: Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor